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Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Blackberry Walk

 Most days after work I exercise.  Before I moved to Memphis, I was a bike commuter for two years in Athens, GA, climbing 6-9 miles of hills daily in weather ranging from 19°F to 92°F.  I got used to it, donning a ski mask and windproof gear in the winter, and buckets of sunscreen in the summer.  Honestly, I really liked the sweatiness, but I liked even more the constant physical activity in my day.  Since moving to Memphis 9 months ago, my days have been starkly different.  Out the door by 6:30 am, I hop in my car for a 16-minute highway commute.  I hate car commuting.  Hate it, hate it.  No exercise.  Wasting fossil fuels.  Consequently I became a car-driving gym-goer.  This habit has manifested itself at other times in my life and usually works away from the monotony eventually.  For example, for nearly 4 years I minimized all gym appearances, except during bitter winter temperatures, in favor of rowing on the Chattahoochee River for Georgia Tech.
I Love Memphis graffiti art
Now back in the gym trying my best to maintain healthy compliance, I despise the reliance on a commute.  Alas the weather has finally turned beautiful again, encouraging strolling a few times per week after work; I happily abandon the gym in favor of power walking.  Mapping out a three-mile loop from the VA Hospital to downtown Memphis and back, I stay challenged and sweaty.  On my second walk one 87°F afternoon, I discovered a wild patch of blackberries about 2/3 through that made my heart scream and shout with excitement.  In an abandoned driveway/parking lot between two buildings, a 100-foot length patch of weeds, vines, and bushes grew.  As I sped past the lot a few lone blackberries sparkled in the sun, grabbing in my eye.  Whoa!  Before I knew it, I was near skipping down this lot, popping berries in my mouth as my eyes jumped through the vines.  (Note: I LOVE BLACKBERRIES!).  What a treasure trove!
During my next walk, the temperatures were a few degrees warmer ~90°F, and I was coated head-to-toe in sunscreen.  I anticipated arriving at my blackberry treasure chest about 2 miles into the walk.  I started picking and quickly realized there were entirely too many ripe berries to consume at once.  I pulled out my shirt and began collecting the berries there, knowing there was a clean ziploc bag in my car.  Score!  My shirt overflowed with antioxidants, collecting a few purplish stains in the process.  About 1/2 way through my picking, I noticed mosquitoes hanging around my legs and arms.  Swatting a few off, I picked faster.  Swatting more and more and nearly finished, I realized it was time to abandon black(berry) gold territory.
View of Downtown Memphis from Mud Island
The next morning on Saturday, I casually went to a few yard sales.  Around the third one as I walked to my car, I vainly looked at my legs in a mirror propped on the ground.  OH! MY! GOSH!  Not only had a few mosquitoes hung around my legs while picking, I had amassed more than 35 mosquito-bite welts on EACH LEG!  There was no denying it, I feasted on blackberries while mosquitoes feasted on me!  The next few days were full of insane itching desires and welt-covered-leg embarrassment.
Devastated at the potential abandonment of these delicious, wild, free blackberries, I cautiously approached on my next walk a week later.  I was again near-bathed in sunscreen, but this day the temperature was even hotter: 95°F, heat index closer to 105°F.  I approached.  I saw my prize.  I picked one; I ate it.  I looked down at my legs; they were bare.  I picked two, three, four.  My legs still bare.  Five six, ten, twelve.  No signs of mossies.  Out of fear, I was picking at double-speed and seemingly eating at double-speed, too.  Before I walked away fifteen minutes later, my fingers were purple and my belly was slightly uncomfortable from mass, rapid-fire blackberry consumption.  I was bit by zero bloodsuckers on this occasion and have no idea why I was previously attacked.  What I do know for sure?  I will be back again!
Sunset over the Mississippi River which separates TN & AR
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
-- John Muir --

1 comment:

  1. You always make your mother proud. Great story and great quote.