A Blackberry Party
My little girl looks up at me, her cheeks and chin a tie dye smatter of purple streaks and smears.
She smiles, revealing milk teeth brushed the same colour, then focuses in front of her again.
Bright eyes narrow as she attempts to reach through the prickly ramparts and free the fruit beyond.
She has quickly learnt to avoid the thorns, or at least tries to, and despite her best efforts the brambles grip her sleeves.
Arm tugs not enough, she yelps in annoyance as I quickly untangle her, pull plant barricades to one side so she once more has right to roam.
Caught purple handed
There! Her fingertips look as though she has pressed them into an ink pad, swirled prints stained in lilac loops.
Guilty as charged. She has been caught purple handed, and continues to pick the blackberries, carefully, one by one, popping them into her mouth. Nearby, a robin watches.
‘Look, there’s some more,’ I say to her, and she follows my pointed finger to a slightly more accessible clump.
I pick a couple, hold out my hand and her mouth covers my palm like a catfish rasping algae from rocks with its sucker mouth.
She barrels them in with her teeth and tongue. No fingers required here.
Safe to say, my girl loves blackberrying.
We keep a few aside in a bowl and choose a stick. Now, this requires very serious consideration – it has to be right.
She wanders about the fallen leaves which lightly carpet the woodland floor, leaves which are still petal soft and only just starting to yellow.
The year is too young for them to crackle yet. Welly boots must wait at least another month before they can carve a swoosh of paths between trees. The air remains mild, and today it is dry.
‘There’s a stick,’ I say. She purses her syrupy lips. No. This stick is too thin, that one is from last year and has softened too much. No, not like that!
We continue to forage.
Ah, this stick is perfect. Yes, that one. Like that one! At just the right thickness and just the right length, it is strong and stout.
She picks it up with the scrutiny of a buzzard choosing nesting materials.
A basher and a squasher
But this stick is no longer a stick, and it is certainly not destined to become a bird’s home.
This stick is now a masher, a basher, a squasher of blackberries.
She clumsily bangs it into the bowl and attempts to circle it about the bottom, the perfect practice for coordination skills.
Juice oozes from the fruit, little black spheres paddling in a pool of purple.
There! Light glistens on the just-picked sheen.
And now, the stick is a brush, squished blackberries now paint. She daubs it over paper which has been weighted down by four small rocks. Dab, streak, dab.
Magenta bleeds into the paper, following lines of pulped fibres. In one corner the liquid pools and a deep well is made.
At the top, the streaks lose juice and a wispy lilac fades out like cirrus clouds. Her picture unintentionally traces the paths we walk in the woods, becomes a map of our morning.
Later I make a crumble. Blackberries are mixed with apple and cinnamon under a cloak of toasted brown soil. Sugar meets sour on the spoon.
My little girl looks at it. She wrinkles her nose. Pushes the dish away.
She’d much rather eat blackberries outside, in the woods, with the birds.
She wears a crown of bramble, feet coaxed by air, eyes lit by green.
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