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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Gathering Black Gems on the Rocky River

The hot, humid August days wears me down.  After hours in the heat, I can't wait to meet up again with Mickey at a cool spot on the river 'under the buckeye trees' at the ARK in Berea that holds a special place in my heart. There, on the Rocky River's peaceful banks, stress fades away.
There, a soft breeze blows gently through the buckeye tree leaves, shading the river from the intense summer sun.  I hear the calls of a Canadian Geese playing in the water by Urth Island farther down the river.  A mother duck is followed by her six ducklings while at the same time Mr. Crane stands at attention waiting to catch a fish in the water.  Crayfish dart back and forth in the shaded deep pools, chasing aquatic insects and, sometimes, one another. Turtles are sunbathing on a log that holds all six of them.  Upriver on Big Rock I see Scarlett and her puppy Huckleberry sun bathing and fishing at the same time.

My feet sink into the soft, squishy clay beside the water's edge.  Water spiders scurry farther out into the current as my form hangs above them.  I step into the river, and the rough river rocks shift under my feet.  August reigns now Northern Ohio and slippery green moss covers the river bottom.  As I wade into the river, the cool water laps at my calves, caressing my hot skin with a soft touch.  I walk through the shallows, and then I cut across through a deeper-cut channel that hugs a sandbar.  Across from the sandbar we planted some raspberry and blackberry bushes in the past several years.  This year we also planted some red currant bushes from my father's garden which I am happy about. Since my father's passing last year, the red currant bushes bring me many nice memories of picking red currants with my father. 
However, at this moment in time, the blackberry bushes are now ripe and ready for picking.

As my heels hit the sand, my hands release their grip on my bunched skirt that I had pulled up to keep it from getting wet.  Its cotton folds fall around my dripping legs, quickly wiping away moisture. Because of the deer, none of the lower branches have any ripe berries.  I will have to stretch to my utmost height to snatch sweet blackberries from the topmost branches.For the next while, I will gather the black gems of the Rocky River.
While I am engaged thus, needle-like thorns snare my clothes and scratch my skin.  At times, the brambles entangle me and I feel like the bushes are eating me alive.  Once my fingers close on a juicy black morsel, I pop it into my mouth.  As I bite down, a sweet-tart concentrated berry flavor regales my taste buds.  Such bliss!  At first, I hurry, quickly chewing a mouthful and swallowing while reaching for another.  But the magic of soft breezes and gurgling river water calms my frantic haste.  I start savoring each bitty blackberry.
"Take your time.  These berries are a rare gift," the River's muse seems to be saying.  "Yes," the sirens in the woods that are towering above me add, "summer only lasts so long."
At last, my hands and lips are stained with the purple juice of many berries.  For now, I will have to stop.  The cool river water takes off most of the sticky purple residue from my hands.  I leave the purple stain on my lips.  It nature's lip color, and I am proud to wear it.