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Berry Girl to the Rescue

There was a blackberry emergency and they didn’t call me. Can you believe it?


    Bill, my father in law, has a progressive brain tumor. Lately, he’s been very confused. Certainly, there is nothing funny about that, and yet, sometimes you must laugh to keep from crying, so I will share what happened.

    He’s been eating blackberries and blueberries obsessively. Must have them with every meal. Neva and I have kept him supplied with blackberries, but dang if our monster blueberry bush wasn’t ripe for picking, so they’ve been buying him his blueberries. Yesterday, he announced he no longer likes blackberries or blueberries. Now, all he wants is blackberry jam. (What can I say – he reached nirvana eating it when I arrived with my jar of Ginny’s Jam and a bunch of freshly made biscuits.) The next morning, he wouldn’t eat anything else. He was determined to have more jam.    

     Dianne explained that they didn’t have any more. He’d eaten the entire jar in a day. This made him belligerent and angry, so he took the leftover blackberries in the fridge and stuffed them into the empty jar and began squishing them to make his own jam. (For those of you who are not jam savvy – this will not work.) Sheepishly, they told me he actually ruined the final 1/3 of the jar because he decided he wanted it “thinner” like his mother use to make (thinner? He must be remembering syrup or something) so he decided to cook it himself to turn 1/3 a jar into a full jar. (For those of you who are not syrup savvy, this will not work either.) He burned the jam and ruined the pot. Then, he got even angrier. He wanted jam!

     Anyway, my sister in law tells me this story, and I am thinking, if the man wanted jam, why didn’t anyone call me, the jam master. I’ve always wanted to be a superhero; I just never came up with power. This is it! I can be jam woman – able to soothe the agitated hungry with a single jar. By day, I can be a mild mannered writer (well, maybe wild mannered writer) and by night I will stir my power in pots like a witch and her brew, then serve it to men with jam withdrawal, just in the nick of time. I can sew myself a cool costume out of all that unused dancewear I have, with a big B on the bust for Berry Girl. Alas, no one called. They thought I’d be upset that he ruined the last of my jar by cooking it. They also assumed I’d expect their jar to last more than a day. Like I was going to care? The man can bathe in my jam if it makes him happy. (Funny how people transpose how they would react or feel in a situation onto others, when the “others” are very different personalities and history proves they wouldn’t feel or react in that anticipated way.)

    This morning, I will make biscuits again and take over two more big jars. Honestly, one of the reasons I’ll miss my father-in-law most is because he is my biggest cooking fan. I could sauté shoe leather, and he would insist it was great. He decided long ago that I am a fabulous cook, so no mater what I make, he comes to the table with preconceived appreciation and praise. The man used to eat more than Paul Bunyan at a sitting (now you know where Mark gets it.) It is always fun to cook for someone who truly enjoys the eating experience.
     I may end up giving all my 15 jars of blackberry jam to Bill, but I’d be proud to do so.

     Yesterday, our blueberry tree proved ready for picking. We picked two huge bowls of berries in about twenty minutes (and this doesn’t count the bowl full Mark ate in the process). Of course, this was easy, because lots of willing hands help in blueberry picking. I commented that, for all that I was thrilled to have blueberries at last, this was berry picking for babies.

       Mark said, “Why, because it isn’t hard and you don’t get scratched up? You don’t have to work at something to make it worthy.”

       I disagreed. You can reach in and get handfuls of blueberries with hardly an effort, exposed in an open field, but blackberry picking requires walking through the forest, tangling with thorny thickets, and when you are lucky, encounters with deer.  It is an experience that brings you alone, quietly, into nature. Since it is more trouble, less people are willing to do it, and therefore blackberries are more precious. It is the basic theory of supply and demand. Anyway, after we were finished picking blueberries, I actually went out with Neva and got another big gulp cup full of blackberries (took an hour for ¼ the bounty of our blueberry picking spree). Nevertheless, the season is coming to a close, and I can’t bear to let a day go by without getting the final sweet morsels.  I need to stock up in case future jam emergencies occur.

    I have enough blackberries now for another batch of jam, which I will make this afternoon. I will try making some blueberry jam while I am at it since I have buckets of them too. Don’t need to be miserly – there is plenty more to come. Our bush is right by the area where we feed the horses, and I know I will pick every day while I wait for them to finish munching grain. They’ll watch and blink lazily, as if I am an odd bird. Actually, Goliath, my husband’s horse, eats anything, and he like licking a few berries off my palm.

     Last night, when I came home, I whipped up a blueberry buckle just because I didn’t have room to store all this freshly picked fruit. Buckle is sort of a cross between a crisp and a shortcake. It has a cake bottom, fruit top and crisp topping, which all melds together for a scrumptious, warm cobbler-like dessert.  Family ate the entire thing. I was glad they enjoyed it, but their enthusiasm meant I’ll have to make another one for Bill today. A jam enthuasiast will appreciate a buckle for sure.

     I guess I’ve written enough about berries. My daughter will groan and make another comment that I’m still too berry oriented in my blogs. Can I help it if a berry emergency sparked yet another berry blog?


     I will leave you with a little something not about berries. Today, I have to finish my MFA packet and send it to my teacher – two hundred pages of my novel rewritten in the new format. It’s been a trial getting this daunting project done in one month. I’ll be glad to let it go, even though I’m expected to finish another two hundred pages in 6 weeks. Good luck with that one, Gin. No doubt, this will inspire blogs about something other than berries.   I’m hoping to knock off a good portion of the book next week while I’m in Boston. I always get a lot done when I am alone traveling. I don’t sleep much when alone in a hotel room, and considering this is a dance trip (and it is a dance book) I’m anticipating being inspired.

     I also have to write a paper about affinities and influences. I must name twelve books that have had a significant impact on me, pick three of them, then write annotations about the books and how and why they influenced me. I’ve always been an avid reader, but for the life of me, I can’t think of twelve books that I can honestly say changed my life. Or at least at, not books I’ll admit I read to my sophisticated literary professors.

   I do know the number one book on my list and can write an essay easily about how that affected me. Ishmael. (A story about a gorilla that talks to the author about the environment and human food supply.) Changed my life and how I view environmental ethics, mankind, animals, everything. And masterfully written, so I can analyze it on a literary level too (a part of the annotation thing we are expected to do). I will begin with Ishmael and see what others come to mind.

     Don’t suppose I should use Sweet Savage Love, a romance novel that made me want to write historicals (Ha). Or any of Anias Nin’s wonderful erotica.(double Ha) Or . . . man oh man, for someone who is supposed to be literarily trained, I’m feeling like a reader who goes book slumming more often than a sophisticated reader should. Can’t account for a dancing girl’s eclectic tastes.


I must go. Homework, housework, jam work, and other excitement awaits me this day. Sigh.

About Ginny East Shaddock

Ginny is the owner of Heartwood Yoga Institute. She is an ERYT-500 Yoga teacher, C-IAYT Yoga therapist, RCYT & Ayurveda Counselor who loves nature, gardening, and creative arts. She has an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, and a BA in Business Administration from Eckerd College. She teaches writing and is the creator of the memoir writing program, "Yoga on the Page" combining the teaching of yoga to writing personal stories with integrity, intention, and heart.

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