In the summer months, my mother-in-law goes into the woods behind our house and picks black raspberries. When my daughter was young she would accompany her. They would go in the morning before it was too hot, donning floppy hats and wearing long sleeves and jeans to keep the ticks away.
Just before lunch they would come out of the woods with containers full of tiny plump black raspberries. They made a lot of raspberry pies back in those days!
So it’s another June now, and of course I am working on school stuff. I look out my window and catch a glimpse of my mother-in-law venturing out into the woods. Even at 80 years old, she is still out there gathering raspberries. While I like raspberries, I just don’t make it my priority to take the time to pick them.
I walk out to get the mail and meet my mother-in-law just as she is coming out of the woods. She has a few scratches on her arms and her hair is disheveled (you don’t care about ticks when you’re 80 years old).
“You have some raspberry bushes all around that big tree on the edge of your yard,” She says as she points to the giant tree that is standing like a sentinel.
I pause…”Oh?” I reply, not sure if she is asking permission if she can pick them or not.
“The birds will get to them when they turn black,” She warns, offering that their fate is left up to me.
“I’ll have to check them out,” I add, mentally putting that on the bottom of my list of things to do.
“They turn black quickly,” She warns again.
“Ok. I’ll check today,” I pledge.
After running errands in town, and… instead of checking on those neglected raspberries, I go back to working on more school stuff when I get home.
A day goes by, and I run into my mother-in-law again. Although she doesn’t ask me if I have checked on those raspberries, I feel convicted by my own too-busy-to-check mentality.
But… Alas, I put those convictions aside when I get home. As a mother and a teacher, there is a never ending list of things to do! Taking a break from pinning a few home and school items on Pinterest (that I will later forget I pinned), I pause, and I seem to hear,”Come out to the tree!” Am I imagining it, or are those raspberries calling out to me?
Surrendering to my thoughts, with a small container clutched in my hand, I tromp to the raspberry bushes that hug my big maple tree on the edge of our yard. Not all of the raspberries are ripe yet, but I pluck off those that have turned black, disregard a few casualties that fall to the ground, and leave the hard red ones behind. I trudge back toward the house, hearing one of the red ones screech, “Don’t forget about us!”
I bring the raspberries inside, fill the container with water, put the lid on, shake it around a bit, strain out the water, stick the raspberries back in the container, and stuff the container of raspberries into the freezer.
“Ok. I feel better. I picked those raspberries,” I offer up proudly as if I have heroically earned the girl scout badge for raspberry savior.
Between typing up my daily classroom schedule, doing research on a book I am writing, cleaning out closets, and making pancakes for my son (plain, no raspberries), I keep thinking about those raspberries. Not the ones in the freezer, but the ones I left behind.
I don’t know if you know this, but raspberries can beckon a person. And those raspberries were beckoning me. I take another container and walk out to the big tree where the newly ripened raspberries are waiting for me to rescue them. I cup my hand around each raspberry and pluck them off carefully so as not to crush their soft bodies.
It is dangerous territory, let me tell you. The thorns don’t care if they dig into your skin reminding you of their abundant presence. The poison ivy shields the raspberries, quite adamant of keeping their prisoners at all costs. Even the raspberries themselves are reluctant to go with me, hiding under leaves in disguise. I, as the brave raspberry hero that I am, now seize the opportunity to save those lost souls that have fallen to the ground.
I carry my raspberries back to the house. I shower them off under the faucet in a colander, blot them dry with paper towel, hammock them in the paper towel, and let them tumble down into the dry container. This time it is a bigger container, so I clear out space for my raspberries in the freezer for safe keeping.
I ignore the cries that come from the first caravan of raspberries that I had rescued the day before, warning the new crew, “Welcome to Forgotten Freezer, Chumps!”
I don’t know what it is, but I can’t stop hearing the calls from those raspberries left out by that big tree. Everyday this week I have to check on my raspberries. And everyday I save the ones that nature is willing to release. Gathering my raspberries has become my daily self-deployment.
It’s soul filling.
And what I think about is this… Those raspberries are akin to people that come into my life. They can be friends. They can be strangers. It doesn’t matter. They are calling out to me everyday. Or still too, can this be the Holy Spirit beckoning me to stop and pay attention to those who are crying out? Whether their cry-out is simply a jam they are in or a major battle they are fighting- My life isn’t too busy.
It isn’t too busy for picking raspberries, and it shouldn’t be too busy to listen to what the Holy Spirit is beckoning me to do…
Every Moment Of Every Day.
-Em O. Ed