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My neighbors told us to pick all the raspberries we wanted. She had picked gallons and froze them for jam and syrup later. They hadn’t even eaten all the raspberries from last year, so I offered to help process them this fall when it’s cooler.

There are two varieties of berries here. I don’t know their names, though one is smaller, sweeter, and more numerous. The cane is similar to that of the native blackberry that grows here, a bluish-green with very fine stickers. The other has much larger, showier berries, easy to see among the green. I picked both kinds, lifting canes and looking under the more obvious places for clusters of perfect fruit.

We had berries with cream for breakfast Saturday, Sunday, and today. There are still berries to be picked tomorrow.

This morning I gathered 2/3 of a coffee can in about forty-five minutes. Already the sun was hot. The canes had at one time been trained to a fence, but have since suckered out and have tall strands of canary grass growing alongside. The canes are a mess.

I left handfuls of ripe berries near the gate. I figure when my neighbors walk in and out, either can grab some berries. I noticed some berries overripe and shrivelled. Each of my neighbors has walked past here and ignored what’s being offered.

They are falling apart.

Yesterday I sat with my neighbor so he could feel a little less alone. Today I picked berries and offered to help her make use of what she’s always made use of. They are done and they know they’re done but stay out of fear of poverty. Together, they will have a roof over their heads. Apart, no roof. No safety. They have no health insurance, no jobs, no savings, no credit. He has a small pension. He’s a cancer survivor. She has had her unemployment benefits extended, a serious heart condition, not a single job prospect, and a worthless son.

I can’t do anything but remind him of his plans and schemes and devices he wants to build, so he forgets about the .45 in the drawer. I make her laugh as I can be quite amusing. Their future looks bleak and dull and lonely.

And yet the berries are sweet. I made a cobbler with a little too much lemon zest and not enough vanilla. But the berries tasted like sunshine.

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Submitted by lambert on

I added some text to the front-paged part, so readers would see that it's (part of) a story, besides being a gardening post (and it fits so subtly into so many themes at Corrente and hence [lambert blushes modestly] the country these days).

And I'm so glad to see you posting again. There are so many wonderful stories.

Submitted by lambert on

... that wasn't what this was all about, but, yes, I gear up for a fundraiser about this time...

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Submitted by Brian.Nelson on

This is a nice story. I do hope that life gets better for your neighbors. There are so many who are facing these types of situations in their lives...

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Submitted by BenGraham on

wonder why people ignore things like this. i wouldn't ignore raspberries if you were offering them to me. You are such a good neighbor and i just wish everyone could be like that, thanks for sharing.

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Submitted by ohio on

We have 42 households in our little neighborhood out here in the sticks and most are made up of exactly the kind of folks who offer raspberries from their gardens. Except the tweakers, who are gone to the four winds now.

I have been pondering lambert's redefining happiness. Perhaps I'll scrawl about that. Or salmon fishing. Or money.

Regardless, thanks for your comments.

Submitted by lambert on

The idea actually came to me from Stirling Newberry, though it's in the air. (Of course, who defines the metric for happiness could be important...) This is my post on the topic, FWIW.

I think it's a huge question. See also inequity aversion and the health consequences of extreme income differentials. And it's also a very dangerous question, with big upsides and downsides. "What does the cat food matter as long as you're happy?" (As John MacDonald writes somewhere -- IIRC, he puts these words in the mouth of a bartender with an "egg-sucking grin" -- "They say that money can't buy happiness, but it can sure take the sting out of being unhappy."

Of course, none of these points are in themselves stories.

NOTE I actually owe Stirling a great deal, because when an opportunity for me to experience happiness "one day at a time" presented itself to me, I was able to do it. Whaddaya know, happiness isn't the same as pleasure, or satisfaction, or satiation....