Annie was five but she remembers that summer walk well. The July heat baked the molted mimosa buds, the gravel country road crunched under our sneakers, and the yeasty smell of wild rye grass and fish from the lake blanketed the day. Annie loped along the roadside holding fast to her grandmother’s hand. And a good thing she was. In a moment as quick as a rabbit’s leap and as silent as a moth’s whisper, the road dipped and the dusty gravel slid like quicksand from under Annie’s feet. Her free hand instinctively flew out in search of a tree branch but found only sharp stones which struck her palm. Only Oma’s tight hold of her other hand kept her from hitting rock bottom and rolling down the steep incline as Annie’s feet frantically tried to find an invisible step in the roadside ditch.…or, as Annie is quick to retell, in the briar patch. As another Anne (ie: Shirley of Green Gables) would say, there is more “scope for the imagination” in a briar patch than there is in a ditch. Really it was only a roadside ditch but, to a five-year-old who felt the ground tumble out from under her, it was much more.
A year later she begins with the story Oma told her as we dusted off the seat of her blue jeans and pulled a wilted prickly branch from her pant’s leg. The story settled her down quickly and made a storybook retelling out of an otherwise scary experience. Her eyes light up and her hands flutter as she tells her captivated audience about her adventure falling into the briar patch. Please, it was not a ditch. It was a big black briar patch where momma rabbits keep their babies well-protected from predatory animals (like foxes and bears). There are blackberries in the briar patch, you know, and honey suckles, and maybe fairies live there. Opa thinks he might have seen one. You are drawn into the story—either by the June heat or the child’s imagination—for that is the spell a young child can charm you into believing as you walk down a long country road at the family camp on a hot day in June.
As we get closer to the spot of her descent down the rabbit hole, all eyes must beware of the dip in the road least they slip into the ditch…I mean, the briar patch. In the next second you expect to see Uncle Remus walking down the country road with a blue bird on his shoulder and Brer Bear and Brer Fox lurking anxiously around a corner. We search and find a clump of berries not yet black. Still red, so we make a compact to recheck the spot when we come back on the Fourth of July with the rest of the family. There is a cascade of honey suckle close by. Little hands reach and pluck the sunny flowers while older eyes scout the filigree of summer foliage for snakes and wasps. Youthful faces turn toward the summer sun. Eyes squint, sun-kissed freckled noses crinkle, pink tongues arch to drink the dainty droplets of sweet nectar.
It’s summertime and the briar patch is no longer deep and dark and scary. It’s summertime and the briar patch is sweet and full of life.
That is life as it teaches us. We learn as we go and the road—surrounded by ditches and briar patches—slips and dips while teaching us what happens if we don’t watch our footing. Yet there is always a hand that guides us and helps us out of these larger-than-life scrapes. God is always there, isn’t He? And sometimes He takes us back down that road and teaches us that goodness can be found amongst the thorns. He shows us how to reach into the briar patch, watching for snakes that might lurk there, and to see that the hole is not as deep and dark as we originally thought it was. He puts our thoughts into perspective and shows us how to pick the sweetness of the berries and taste the bouquet of honey suckle that springs forth from the recesses of the briar patch.
For with learning comes wisdom and goodness.
“For God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”
—New American Bible, Psalm 91:11-12
Oma’s Blackberry Cobbler Recipe:
25-30 oz. stewed blackberry filling
1 stick margarine
1 c. self-rising flour (or regular flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder)
1 c. sugar
1 c. milk
Melt butter in baking dish. Make batter of milk, sugar, & flour. Pour on top of melted butter. Add blackberry filling. Bake 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes (until crust is brown).
Take the Easy Road while Baking at the Camp:
1 cake mix (Classic Yellow Cake)
1 can blackberry pie filling
Any blackberries picked off the path
Spray 13x9x2 cake pan with cooking spray. Make yellow cake as directed on package. Pour cake mix into cake pan. Spoon pie filling over cake mixture and then swirl. Sprinkle with clean, ripe blackberries. Bake 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes or until browning on sides.
Copyright 2010 Cay Gibson