Stop and pick the blackberries
By Jack Riggs
I was driving slowly up Pythian Road toward Hood Mountain Regional Park one foggy morning at 6:30 a.m. when I saw this older man on the side of the road. He looked around 65 or 70 years old, dressed in faded black jeans, a mustard-colored hooded sweatshirt, and a black ball-cap. He was holding a colander in his left hand and picking blackberries with his right. I wondered why he was here.
Oh, wait a minute, that’s me.
Sometimes, in a moment of distraction, I do wonder what people are thinking when they drive by me on their way to work and see me picking blackberries on a weekday morning. I know I would. Is he in need of money and can’t afford to buy blackberries at the store? Is he hungry and doesn’t have enough food at his house? Is he going to make some jam or jelly? Or does he just like doing something different and unique every once in a while – so that the mundane routines in his life can be broken up by something a little bit different? Or, damn, I’m a little jealous, I wish I had the leisure time to do that.
I have also stopped to think about what I’ve learned from picking blackberries. Some of it is philosophical, I guess, some meditative, and some just plain common sense.
For example, sometimes it’s not very prudent to extend yourself beyond your reach, but occasionally you need to try.
A berry in the hand is worth two or more that are unreachable.
Watch where you step; it’s imperative to have your feet planted firmly before you extend your arms away from your body.
The thorns don’t care who or what they prick, and this variety of blackberry is always surrounded by thorns.
Therefore, it’s necessary to take your time and enjoy your picking.
Sometimes, the reward of the fruit requires getting stuck by the thorns.
The thorns stick the good and bad alike.
Not all the fruit matures at the same rate, so you can come back another day. But, don’t wait too long – unpicked, ripe fruit dries up and withers away.
Not all the good fruit hangs from the same vine.
It’s best to choose your berries wisely. Generally, the “mature” ones are not bitter.
Knowing which berry to choose doesn’t guarantee you will be able to attain it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying. Maybe on another day.
Picking more fruit may require moving on to another location.
Knowledge is sometimes gained by making mistakes from previous choices.
Life is full of berries surrounded by thorns, so thoughtful caution is always preferable to aggressive action.
When the colander is full, it’s time to go home.
Most of the time, it’s better not to wonder about what other people are thinking about you, but focus on what you are thinking and doing.
Sometimes it’s better to have tried and failed, than never have tried to succeed.
Life is full of ways to spend your leisure time. Make sure you enjoy it and it is beneficial in some way.
It’s good to do something “different” that is not self-focused, and to do it with someone you love. And sometimes you just need to go out and pick some berries by yourself.
Jack Riggs live in Oakmont.
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