It had been a long time since I had picked Oregon blackberries. Getting tangled in the thorny bushes and scratches on your arms and avoiding hungry bees is part of the fun of trying to fill a pail with the biggest juiciest berries you can get at. It was early in the summer, but the weather was warm, and my mother and I had decided that a blackberry pie would taste pretty good with dinner if we could find enough.
In long-ago years, during the War, I had walked along these back roads alone, picking and eating and not realizing at the time what a gift Mother Nature had given us. In those days I knew all the hidden places berries could be found, but it had been a long time, and now on this return visit, I saw that my mother had discovered new places.
As we crossed the highway to get to the pasture we passed Uncle Jean’s old barn which was still standing, though a good winter would probably bring it down. He kept two or three milk cows there, and when I came visiting, he would sometimes take me down to milk them. The old smell was still there, and it seemed as if I could hear them shuffling around waiting to be milked. I can still hear my uncle’s toothless French accent warning me “Darlin’ stay away from behind Bessie. She kicks.”
The pasture was close to the Rogue River, and if you stood in just the right place you could see the river and part of the rock quarry which had been owned by my Dad’s cousin. I often swam in that cold river trying to outdo my two older boy cousins who always bested me in nearly everything. They challenged me to hop on water skis for the first time one day and were flabbergasted when I actually got up and rode all the way to the dam without falling. They bet me I couldn’t do it again, but since I now had nothing to prove I didn’t take their bet, and I never got on water skis again.
I don’t remember how many berries we picked that day, or if there ever was a berry pie made that night, but sitting in that pasture with my mother, with an errant butterfly hopping a ride on a summer wildflower, and watching a mashed potato cloud passing overhead now and then, made me tell her, “You know, I feel as if I’ve come home again.”