If I had any say in the matter, I would wish to line the road to Heaven with wild summer raspberry bushes.
There is nothing more rewarding and satisfying on a warm morning in late July to find the narrow country road upon which you’re walking lined with loaded wild raspberry patches. I was back-tracking on the road, having first traversed it’s dusty and worn tire tracks to the end where it meets the noisy highway, weaving along behind the properties that dot the lakeshore around our cabin when I suddenly lifted my nose to the wind and thought to myself ‘I smell raspberries!’
I should have had a clue from the mass of deer tracks in the mud by the road that something was amiss in that area, but upon closer inspection, I saw the red orbs hiding deep within their brambly branches. The deer, and the delightful scent had led my eyes to the right spot. The ditch dipped away from under my feet, a steep incline on both sides that was littered with thick slabs of sharp shale, partially covered with tall grass, and dangerous underfoot. I couldn’t reach to the farthest those branches spread, and gazed longingly at the dark red fruit hanging just out of reach. With a gentle hand drawing back the thorns, I pulled free what I could, and then moved on.
Barely 50 yards further down the road, with the sun high, another broad patch of berries caught my eye. This one was more accessible, hovering slightly under a stand of wild apple trees, the ditch was flatter and more easily stepped through without fear of slipping. And it was full of fruit. My bare legs bore the brunt of careless foraging among the thorns, but my mouth was leading the way. The fruit, at once warm and tart where the sun played on it all day long to sweet and cool underneath the canopy of trees, was abundant, deep shades of dark reddish purple and perfectly ripe. Just lifting the branches caused many of the berries to simply let go, falling to the undergrowth, and the ones that I could cup my fingers around fell easily into my hand. Their sweet flavor burst over my tongue, the purest taste of raspberry that one can get, with a memorable hint from the humid touch of our lake and the very grasses in which they grew present in almost every bite. In many spots the berries were as big as the end of my thumb; others they were miniscule, hardly more than that half a dozen tiny spores, but swollen with summer goodness and thick with the essence of late July. I walked among the bushes, plucking, lifting, slurping and sweating, brushing aimlessly at the lazy buzzing flies, my eyes riveted on the bushes for the next spot to pounce upon.
Among the Bee Balm, Crown Vetch, Indian Paintbrush, Black-Eyed Susan and thick woodland ferns, the bounty rose undisturbed under my feet, save for the lucky birds and a trio of Does and their Fawns that I startled out of their morning snack. The Does gazed at me, indignation apparent in their faces as I plundered their stash; the Fawns, with their huge startled eyes and flashing puffy white tails glanced about nervously, eyes darting from their mothers to me as if to say ‘Aren’t we supposed to run or something??’ I quietly slipped away from them, hoping they would just return to the same enjoyment that I was having, and since I didn’t hear the thunderous crash of their hooves through the woods, I imagine they did. Why wouldn’t they?
Along the whole length of road, I wove back and forth, my eyes trained on the ditches in order to not miss one stand of bush. With each handful passed to my mouth, my thirst sated with their endless juice and the sunshine pouring down on my head, I almost felt like I was drunk with my bounty, filled to bursting with the very flavor of summer. When I finally emerged onto the paved road that led to our cabin, stuffed with fruit and drenched in sweat, I had to heave a huge sigh of contentment. The wind had picked up, some thick puffy clouds were dragging themselves lazily across the abundance of blue sky overhead, and across the road from our place, a field of amber wheat waved carelessly, paths rippling across the top of the grain sheaths in endless and hypnotic patterns. I longed to just drop into the tall grass with a sigh and take it all in, the parade of summer that passes far too quickly. Instead I retired to our screen porch to watch the lake pulse and dance from the touch of the wind, with a happy raspberry filled tummy.