What Blackberries Taught Me
As a homeowner, one of the things that I've always had a complex about is that I've never been the greatest or most ambitious gardener. I put California drought-tolerant natives in my front yard after a couple of years of pretending like I was going to have a nice lawn, and as many years coming home and wincing at the ugly, weedy, yellow thing that passed for a lawn. I had a lot of ambitions for my backyard, such as lush plants growing along the perimeter, and a vegetable patch up against the side of the garage, which got the most sun. Seven years after I bought the house, I have a few stubby plants growing around the fence, a tiny orange tree (or rather, shrub) that never really took, and the vegetable patch that I had going for a couple of years got totally swallowed up by crabgrass after one summer of not maintaining it. The compost bin I was trying to get started is literally lost within a huge overgrowth of bushes behind the garage. It will take a machete to get to it now.
My gardener friend would come over and shake his head, especially at the thick blackberry vines that were coming over from the neighbor's yard. "You'd better control those," he warned. I did, somewhat. I hacked them back when they got too overwhelming. But due the vagaries of my life, I had not had much of a chance to do yardwork in the last six months or so. And my friend was right: the blackberries had their eyes on my yard. They were subtle, sly. They came in inch by inch, as if hoping I wouldn't notice. And of course, for the most part, I didn't. Most of the vines stayed politely along the fence, making bushy shapes, although one crept in among my butterfly bush and one snaked in at ground level. I did run that one over with my lawnmower the other day when I was doing basically the only yard task that I ever do anymore, aside from watering.
Last night, out in my yard for the first time in awhle, I noticed something: all of the blackberry bushes had blackberries on them! Ripe ones. Huge ones. I tasted one. They're good, too! I got a bowl, picked for about five minutes and got about a cup and a half of really nice, ripe, gorgeous, juicy blackberries, which I'll serve for dessert when my dad comes over for dinner tonight. As I picked them, I laughed at the found booty.
The lesson? First of all, our perceived weaknesses might also be the doorway to positive experiences. I'm not a disciplined gardener, which I always considered a flaw. But if I had been, I would not now have a stand of gorgeous blackberries literally ripe for the picking, right outside my back door. Also, blackberry vines never give up. They just keep coming. If I were a good gardener, I'd probably hate them, and do things to keep them out. But blackberry vines are patient. They keep growing, regardless of what we do to them. We can dig them out, cut them up, run over them with our lawnmower, but they keep coming. Might we learn something from the wily blackberry vine about being steady, slow, and relentless in pursuit of our goals, whatever they may be?