Now that the heat wave has passed. Now that we’re on a summer schedule recovering from those long winter sixty hour work weeks. We took our collection of empty Kawartha Dairy ice cream containers up to Maclean’s berry farm.
Perfect summer day. Warm sun, cool breeze, no deadlines. Friendly staff took us to our picking row. Nine yards of raspberry bushes heavy with deep red berries dotting the waist high branches. A thunderstorm the night before had washed them for us and they were so ripe - many had been washed off the branch onto the ground. The rest we quickly plucked from their stems – the berries often falling into our hands at just a touch.
We gathered eight containers worth in about an hour or so – my knees and back telling me that was enough of a good thing.
We put some on ice cream that night. Some on our cereal the next morning. Some in the freezer for another day. And the rest we cooked up with local honey into jam.
Bottled summer sun. Jars of red juicy memories. A taste of sweet July breezes. The smell of a thunderstorm.
If only we could bottle the spirit like that.
My summer days have also been dotted by funerals and weddings. Both offer public experiences of what’s most intimate. Celebrations of the relationships that grow and thrive in summer seasons, and endure through winter’s trials, and produce the fruit we celebrate in gatherings.
“I am the vine.” says John’s Jesus. “and my Father is the farmer”.
Rooted in my days, in my own soil’s worldview, entwined in the philosophies of the folks whose branches hold my arms up shoulder to shoulder, I grow because god’s planted me here.
In words and rituals we try to capture the fruit of life’s most precious moments. Falling in love, creating a home, making babies, making love happen and being carried away by love-making. Making memories, making money work for us instead of us working for it.
“Consider the lilies of the field” says Luke’s Jesus “they neither toil, nor do they spin”. Like the moments of sweet summer beauty, those lillies don’t last. You can pick em and bring them home. Press them into a photo album. Or you can leave them be, and just enjoy them while they’re there like friends who come into our lives and enrich us - and then are lost down the river of time…
The berries in those nine yards of vine are the people I’ve met, and have yet to meet, in the decades i've got to grow. Some fell too quickly from the branch before I got to taste their offerings. Some just fell into my hands at a touch - gifting me with eager juiciness. Some had to be coaxed a bit to give up what I wanted from them. Some weren’t ready yet and I passed them by – leaving them for the birds or some other picker.
When I re-member them. When I think of you and make you a member of my god’s-ever-extending-family again. When I open up a jar of memories. I taste again the sweet fruit of your spirit’s offering. What you taught me. How you challenged me and confused me and showed up in my dreams and nightmares. Where you made me grow and showed me what I know. It’s a sweet topping for my daily bread toasted by today’s pull and push that keeps me growing whether I notice or not.
Thanks be for the berries.