An abundance of raspberries

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The raspberries are ripening this week and with all the rain we have had so far this season, there is an abundance of them. For the past few days, each morning I have gone into the garden to gather the ripe raspberries, sharing them with my husband, eating them atop our oatmeal (last photo) and throughout the day. Of course, many berries must be sampled while gathering as well. It’s part of the tradition. I remember when my son was small, we would send him out to gather raspberries for breakfast. By the time he came back into the house, his grinning face was stained purple, especially around the mouth, as he offered us the few berries left in the bowl.

Raspberries are pretty widespread around the world. Black raspberries are native to this continent, but red raspberries probably originated in Asia Minor. The Romans helped to spread their cultivation throughout their empire. There is even some evidence (by canes growing at cave sites) that raspberries were part of the paleo diet. And why not! They are mighty delicious.

While they hard to resist and snacking on them is a welcomed indulgence, there is something about raspberries that also teaches us about patience. The new canes that grow do not fruit until the following season after it has had time to mature. Once the cane has fruited, it dies, which is why it is a good idea to cut it back at the end of the season. The fruit itself takes a while to ripen and even starts out looking like there is nothing much there. Part of the Rose Family, raspberry canes have thorns and if you’re not careful in your anxiousness to get at the ripe fruit, you will draw blood. You need to take your time in the luscious gathering. I know I might have warned my son about those thorns these many years ago, but it was the plant itself, I am sure, that taught the lesson.

My own fingers are stained and there is a scratch near my right elbow from the morning’s gathering. I look forward to the next few days of harvest and then need to summon my patience for next year’s crop.

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(First two photos by JB)

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“Design” by Billy Collins

I pour a coating of salt on the table
and make a circle in it with my finger.
This is the cycle of life
I say to no one.
This is the wheel of fortune,
the Arctic Circle.
This is the ring of Kerry
and the white rose of Tralee
I say to the ghosts of my family,
the dead fathers,
the aunt who drowned,
my unborn brothers and sisters,
my unborn children.
This is the sun with its glittering spokes
and the bitter moon.
This is the absolute circle of geometry
I say to the crack in the wall,
to the birds who cross the window.
This is the wheel I just invented
to roll through the rest of my life
I say
touching my finger to my tongue.


Billy Collins, “Design” from The Art of Drowning. Copyright © 1995 by Billy Collins

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Amazing Grace

President Obama’s eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine killed during Bible study at the AME church in Charleston, was a powerfully put perspective on race, love, spirituality, justice, and activism. Obama even broke into singing “Amazing Grace” at the conclusion of his remarks.

The next two pastors to speak addressed Obama as the “Reverend President.” They may have been joking but they hit the nail on the head. There was a sincerity, truth, and fearlessness, even sacredness in the president’s words.  He held nothing back. He was not being diplomatic or careful. Within a poetic frame, Obama managed to lay bare complex and hard truths with intelligence and compassion. His poetry made these truths accessible, deep, inspiring. Smarter and sharper pundits than I have already responded with articulateness and insight to the most meaningful piece of oratory I have ever heard Obama give. Listen to it and be moved to action.

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You know how it is with adventures

movie-1My son left early this morning for the airport, on his way to Japan, his third trip there. This time the trip will last for at least three months but may be as long as two years or more, depending on if a specific teaching job pans out for him. He will be living in Tokyo with an old friend.

Once, when he was small, maybe 6 or 7 years old, I had the opportunity to change jobs but wasn’t sure it was the right move for me or for the family. In response he told me, “You know how it is with adventures, Mom. Sometimes you just have to go on ’em.” That clinched it for me and I made the change.

Though I will miss him a lot and am quite melancholy about his leaving, I definitely know how it is with adventures.

(The GIF at the top of this post was created by my son on his first trip in 2011-12.)

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An historic day!

Obama’s powerful and compassionate response to the Supreme Court decision today legalizing gay marriage.

And the final poetic and heartfelt paragraph of Justice Kennedy’s Opinion for the majority:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.


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Clamorous chorus of adolescent pandemonium

IMG_1172Today I drove the school mini bus to help a friend out who had recently had some surgery on her foot. She is teaching a summer school class on Chicago and today was a field trip to the Chicago History Museum. I love driving this bus. Every part of it is overblown and super-sized. It’s clunky and noisy and many parts of it rattle, shake, and bounce whenever it goes over any bump in the road (and in Chicago there are plenty of those). On the drive, the students sang, chatted, joked, laughed — all very loudly. They had to be loud because everything on the bus made so much noise. I tried to have a conversation with my friend but found my voice getting hoarse. Somehow this racket and chaos were all very comforting.

Today I had to park the bus in a normal car lot after I dropped the kids and my friend off at the museum and I have to admit, with the super big mirrors (there are six of them in total) I gained a new level of confidence delicately moving that big machine to fit between the yellow demarcated lines in the parking lot, even including the huge mirrors which thrust beyond the left and right of the bus. A real sense of accomplishment.

The students played a silly and repetitive counting game, like a zen mantra, which orchestrated the ride back to school (No, it wasn’t “99 bottles of beer on the wall”).  Maybe like the kids, I gained a sense of freedom too driving that bus. It’s all pretty liberating galumphing down Lake Shore Drive in a jalopy of a bus, on a breezy summer day, accompanied by a clamorous chorus of adolescent pandemonium, proving the cliched (but true!) adage that it’s all about the journey, not the destination.

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Urging the outside in

IMG_1085_2On our back porch, which is enclosed, one of the windows has cracked. We haven’t paid too much attention to it because the crack is behind some cloth we have hanging over the windows. Today I noticed that the ivy that grows all over the back of the house and the garage and any spare spaces in between has clearly grown through the crack in the glass and into our back porch.

I marvel at the persistence and doggedness of nature and its urging of the outside in.

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