Grandma’s Berry Patch

In the cool morning air, the sun’s dappled light plays through towering trees near Grandma’s raspberry patch. A light breeze keeps mosquitoes at bay. Glistening dew on succulent red berries makes them irresistible.  As we start to pick the lucious fruit, my cousins and I declare, “One for the bucket, two to taste-test!”  Aunts and mothers scold us; uncles and fathers simply smile and wink as they pop berries into their mouths. 

This vivid memory always comes back to me this time of year. The family gathering on my grandparent’s farm to pick raspberries, visit and reconnect.

Adults headed down the long rows of raspberries first, children behind them to pick lower berries the older generation missed. Following the men seemed to ensure more fruit was left behind. They always appeared more intent on visiting than gleaning every berry in front of them.

Light-hearted conversations were interspersed with laughter and teasing as the adults caught up on each others’ lives.

Some years, picking would come to a momentary halt when a bird’s nest would be found cleverly built within the canes — usually robins. Sometimes the nest held only small blue eggs but we loved it best when the eggs were hatched, and baby birds eagerly opened their beaks looking for food.

Once pails were filled to the brim, the bounty was taken back to Grandma’s kitchen. The men would visit on the porch while the women carefully poured the fruit onto cookie sheets to hasten the cleaning process. Tiny twigs, leaves and bugs would be expertly removed, comments made about the abundant debris found in some of the buckets. The males of the clan often declared themselves the quickest berry-pickers, but that didn’t necessarily mean they were the most efficient.

Regardless, bowls of delicious berries would be readied for everyone, covered with cream from that morning’s milking. No matter how many we’d consumed while picking, we’d happily gather with the adults in the shade to enjoy more.

A pail or two were set aside for each family to take home. The remainder quickly processed into jam, or canned for later use. Sometimes Grandma would make pies. No matter how hot it was outside, she preferred to use the wood stove, claiming the crust and flavour were far superior to baking in the electric range. We couldn’t disagree — her pies were fabulous!

For Grandma, this summer ritual was about gathering food you’d grown, not letting anything go to waste and sharing with family. I doubt if she knew she was preserving far more than berries — she was preserving memories. Memories which would carry on long after she was gone. Memories which return without fail every year when raspberry season comes around. Memories I will always cherish.

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The Visitor

In memory of my Uncle Bob, born on May 12, 1940.  He  passed away in 2007.                    Great Blue Herons frequented the family farm where he spent the last several years of his life. 

The Visitor 

Immersed in my thoughts, I weed, trim, turn soil.
My flower beds, a refuge 
from the sadness in my heart.
Yet another loss, not unexpected, but still…

An unfamiliar sound — I look up.
So very close, a Great Blue Heron,
large wings slowly beating,
 balancing precariously on slender tree branch.

I sit back, mesmerized,
as it watches me.
An unlikely visitor to my backyard.
I slowly stand, take soft steps, draw closer.

In a moment, it takes flight,
crosses above me, lights on lofty perch,
gazes back my way.
I am spellbound.   

Could it be him…
I quietly watch my extraordinary guest,
admire graceful wings extending,
as it lifts off for farewell flight.  

High above the barn and tall spruces,
towards the setting sun.
An incredible sight…
I am so blessed.

                                     

Sandi Knight
© 2007

Let him fly…

Let him fly…

Swirls of wispy clouds dance
in stunning summer sky.
Lush green grass cools
bare toes and feet.
Laughter bubbles as he runs,
arms outstretched,
swerving, turning, circling –
“Look Mom, I’m an airplane!”
I join in,
follow his lead
’til we collapse,
giggling, smiling, cuddling…
enchanting moment of pure joy…

I look up at the nurse,
tears streaming down my face,
holding his tiny hand in mine.
“Okay,” I whisper, “let him fly…”
Monitors go silent,
all is still and quiet,
except my breaking heart…

Sandi Knight
© 2012

A Country Halloween

Halloween. It’s a celebration people either love or hate. Their view of this spooky evening may depend on where they live. For people who reside in towns or cities, the night can be hectic and exhausting.

jackolanterns

For those of us in the country, it is generally a much-anticipated night —  a family affair, a chance  to reconnect with neighbours. One parent may stay at home to hand out treats while the other drives the youngsters to all the usual stops in the area. Many take their children to the same houses they went to when they were young. Patience is essential — not necessarily for the drive from house to house, but for the visiting at each stop.

20151031_173533However, the pay-off is worth it. The hand-outs are generous as country homes have so few visitors. “Halloween Bags” are filled with a variety of treats. Some people set the table with a wide assortment of goodies and novelties; youngsters are invited in to choose what they like. Apples and home baking are still acceptable as Halloween treats – safety is not a concern.

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When children decide they are too old to go trick-or-treating, treats are sent home for them with their younger siblings. Even parents get in on the act, their pockets filled at the end of the evening, at the neighbours’ insistence, of course.

If both parents accompany the trick-or-treaters, bags or bowls of goodies are left at their own home for the neighbourhood children to help themselves. Trust is not an issue.

pumpkins-backdoorHalloween displays are always drawing cards. Even if fewer than a dozen youngsters come to the door, many still enjoy decorating. Scarecrows greet you at the end of lanes. Pumpkins and gourds are set amidst bales and cornstalks; ghosts hang from trees. Witches sit in rocking chairs carefully guarding the door. Rigged doorbells or knockers cause Halloween creatures to shake or elicit ghostly laughter. Jack o’ lanterns of all shapes and sizes line driveways and doorsteps. Children return year after year  just to see their favourite Halloween haunts.

witchSome adults never outgrow this night of pranks. Many dress in costume to greet their young guests. Others wait until they are sure no more trick-or-treaters will be stopping by, then rummage through their ‘tickle trunks’, pick out appropriate attire, and head out to stir up a bit of fun with the neighbours.

carlee-catThankfully, a country Halloween is still enjoyable. It brings back fond childhood memories. Parents  drive down gravel roads through mud, rain, sleet or snow. Manners are important. “Trick-or-Treat” is always followed by a thank you. Tricks, if played, are neither harmful nor destructive. It is an evening of reminiscing and laughter. And when the doorbell rings, children are greeted with an enthusiasm. “It’s so good to see you! Thanks for stopping by!”

Happy Halloween!