So every year we have been in Victoria, except last year during the “medical testing marathon” we have picked blackberries. Before I moved to the UK, I would give half of what I picked to my grandfather and grandmother, who couldn’t get out anymore, so that summer would come to them: because what is summer without blackberries?
I said something to Linda during our recent Hell Week, one late night, likely between seizures when I was wearing the eye patch and had eye lock, stuck staring on a piece of ceiling stucco. I said or slurred that we should go blackberry picking. I guess this what I meant about living and choices. I can’t stop feeling crap, can’t stop the fact that I used to walk, used to feel my legs: not years or months ago, but weeks ago. Can’t stop that, can, maybe, with the support of a medical team and a transport team, can go blackberry picking, can have that bit of summer.
So after we got up, around noon from our hell night (many seizures, brain damage, stopped breathing), and I got the limbs moving, the pain killers maxed and the clothes on. With the ambi-bag, oxygen and some containers packed we headed out. It was partially sunny and there was a patch by Linda’s workplace she had scouted. Some of the patches were only available to able bodied people who could clamber but some where an obsessed person in a wheelchair could force their way into the thick barbed vines of the blackberry bushes. We weren’t the only one with this thought as the bushes were full of birds, enjoying the ripe blackberries too high to be picked.
The secret to blackberry picking is that if you HAVE to pull, it is going to be sour, a ripe blackberry will fall with a slight tug, however an overripe blackberry will let your fingers squish in and stain them. The purple hand is the sign of the blackberry picker. Linda got a head start and already had a full container when I caught up with her. She pointed out that I had brought the PERFECT goth shirt, my “Berry Fairy” t-shirt. I was the also the ‘lucky spotter’ as being eye level to a dog, I mean having a low eye level meant I could see under the broad leaves to the clumps of ripe berries behind. So as we moved along I often played spotter while Linda and Cheryl picked.
However, I picked too, since I was able to push myself amongst the thistles and the blackberry vines to start to fill my own container. So yes, I guess “Wheelchair blackberry picking” is another sport/activity to add to my list. For me it meant that for a hour or so, I felt like it was a year ago, when all that mattered was the wheelchair, and my will of what I wanted to do. For me it was summer, a “normal” summer. For those who have had the idea of “normal”, 'routine' or 'tradition' taken away by disability and/or disease, you can know what it means to do something as if the disease has gone away, to do a bit of routine that had been taken away and be free, thinking nothing of it. The greatest blessing I get are the minutes or hours when I forget; forget that I need to regulate my blood pressure, my oxygen, my energy, my medication, the time until sleep, the temperature, and the rest I need to stay alive. Instead, I had a whole hour when I could just BE.
Here we have the other part of the team, our summer berry pickers, showing three of the five containers we picked and the badges of honor: the purple hand! And the OTHER badge of a berry picker on Cheryl, the purple stain near the mouth! On the way back to the car we saw a bush just full of birds, here is a red breasted (er….bird?), along with another bird in the lower right corner. I have a theory the birds come to eat the overripe berries to get drunk from the fermentation. That why they keep sitting there looking spaced out. Blackberries bring out everyone.....except the bears, thankfully, at least not today.
Of course, I did pass out soon after we finished our picking, and had to be pushed back to the van and wear the eye patch.
I do wear my eye patch now on a nearly daily basis so if you have some cool eye patch or know where one can be found I would like to know. Since by afternoon or evening in my left eye the entire world turns blue or there is just garbage coming in (sparkly!) or the eyes don't coordinate and there are two worlds and trying to do anything makes me look drunk as I tell Linda, “Stop that……BOTH of you!” So my time of forgetting my condition, of just being in a wheelchair was over but I had done it, summer had come and blackberries had been picked. That night I enjoyed a blackberry thick milkshake.
I also worked some on the postcard project and here are a small fraction of the ones I finished.
I hope they are speeded on their journey, and arrive when a smile is needed most.
The evening turned into something else, something I'll talk about later (and today was the recovery). This post, like that hour, is about the time I had when my only limitation was where my wheelchair could go.
Screw Bronze isn’t going to be a fantasy disability blog, but there is so much ugliness in my life, so many hours of the raw and the painful. And that kind of brutality is only going to continue and increase, so today I choose to focus on two different hours, my “fruits of summer.” The hours which include the berry picking, getting my chair in there and getting a few scratches and embedded thorns as well as the postcards; my other garden, a little less wild, but still work in finding and picking the perfect one.
I hope that whatever your condition, your stress, emotional or physical, that you were able to have that hour of “forgetting” of just being. I know it doesn’t come often, but when it does, it sure is nice, to just have the smell of blackberries, the sound of happy birds, the fingers stained purple, the insults to Linda and Cheryl that there seems to be “more eating going on than picking!”
I hope you had your own "hour" this weekend.