I’ve had the image of picking berries with my family all spring and summer long. I’ve pictured us in the good evening light that shines just before sunset. I would wear a flowing vintage summer dress, and a sun hat providing just enough shade to keep my eyes on the ripest berries. There would be just enough warmth, just enough breeze, a lot of laughter and buckets of berries.
Mid August we finally make our way to Sauvie’s Island. It’s noon and there’s no breeze. It’s the hottest time of the day on the hottest day of the summer. I’m wearing a dirty (always dirty) frumpy black dress. No hat and thirty extra pounds of baby love. My tired brain pretends to listen to the farmer as he verbally guides us to the blackberry fields. I can’t seem to listen, so I just smile and nod. I assume that finding the berry fields is fool-proof, but I am wrong because forty-five minutes later we arrive at the vines, sweaty and flushed, confused and cranky. I wonder why I picked today of all days. Bijou is hot, probably too hot, crying and hungry.
Just as I start to get in a tizzy I look for Octave and find her, bucket in hand with her summer hat on. I see her eyes captivated by blackberries in their purest state as her mind fills with wonder. All my preconceived notions start to dissipate and I decide maybe today is just right. I notice we are completely alone because it’s Monday and everyone else knew it was too hot. My children feel me let go. Bijou stops crying. Octave has never looked so smitten. I am still sweating.
When I look through my lens I don’t see or feel all of the mornings mishaps, I just see my daughter and her perfect, untainted joy. With no expectations she gives herself the gift of being completely present. Full of expectations, I want what she has. I capture these sweet moments and then I tuck away my camera, out of sight. I want to be present. I want to share in her joy, not just observe it. We eat sun-kissed berries that are so hot I can taste them before they ever hit my tongue. Our fingertips start to show signs of our fun. We stop before they stain, because we only pick what Octave can carry.
On our ride back home and in between talking with Octave about what we should bake, I wonder why picking berries with her was so important to me. All summer I felt as though my soul could not rest until we did this. I am honest with myself and I admit that my life feels out of balance. Very little about the way we live as a society feels normal to me and yet I keep going along with it, because I don’t know what else to do. I just want my babe and babies in the good evening light, without my phone and all its notifications, emails, texts, and reminders taking me everywhere but the present. I want more wild. I want more free. I want more of my life, unplugged and free from meaningless distractions. What is this need to connect with an online world I cannot see or touch? Why does it feel like I am missing something if I don’t. And why do I feel empty if I do? Am I cultivating a life that is rich enough for me and my classic pen and paper? I miss my pen and paper. I miss my photo books. I miss the tangible. I miss the feel. There are still things I keep near and dear, sacred and secret, but it doesn’t feel like enough these days. Perhaps this is why I crave moments away from the chaos and grind of life, and why I daydream perfect scenes of my family in berry fields. It’s not the berries that I want, it’s a connection to the earth and an intimacy with the present that I crave most.
Lemon Blackberry Olive Oil Cake
Inspired by Local Milk
3 cups flour
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1.5 tsp. flaky sea salt
3 tsp. herbs de provence
2 cups sugar
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup whole milk plain yogurt (european style)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup blackberries
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
Pre heat oven to 350. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and herbs. In another bowl combine olive oil, lemon juice, eggs, milk, yogurt and vanilla. Whisk together well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix. Gently fold in the berries. Oil your pound cake or bundt cake pan with olive oil. Pour in batter and bake for 60-65 minutes or until cooked all the way through. Test with a knife or toothpick. Let cool for 15 minutes before turning over onto a plate or cake stand. While cake is cooling, whisk together all ingredients for the glaze. Put icing into a piping bag or ziploc bag (cutting a tiny hole in one side.) Drizzle icing across cake. Slice and enjoy.