A Truant Disposition

"I must be idle."

Dewberry Easter

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Apr• 01•13
The first dewberries of the season! Easter 2013. Photo by Ainy Rainwater

The first dewberries of the season! Easter 2013. Photo by Ainy Rainwater

I picked seven dewberries on Easter! The first berries of the season, with a lot more to go! I have an unusual history with Easter and dewberries. Many years ago, when we lived in a small town out in the country, I sprained my ankle grubbing up dewberry plants out of a friend’s pasture. 🙁 I transplanted them into my yard and limped around for several weeks afterward. To add insult to injury, as the saying goes, the dewberries never produced very many berries and the birds got them all, every year, the instant they ripened. I think I got one small tart berry in about ten years. 🙄 I sprained my ankle for nothing. The universe, however, has seen fit since then to make recompense. A few years after we moved back to the coast, I noticed some kind of small bramble had come up at the base of the elm in the front yard. I thought it looked like dewberry, probably seeded there by birds. I left it and got a few blooms and berries occasionally.

Dewberry brambles surround the young pine tree. Photo by Ainy Rainwater

Dewberry brambles surround the young pine tree. Photo by Ainy Rainwater

Then hurricane Ike came through. That took out the elm, but when the tree was removed I had the workmen take care to spare the small pine sapling which, along with the thready dewberry bramble, had been struggling along beside the elm. With no competition and plenty of sunlight now, both took off, the pine shooting up like a rocket and the dewberry bramble becoming a thick spreading patch around the base of the pine. Suddenly there were lots of blooms in the spring, followed by berries! At first just enough to snack on, but soon enough to gather for cobbler and more every year! Most amazing of all (particularly since it was planted by birds): no sign of bird predation! What the birds took from that ill-fated Easter dewberry plant, they’ve given back to me more than a hundredfold. 😀 Sometimes it seems like the world isn’t fair, but there’s justice in nature; you just have to wait for it sometimes. 🙂

I have fond childhood (and teenage) memories of picking dewberries. My first expedition was with my cousins, off in a wild area behind their house. We came tramping in, smug and berry-filled, and I remember my mother exclaiming in alarm, “Is that blood on your socks?” I looked down. Not blood, dewberry juice! Though, truth be told, it could’ve been blood because dewberries will rip you to shreds and leave stickers in your hands. If I wear gloves I fumble the delicate berries, dropping too many into the brambles too thick to retrieve or I accidentally crush the fragile fruit, so I usually pick barehanded. I used to start with gloves then end up stripping them off in frustration. Now I just pick carefully and slowly, picking out the thorns that prick me as I go.

Dewberries in bloom. Photo by Ainy Rainwater

Dewberries in bloom. Photo by Ainy Rainwater

In early spring my eye is always caught by the bright white flowers along the roadside. “Dewberries!” I think, though I’ve got my own dewberry patch now. It’s second nature, this noting of dewberries and always gives me a thrill. I no longer jealously guard locations I find; I just hope someone comes along later and has good picking. I’m not greedy: my little patch at home is enough for me. On dewberry picking expeditions into wild areas near and around town (woods, railroad easements, fields) when I was growing up, I always carried a “snake stick”. I’ve never seen a snake on any dewberry picking expeditions, but I was told that snakes loved dewberry brambles and that they lived in them. It seems reasonable: a secluded place, safe from humans and other predators (owls, hawks, etc). I doubt their scales would even register the thorns that tear me up. In the mind of a kid, the snake stick and the possibility of encountering a snake made dewberry picking into an epic adventure, with the thrill of danger and a great reward at the end, though truth be told…we always ate the dewberries as fast as we picked them. 😉 I think the only time I even took a pail with me to put dewberries in was when I went with my mother. Then we had not only snakes sticks, but pails, thick (hot) long-sleeved shirts and sturdy gloves to protect us from the dewberry brambles which were —no snakes being evident—more dangerous than the imaginary snakes.

Look at all those berries! They'll ripen quickly! Photo by Ainy Rainwater

This is my dewberry patch. Look at all those berries! They’ll ripen quickly! Photo by Ainy Rainwater

I still like tramping around in wild areas and if I come across dewberries I’ll eat a few, but I’ve been subsumed by civilization now. My favorite dewberry patch is in my yard. The birds, which formerly were the bane of my efforts to cultivate wild dewberries, have given me an ever spreading dewberry bramble (as well as wild chili petines). I feel a fierce soaring joy when these wild things bloom and bear fruit right here. Surrounded by civilization, I’m grateful for all this wildness the birds bring to me. As Henry David Thoreau said: “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

 

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