Robin Hemley on a Tale of Two Berries
Hemley recounts a battle with nature @ Brevity.
I once spent an entire summer clearing a hillock of blackberries. The exercise had to do with expiation and with the joys of swinging my pickaxe and finding in my movement a way to still my mind. I have never been able to sit still for long, and yet I know that my mind needs to quiet itself from time to time. In the tenacious blackberry roots, I found an easy enemy, too. I grew to hate the blackberries that covered the hillside, because they grew too easily, because everyone in Bellingham, Washington, where I lived, considered them more nuisance than treat, though on any given summer day, I might see a car suddenly leave the road so that a blackberry patch might be raided by the car’s hungry flock.
I loved blackberries in theory and practice as long as they weren’t on my property. I sometimes bought the gigantic variety called Marion berries at the local supermarket. But I considered my property under my absolute dominion and I wanted and needed to change things about it. The main thing I wanted to change was this overgrown hill of blackberries and the fact that I shared a large driveway with my neighbors, who were renters, the human equivalent of blackberries.
I spent an ungodly sum to dig up half the driveway and plant Russian laurels down the middle, and this prevented my neighbors from ever again turning around in my half of the driveway. What a sweet victory, and I watched with pride as the Russian laurels slowly filled in their leaves and blocked the view of my neighbors’ duplex. The blackberry problem proved harder to solve, but I eventually won that battle, too, and by the Fall, I had cleared the hillside and made way to plant what I wanted.
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