August on Orcas is blackberry season. Blackberry brambles grow wild all over the island, and are considered more or less available to anyone who wants to risk some scratches. I went on a walk with some friends from the east coast a few days ago. Their experience with blackberries was that there was plenty of other fruit they'd rather eat; blackberries were to them tart and, as a result, not much to be excited about.
We were opposite a big patch that was within a week of becoming the mother lode for this end of the island; tho most of the berries were black, there were still some green ones and red ones--their time was yet to come. With some scrutiny, I found the characteristic perfect berry: soft, not shiny black, plump to the point of bursting, ready to fall off the stem with the slightest shake, hard to pick without crushing it's delicate swollenness. I handed it to Charlie with the quiet pride of a successful hunter: "Try this one". Charlie popped it in his mouth, having prepared himself for some slightly-less-tart sensation, mind preoccupied with the preparation of some polite courtesy to lukewarmly thank me for my effort, when the juices exploded through the mental walls he was constructing. "Whoa! Was that a blackberry?" I found him another one, then another one. Soon he and his wife were ignoring all the blackberries they had been picking, the tart ones; like Lazurus they woke from the dead.
I infected them with an unforgettable, permanent experience. They will never treat a blackberry the same way again. They will never willingly choose to eat anything less than a perfect berry as long as they live.
I did little but show them what to look for. I didn't grow the blackberry. If anything, all I did was suggest that their blackberry standard was set too low.
We used the blackberry metaphor during many conversations that followed as a comment on situations where we had each accepted too low a standard for some action, situation, or relationship in our lives, largely because we never knew what we were missing, never knew what to look for, what to ask for, what to settle for. What is the difference between a peck on the cheek and a french kiss? Between the swill that most people call coffee today and the brew I savor daily? Between a relationship that never got off the ground and one that energizes each partner to soar?
Twain thought it was the difference between a lightning bug and lightning.
You have to eat a few tart blackberries to know how special the sweet ones are. But once you know, you can never go back.
Blackberry moments wait everywhere. Go find some.
This commentary is part of a collection of essays entitled "Cauldron Bubbles", published by Mustapha. If you would like to obtain more information regarding this book, please email me: joesymons AT me DOT com
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© 2007 centripetus