Friday, September 28, 2018

Third Bird

And then there’s this girl who promises to never sail away. 

Today the third of my four baby birds flew out of the nest.

This time it’s my first-born who is moving out. I can hardly wrap my head around the fact that she’s moving just a few miles away; with my third-born in Asia and my second across the country in Ohio, it’s a new experience for me to have a daughter living close by.

And while I tell myself that this is not a monumental life change, I can’t deny that my nest is down to just one fledgling - and the fact that she’s currently vacationing in Seoul means that  for the next six days, this nest is altogether empty.

But here’s something I have realized. My home is not an empty nest, abandoned and devoid of any future purpose.

My three daughters go out into the world not as birds but as sailing ships, plotting their own courses and bending the winds to their purposes.

This house - my house, our house - is a safe port in a storm, an anchor to which they can always return for security, serenity, and a safe place to rest.

And I am not a mother bird who pushes out her brood and then flies off to an unknown future. I am a harbor master, an anchor. My job is to stand ready, strong and steady, keeping my heart and my home as a safe haven for my adventuresome daughters.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Blackberry Adventures

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are enjoying the height of wild blackberry seasons. Along any sunny strip of untended earth shoot cascades of prickly, thick-leaved vines. All summer long, the tiny clumps of berries have been ripening, first tiny and green then slowly softening red and eventually rich and decadent deep purpley-black.

It's quite a common sight to see people pausing along the walkways to pick and devour these wild tidbits, eating them as fast as they can pick them. And some forward thinkers even bring along a container to pick enough to take home.

My fourth-born and I occasionally fall into this latter category. The other day, we headed off to the most remote part of my daily walking route, along an unkempt section of forest behind a building I think of as my secret place. There the berries were flourishing and with Gracie tied off on her long leash where she could conduct a leisurely inspection of her favorite squirrel-hunting grounds, we set to work.

Picking blackberries is not for the faint of heart. In order to actually get your hands round a clump of ripe berries, one must navigate safely past the long thorny tentacles that grow out onto the sunny ground. Other vines arc down from the top of the plant; together, these unproductive obstacles slash and snag at shoe laces and sweatshirt hoods and heaven forbid, bare skin. Spiders spin their webs here and there among the vines, and an unaware outstretched hand can just as easily grab at an innocent arachnid as a cluster of fruit.

But the best berries are always worth the effort, and in the late afternoon sunshine, we stretched and stooped, twisted and turned in pursuit of the ripest and juiciest morsels.

* * * * *

After a steady half-hour of picking, my daughter and I snapped the lids on our full containers, exhaled with satisfaction and relief, then turned to head towards home.

And at that instant, an unholy racket rent the skies.

A screech.
A scream.
A rasping riot of noise.

We stopped dead in our tracks.

As a wave of fear rippled over me from head to toe, my daughter said, "It's an owl."


Several times during my twilight walks, I've seen owls soar through the darkening skies right in this little patch of woods. The experience has moved me deeply.

But seeing an owl fly silently overhead and hearing one at close range are two very different things.

In this same split second, I saw a flutter of grey through the trees. The owl was no more than ten feet away, flitting from one perch to the next around the perimeter of a small pond that lay just beyond our blackberry brambles.

We stood frozen in place, waiting for whatever might happen next.

All was quiet and still.

And so we continued toward home.

* * * * *

2 C flour
2/3 C shortening
A few tablespoons of cold water.

Use a pastry cutter to blend the shortening into the flour, then add the water and lightly mix together with your fingers until the dough holds together.

Flip the ball out onto the counter or a floured breadboard, and gently roll out to a circle larger than your pie plate. 

Delicately fold in half, and then half again. Pick up the resulting triangle and lay in one corner of the pie plate. 

Gently unfold the pastry and voila! Your pie has been born.

My daughter baked us a pie full of the blackberries we had picked, and when I took my first bite, I was reminded of all we went through.

I saw the clusters of berries hanging tantalizingly just out of reach. 
I smelled the earthy late summer smells of the forest, leaves beginning to drop and decay. 
I felt the thorny vines snagging my skin.
I heard that wild owl screeching down at us. 
I tasted the sweet tang of the berries, bursting with summer sun.

And I savored every delicious bite of our blackberry adventures. 

* * * * *

Here are a few other stories about my adventures in the woods