Great Grandma Pool sent us out with buckets so we could pick berries on the way.
We didn’t have to go far before we spotted them, there along the barbed wire, weaving their wild vines in and out among the weeds and the fenceposts. The fruit was warm and sweet and for every one that made it into my bucket, another two or three found themselves on my tongue. My cousin and I came home with tummy aches, purple-stained fingers, and a scant collection of blackberries.
With that memory and my grandmother’s cobbler as inspiration, I dug up a wild berry vine from my front flowerbed three years ago and transplanted it to a sunnier spot in the back. I’ve questioned my own wisdom ever since. Wild blackberries are a weed, a prickly nuisance that grows several inches per day in warm weather. That first summer, after a week or two of transplant shock, the shoots spread like kudzu, popping up everywhere.
That was when I knew I’d made a mistake.
The following spring, abundant white blossoms dotted the vines like confetti. “At last,” I concluded, “time for a harvest. All that pruning and trimming will finally pay off.”
But it most definitely did not. The berries were small and mutated. Not fully formed and not sweet.
I worried that I’d become a horticultural Frankenstein, creating a monster that would eventually devour my entire backyard without ever yielding edible fruit.
If the vines weren’t so thorny, I’d probably have dug them all up last fall. But they are vicious and somehow I found a thousand other things to do rather than mess with a spreading barbed bramble of invasive growth.
So I mimicked my teenager’s approach. The approach he takes toward assignments, homework, chores, you name it.
I ignored the problem. ‘Cause when you’ve made a big mistake that’s the thing to do, right?
I shoved the thought of those blackberries to the back of my mind the way my 14-year old crams important papers into the abyss of his backpack.
Choosing to forget the vines existed, I decided I would deal with spring when spring came.
As if to spite me, the plant emerged in March, bright green and blanketed with small white flowers. I rolled my eyes at how these vines tempted me, offering up such an abundant crop of blooms when I knew the fruit wouldn’t live up to the hype.
So imagine my surprise when the berries appeared. Plump and perfect and sun-sweetened, just like the ones I ate on the side of that east Texas country road so many years ago.
The memory comes full circle when I stand beside the briar patch with my Momma on Mother’s Day, both of us plucking berries off the branches and popping them into our mouths.
“This is why,” I think. This is what I wanted. Not so much the fruit as the memory, the simplicity of it all, the reminder that a vine, rooted and watered and turned toward the light produces a fruit that’s irresistible.
Next year I’ll have enough to make a cobbler at least. If I don’t eat them all first.
Sometimes our big mistakes turn out to be blessings after all.
Sure, these vines are thorny and invasive and any gardener worth his salt would tell you to dig them up pronto. But I’ve tasted the fruit and I can’t make myself do it.
The berry vines are a reminder, an Ebenezer, an altar in this world.
They remind me that God doesn’t waste my mistakes. Even my missteps are fodder for his artistry to make life beautiful.
They remind me that when a plant is watered and given sun and soil, the plant — and the fruit — will grow. It’s a metaphor for human life, being connected to the Vine and living an existence that’s fertile, sending runners of faith and hope and love out into the world around us.
And the vines remind me that sometimes a transplant is just the thing that’s needed. Being uprooted may send us into temporary shock as we acclimate to our new surroundings, but in the end we can bloom and multiply even more than we thought possible when we go where God leads us.
I don’t know about you, but I need those reminders.
I need to know that when God calls me to move, He knows what He’s doing. I need to know that staying rooted in the Vine is worth it, that it’s the only way to live up to my own potential.
And I really need to know that I can’t mess my life up so much that God can’t make something warm and full and sweet out of it.
I’m hoping for blackberry cobbler.