Lessons from the Blackberry Patch

Rules for life, learned in the blackberry patch.

I've picked more blackberries this year than ever before - it's been a really good year for them with the abundant spring rain we've had - and on my last trip out to the wild thickets there were still plenty of red, immature berries on the canes, promising to ripen and provide more fruit should I want to go picking again.

As I leaned through the thorny canes in reach of the next ripe black-purple jewel, I enjoyed the cool breeze that lied about the afternoon heat to come and listened to my neighbor's cows bawl to their calves. Birds sang in the woods behind me. My big, yellow farm dog Cracker sprawled out nearby,  tired out from chasing off anything that might threaten me. What a great morning.

During a decade of berry-picking, I've decided that Velcro® was invented by someone who spent his childhood summers caught in a tangle of blackberry thorns. I've also made up a list of the unofficial Rules of Blackberry Picking - which, by the way, also make a good list of Rules for Life.

Friends make time go by faster and work becomes fun - rules for life as learned in the blackberry patch.

1. Map out a path before you start. Before you start climbing into a thicket full of nasty thorns, look ahead and have a plan - also have a path in mind when you back out of the thicket.

2. Be aware of the dangers around you. Keep your eyes and your face safe, and keep thorns from catching in your hair and your clothing.

3. Ask for help when you're stuck.

4. Don't procrastinate. Yes, it's hot, but the peak of harvest waits for no woman.

Picking berries is hot work, but in the end it's worth it.

5. Have patience. Berry picking isn't a sprint, neither is life. Take your time. Enjoy the experience.

6. Change your perspective. By looking up, and then down, you'll find berries that were hidden before. When you get to the end of the thicket, go back the way you came to spot berries you might have missed the first time.

7. Don't be greedy. Be willing to share with the wildlife.

A wild and thorny blackberry thicket contains the juicy, sweet berries.

8. Friends make work fun, and time go faster.

9. Sing loudly. It scares off the wildlife.

10. Life has both thorns and sour berries, just like a blackberry thicket. But in the end it's worth it.

A morning in a blackberry patch teaches rules for living.

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