The forest where I grew up in was five miles off the rural route. My mother, brother and I lived in a place that was so far out in the backwoods that it was never even on the map. Our three-room shack was surrounded by thick, tall, green trees. There was a mossy creek out back, where I could catch frogs and watch tadpoles darting nervously as I approached the edges of the water. I spent most of my days outside like that, with the animals in the forest. And just being a girl. I went barefoot mostly in summertime
My mother made sweet tea to drink on those summer days, when the air was so heavy it felt like a blanket on my skin. She liked to bake blackberry pies. I learned to back those pies with her, and peach pies also. But my favorite was blackberry. My brother and I loved the scoops of vanilla ice cream on top of the warm pies, right out of our oven. I’d sit at that old wooden table with my brother and feel the cold ice cream on my tongue, sharp on my teeth, and the warm insides of berry filling after the cold, sliding down my gullet. We had milk too, from our cows.
Today I took my two metal buckets and laced up my walking sneakers, to go out and pick berries in the meadow a bit further away from our home. There was a trail I’d made after years of berry picking in the forest. I took our two dogs too, for company. They were hounds with gray with brown and black speckles. I always had hounds; they were what everyone had out there. I could hear them howling loud and long when they came up on a raccoon and had him treed. I always called them off.
I walked down yonder for what seemed like a good hour. Until I came to a green clearing where there were vines and a fence around what used to be an old market. It had been abandoned some time before I began my berry picking treks. I went inside the tiny wooden shack to rest and find shade from the sun on this one hot day, my dogs trotted in behind me, their tongues flopped out and they plopped over onto the cool floor inside.
It was only a little bit further to the part of the creek that winded its way further south into the Appalachia’s. There the creek widened to a small river where my brother and I would fish. And we’d catch catfish for dinner. But today wasn’t a fishing day. It was a berry-picking day. And the bushes were full from where I could see out of the window, where I stood looking out into the tall, green weeds and wildflowers. There my most beautiful flower grew, cosmos. They stood out tall and long amongst all of the weeds. They were simple and colorful, orange yellow, perfectly round petals, and with long stems.
I could feel the mosquitos lighting on my damp skin, I brushed them off. Not before they bit me though. Today I’d have to watch and be careful for poison oak. It was growing wild out there. I opened my canteen, took a sip of cool water and put the cap back on it. As I looked around inside my private shack, I was planning on bringing my fishing pole next time. I would do that.