Just another Monday morning at the office finds me knee-deep in the briar patch, picking the season's first dewberries. My morning session of hot yoga has me twisting up to the left, pick, pick, pick, then down to the right, pick, pick, pick, then stand up straight and stretch my back. I slowly fill my colander with the little black jewels, all the while half-watching the commerce of the interstate exit nearby come and go. Slide the credit card into the gas pump, grab a cup of joe, catch a few winks in the semi before heading on to Tampa. A few men in pickups slow to watch me pick blackberries. I like to imagine that they are fielding memories of slower childhood days collecting berries with grandpa. I certainly have some.
My colander is full now. I grunt disapprovingly as I bump it with my elbow on the way in, clutching a small handful of new berries, spilling several that were already home. Time to go. I noticed a loquat tree a couple miles back down US41 last night with loads of ripe fruit dangling under the glossy forest green leaves. I rinse my hands in fluorine-free well water from my old stainless steel drinking bottle, the former an improvement since this time last year, and ease the Camry out of the all-but-defunct antique store's weedy deserted parking lot, cross I-75 to the west, and head south to the next spot. The tree is glowing apricot orange when I arrive. Nobody around to ask permission from, I open a plastic grocery sack and begin plucking handfuls of luscious little fruits. People hardly notice that I'm there as they race up and down 41, ten or fifteen feet away from me in my navy swimtrunks and kelly green t-shirt. I might be barefoot except that I just came from the briar patch. That's standard office attire these days. It's not hot enough for a wide-brimmed straw hat this morning though, so my buzzed dark blond (and increasingly gray) hair struggles to protect my scalp when the sun peaks through the clouds. The loquats are juicy and exotic, kind of a plummy, citrusy fruit with a big brown stone. I snacked on the dewberries on the way to the loquat tree, and now I fill up on the new fruit.
I'm struck by how much there is, how if I was just better at this foraging business a garden might be mostly unnecessary, the most foreign of thoughts for me, and I head down 41 a bit farther to see some friends at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture. In the parking lot I fashion several "forager's parfaits," little cups with a few loquats, then a handful of dewberries, a few more loquats, and topped off with another round of the berries. I head in to return some mock vintage clothing my wife and daughter wore for the folk life festival. It's closed. No one is there. I had gotten a call from the lady who tends the apothecary garden beside the 19th century doctor's office onsite there, just this morning. She wanted me to verify that a plant she had gotten was the old-fashioned wormwood, and not some other "improved" primarily aesthetic Artemisia cultivar. I guess I just assumed they would be open. I was wrong.
So I point the Camry east and head to the library where my mom works (it's nice to see Mom whenever I feel like it now that I'm back home), and take the forager's parfaits to her and her workmates. They love them, and offer me all sorts of things they have that they think will help with our farm. I wave goodbye but I have two parfaits left, and I know just the pair to receive them, my grandparents (also a treat to visit regularly these days). I find them working in their orchard and office. They always appreciate gifts of time, and I leave feeling good about time well spent.
Back at the farm, over a lunch of leftover Easter ham and homemade focaccia from a close friend, a small bowl of dewberries soaked in our Anna's cream, and a handful of loquats, I recall the items on offer for my wife, like a fancy cream separator that made the journey with its owner from northern Alberta, and we laugh about how life has changed so radically since we became spellbound by the wonders of energy descent.