A few weeks ago the tree on the side of the yard started dripping with ripe mulberries. I smiled as I remembered the excited faces last year of children wanting to pick the berries and eat them. Every year, the children delight in plucking the ripe fruit within their reach as the branches surrender to the weight of berries heavy with juice. Sometimes strong shoulders boost little bodies to higher branches. We always share with the birds as they help themselves anyway to what we are unable to easily reach.
I remembered how much the children loved it as they filled containers with the succulent berries–a testament to the abundance of early spring–eating a few along the way and happily imagining all the things they could do with these fresh treats. Only occasionally did they attempt their planned experiments.
I had fluttering memories of happy birds clustered around our driveway, roof, and yard picking up sweet, fermenting berries, leaving something a little less sweet behind them.
My happiness changed to resentment as the dark juice turned everything a deep purple. The cracks in the asphalt driveway became rivulets of sticky liquid. The soft grass in the yard formed puddles of souring juice where the berries squished into the ground.
The kids’ and my own bare feet turned every shade of purple before settling into a constant gray stain. And feet and fingers left little purple-black prints everywhere. Carpet. Furniture. Walls where they practiced handstands or climbed the banister. Fingerprints on the refrigerator, doors, and even on the white patches of fur on our dog.
Like an accusing glare reflecting back my perceived failures, the stains seemed to fit in all-to-well with the dishes in the sink, the weeds overgrowing in the front garden bed, and the toys, clothes and books taunting me from every corner of the house.
As the days lengthened with the warmer weather, the mulberries were not fun anymore. They were a heavy reminder of inadequacies.
In my memories of how much fun mulberry season was I forgot what a pain it was. I found slight comfort in reminding myself that the season was short, that the tree would stop dropping berries soon and the children would move on to other interests.
But then I remembered that seasons are, indeed, short. Too short sometimes.
Last time we gathered mulberries, my grandfather was alive. And my grandmother could drive over to read to my babies. I’d watch as the littlest ones–purple bare feet peeking out from the pile of gangly legs on the couch–snuggled up wanting more stories and the old lady whose lap it was laughed when their heads blocked her view of the book.
Last year my “baby” was a cuddly almost 3 year old, not a fiercely independent almost 4 year old.
And last time the tree dropped mulberries I didn’t have a teenager.
And on those birthdays last year, two old voices sang happy birthday to my spring babies as they had every year.
My reverie was a reminder. A reminder that some seasons are short. A reminder to treasure those stains on the carpet because, one day, I won’t get to see the little purple-gray smudges decorating every surface. And one day there won’t even be one old voice singing happy birthday to my babies.
Today, I will love those stains—as I love the feet that made them—because all too soon, I will miss the little mulberry footprints gently whispering to me that seasons are short.
Wherever you are in your personal journey toward clean living and local food, thank you for joining me in mine. I look forward to sharing it with you.