Be like the Blackberry

Be Like the Blackberry

I haven’t had a yard or an in-ground garden to take care of for a few seasons now.  In that time, I’ve spent many of my free moments at home thinking.   Many of those same moments I’ve spent sitting at my the little wooden bistro table outside on my condo rental’s veranda.  I’ve journaled more often than not during that time.  Many pages of little notebooks have been filled with whatever thoughts have entered my head. 

The veranda is private and peaceful.  It faces a retaining wall, which might seem claustrophobic, but, in truth, has been my sanctuary.  There is a hill below the veranda that rises to the wall.  Large Japanese maples rise from the hill below and tower above my outdoor ceiling and reach well beyond the top of the approximately 12 foot retaining wall.  A few holly looking bushes with blue clusters of berries also dot the hill.  I’m unsure what they are, but a hummingbird deemed one good enough to build a nest in it during March.  

Now that it’s Summer, sounds from adjacent verandas and balconies and decks from the large houses retained by the wall compete for my ears.  On rainy days, it’s still quiet though. Since the veranda is fully covered, I stay dry.  I love the sound of the rain.  A covered deck is a challenge for growing plants that like sun, but for fresh air without getting wet, it’s perfect.  Winter was more of a challenge as I had to bundle up to spend time outside and there was far less green after the maples had given up their leaves.  

There is always green in the Pacific Northwest year-round though.  They don’t call Seattle the Emerald City for nothing.  One particular green that I’ve had a change of heart about is the blackberry bramble.  One of my first blogs I wrote was about my struggle with eradicating the weed from my hillside.  I fought that battle for a couple years.  Someone else fights it here.  No one I have seen though.  Perhaps this Condo association has some Harry Potter House Elves to prune the draping vines.  Whoever does it, it’s not me. 

Instead, I’ve been thankful for the extra green it’s lent my peripheral landscape.  I’ve spent a lot of time staring at the canes that drape over the retaining wall.  They’ve had a “haircut” several times since I’ve lived here.  Very similar to what I did with the ivy at my first house.  Every so many months, a little snip and pull was in order.  

These canes I’ve watched sway with the breeze.  I’ve seen their white flowers bud and bloom with several left still and the round green balls of unripened fruit emerge.  I’ve started to see beauty where I used to see war.  It’s whole new perspective for me.

I used to climb the hillside of my house.  I would try to avoid the thorns as I would dig down a couple inches below a cane.  Once I found a short of knuckle that acted like a handle, I pulled with all my might, and sometimes got whipped by the spiky vines that let loose.  After spewing some profanities and covering my new cuts with bandages, I would celebrate my hard work.  A week or two later I’d see a new cane emerge from a flowering bush or fern.  I refused to believe that I had only won a small battle again.  In reality, I was really losing the war.

I didn’t see the lesson they were teaching me then.  I just could not see it.  I went to battle again and again.  I hacked, pulled, pleaded, and prayed, but they just kept coming back.  I couldn’t knock them down.  Nope.  Like the Romans throwing an endless supply of soldiers reaped from conquered lands into battle.  Like nude photos that show up during election years.  Like new episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and Survivor (both of which I’m thankful for) every spring and fall.  Like glitter in the carpet.  Like the ocean crashing against the shore.  They don’t go away.  They. Just. Keep. Coming.  If the plant world had an Octagon, I’d pit the blackberry against the bamboo in a Super Fight and bite my nails as soon as Bruce Buffer yelled, “It’s Time!”       

It’s not time though.  Maybe partially.  Time is wily thing after all.  It’s actually RESILIENCE.  I had been thinking about it for quite awhile.  Sitting and breathing and staring at the greenery that was offered.  Especially in the dead of winter.  I craved green so much that I began seeing the beauty in the thorny and arching canes of my former enemy.  Stockholm syndrome?  Perhaps.  Don’t judge.  I’m doing the best with garden that I’ve been given.  And this part of my garden can kick your garden’s ass.  Or at least do some damage in its removal and rise again from the ashes.  The Phoenix of the plant world. 

Perhaps that’s why I love plants so much.  Many are finicky, but a good deal are hardy.  Especially the native varieties.  I read an article just the other day about how plants have returned to the most polluted nuclear site in the world.  Plants that are able to adapt because they can’t just move.  It’s impressive how strong plants are.   Strong enough to even inhabit Chernobyl.  Crazy plants!

So now I see beauty in the evergreen canes and the little whitish-pink flowers.  I confess that I’ve always loved to eat the fruit as well.  (Pies and cobbler, right?). I even see the beauty in the thorns.  And now, when I’ve had a bad day or when life isn’t going the way I thought it would, I don’t always “Be like Water,” as Bruce Lee would have me do. Sometimes I listen to nature instead and just, “Be like the Blackberry.”


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