For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth, over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise this, our hymn of grateful praise.
1. To the south of my parents’ house, past the “seasonal access only” sign, lies a big hill. It’s the first hill in five on this stretch, actually, which you know if you’ve driven haywagons back and forth. It’s not a difficult walk, by any means. Just enough of an incline to ask us if we’re serious about these blackberries. We are. We’re also holding hands, which is irrelevant perhaps to the pursuit of berries but still quite nice.
2. We’re not to the good thicket yet, but there’s a blackberry briar close to the road. Since we’re headed to the good thicket where the big berries grow, we’re not officially picking berries yet. This sleight of hand justifies eating every ripe berry on the briar. Buckets still empty, we continue up the hill.
3. This is all in the woods, of course, but the good thicket is in a bit of a clearing. Without the forest canopy overhead, the sun lights the thicket like something out of a Disney movie. Angels are probably singing, but the berries sing louder to keep our attention.
4. On the third day, God created vegetation: tall trees, long grass, and juicy berries. Not coincidentally, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. That’s how you know that berry picking is holy business. Birds were invented on the fifth day and humans not until the sixth, so we show some respect and leave a few berries behind.
5. Seeing a spider’s web before walking into it, rather than after.
6. I don’t know if the blackberries in this thicket grow so well because of the sun, or because they were cultivated by some long-gone homesteader, or because God poked his finger right here and said, “let there be berries.” They’re warm when you put them in your mouth, though, and each juicy chamber explodes in sugary song.
7. A bucket nearing full has a pleasant heft to it. It feels heavier when one has to stand still in an awkward position, while one’s husband frees one—again—from an inviting patch of briars that turned out to be a trap. One’s husband may skillfully balance gentleness and frustration, and may point out—again—that sufficient berries can be obtained by going around the outside of the thicket, as opposed to crashing into the center. Ignoring such admonitions is a joy.
8. One mosquito successfully swatted, without spilling any berries from the bucket.
9. Between us, we’ve picked berries in at least five different states. We tell stories, as we pick, surrounded as we are by so great a cloud of berry-picking witnesses.
10. Walking home, holding hands, full buckets swinging. We kick rocks, watch the dirt fly as it skitters down the hill ahead of us, wonder if there’s ice cream in the freezer to go with the pie.
For the beauty of the berries, and the earth from which they grow, and the sun that feeds them, and the birds that feed on them, and the hope of pie to come, we raise this our hymn of grateful praise. Hallelujah and amen.
“For the Beauty of the Earth,” words by Folliott S. Pierpoint.
Julie Rudd is a recorded minister in Wilmington Yearly Meeting and pastor of Wilmington Friends Meeting. She lives in Wilmington with one husband, one dog, three cats, seven chickens, and innumerable half-finished crochet projects.