Spring has–finally–managed to infiltrate the entire United States with its sunshine, fresh produce, and sneeze-inducing pollen. Kathryn Neel’s latest Eating and Drinking Poems post is a nostalgic ode to previous springs and the childhood spent wiling away the daylight, plucking blackberries for that evening’s dessert. As you read William Stafford’s poem “Blackberries Are Back” and enjoy a generous bowl of cobbler and cream, close your eyes to remember when your hands were small, and your fingers stained with berries.
It has been a long miserable winter for almost everyone, even those of us who live in Florida. Now mind you we Floridians were not buried repeatedly in snow, but we did have to deal with numerous grey days of what seemed like unending rain, wind, and temperatures that stayed in the 40s and 50s. I began to believe I had moved to the Pacific Northwest at one point. Spring seemed like it was never going to come and I started daydreaming about the springs of my childhood.
My favorite memories of spring in Alabama were the return of brightly colored song birds to the magnolia and gardenias in our yard, the appearance of daffodils and irises, and all the different kinds of berries that would start showing up on hillsides and dessert tables. Strawberries in the garden, raspberries and blackberries growing wild on the hills; my cousins and I would be sent out to gather as many as our pails could hold.
Our mothers would call out that we should wear long sleeve shirts so we wouldn’t get scratched up by the stickers on the canes, but we never listened. We would take off down the lane, barefooted, in shorts and short sleeved shirts, swinging our buckets as we went, our cheeks and noses sun kissed with the beginning of summer tans. Only about half the berries made it into the pails to return home where they would be made into jam, pies, or cobblers. Most of them would be eaten plump and warm on the hillside, dark juice running down our scratched arms and legs, but we didn’t mind, at least not until bath time.
So here is a recipe to celebrate the arrival of spring and to say good-bye once and for all to this year’s long winter. For those of you whose berry patch has not managed to poke its head above the ground, feel free to use frozen blackberries, but when enjoying your cobbler, imagine lying in the sun with your best childhood buddies, contemplating what sort of mischief to get into next.
“Blackberries Are Back”
Blackberries are back. They cling near
little streams. Their eyes, bright
make tunnels through the vines.
They see their own thorns in the sky,
and the print of leaves.
At night they hide inside the wind,
ready to try the outdoors on.
They swing for distance, root for
fidelity. The truth is your only ransom
once they touch your tongue.
– William Stafford
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