Thank you for your many get-well comments and messages. They mean a lot to me. I wish I had more time and energy to write but I need to portion out the hours to make sure I get to everything, including daily trips to the city for treatment, long walks to fend off fatigue (it seems to work) and all the familiar happy chores of summer: weeding, watering, picking, veggie cleaning (we belong to a CSA), etc., not to mention the sweet moments spent with visiting family and friends. I haven’t been back to baking yet. It has been very hot on and off here in Seattle and I can’t yet be home long enough to keep a close eye on fermenting dough. But it will come and the day it does, I know I will feel further along on the path to wellness.
Meanwhile one of my favorite summer activities is to go berry-picking with Ethan, my six-year old grandson. We went two weeks ago. There had been torrential rains just two days before and the soil was very warm and spongy. I joked that if it were any softer, we’d probably sink all the way through and emerge in China and then, what would we do? (I doubt China is the actual antipodes of Washington State but I wasn’t going to tell him that we would most likely pop out somewhere in the middle of an ocean, surrounded by sharks and other sea creatures).
We picked raspberries first: because of the rain, many were moldy but the ones that had made it were scrumptious. Very big (this is America after all), extraordinarily fragrant and a tad spicy as if a mad botanist had crossed a humble native species with flamboyant wild ginger. We soon had six pounds. We got them weighed, paid and brought them to the car. The sun was shooting red-hot arrows onto the broiling fields. We gulped down most of the water we had brought and slipped ice cubes down the front and back of our shirts before heading to the strawberry patch.
Contrary to the raspberries, most of the strawberries were on the small side -at least compared to the ones to be found in supermarkets- but the whole patch smelled like no fruit aisle I know has ever smelled. A fragrance you wish you could encapsule and breathe in the dark of winter to conjure up summer.
We went to the farm again last week. The early morning was bright and cool. The farmer told us the strawberries were over for the year. Ethan looked stricken. His face brightened however when he saw the raspberries, ripe and gorgeous, waiting for us. This time, there was no mold, just fuzzy beauties, and the dirt was dry: not a chance of shooting straight down to the antipodes! We picked leisurely: there were other pickers but each family had its own row. Spanish was spoken on one side, Russian on the other, nostalgic echoes of distant lands. Ethan asked why some people preferred to speak another language than English. Funnily he has heard me speak French since the day he was born and never asked that question, at least not from me. I said people usually remain very attached to the language they grew up with and love to use it whenever they can. It wasn’t a good enough answer because the next question was again: why? I can’t remember what I replied but he nodded and seemed satisfied. I guess I can still play the why game with the best of them!
We talked on as we picked. I recounted the day his aunt Veronique and I went blueberry-picking with Sophia and the twins in Connecticut back when Noah and Arielle were two and Sophia was three. The farmer had taken us to the blueberry patch on a lumbering hay wagon. The tractor hiccuped all the way up the hill. It was very hot and the kids’ cheeks glowed red against the bright leaves. The girls set to picking methodically (although Arielle steadfastly refused to pick anything but green berries). But Noah soon lost interest and focused happily on wreaking havoc: baskets got overturned, high-pitched outrage alternated with wild cackling. Everyone grew even hotter. Baskets were cast aside. Mouths and hands turned purple. Water bottles appeared, sunscreen was reapplied, eyelashes started to flutter. We rode the hay wagon back to our car and went home with a lot more memories than blueberries…
Ethan listened, spellbound, a grin on his face. Except for a few family reunions when they were babies or toddlers, he only ever got to spend one full week with Noah. But they were both five and they bonded hard. Talking about Noah usually makes him sad but not this time: I could see in his eyes that he had nothing but admiration for his cousin’s rascally ways and that he would have loved to run around the girls with him tipping over blueberry baskets.
Tomorrow will mark the seventh monthly anniversary of Noah’s violent death. Looking back to that day in December, I see nothing but darkness. But that darkness has nothing to do with who Noah was. He lives on in light and joy. I am glad Ethan can feel it.