Sunday, October 19, 2008


It seems I’m dying again.

* * *

This morning, before getting on the current flight to Charlotte NC, I had a few minutes between packing and the time I needed to leave for the airport. The dog wanted some company in the backyard, so we went out together. He sniffed his way around the usual scent paths. I wandered up to the tangle of blackberry canes at the back corner of the yard. The bird netting lay where we’d put it months ago to protect the ripening berries from the flocks of starlings and the endless appetites of squirrels, but instead of covering the tops of the canes, now it was embedded deeply in the thicket. Lots of canes had grown sunward, thin tendrils that easily grew through the netting, now branches several feet long and a couple thickened enough to tear through a strand or two of the net on their own. The netting did serve its purpose – I’d guess this year we picked about 70 lbs. of blackberries.

I began pulling the netting off the canes. I lifted, unsnagged, ripped, and generally hand-worked the netting away, one cane at a time. It’s a task I left too long one year, and when the sticky, wet snow of autumn came early, it stuck even to the fine netting that covered the canes, the weight of the snow flattening both netting and canes into a broken mess that took the canes a full year to recover from. So this warm, sunny morning halfway through October, I looked at my watch and settled into the task.

As I attended the canes and nets, I found two stems of berries that I’d missed before. They were overripe and sweet, fermented enough to be fragrant. They stained my fingers and tongue.

I resumed de-netting.

Pulling the last of the netting from the canes, I wondered whether it was too early to prune them. I usually wait until a warm day before or after Christmas. Sometimes I’ll weave a wreath from them. But this time, as I thought about them and the pumpkins that have begun to appear in doorways in our neighborhood, a vision/notion of a cane-man began to form. A scarecrow with tangled weavings of blackberry canes for a head, for hands. The tiniest tartness of the last berries still on the tongue.

The canes now free, I bundled the black netting, rolled it tighter, and took it to the trash cans in the garage.