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.
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And at that instant, an unholy racket rent the skies.
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.
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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.
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Here are a few other stories about my adventures in the woods