In the early morning an old womanis picking blackberries in the shade. It will be to hot later but right now there’s dew.

Some berries fall: those are the squirrels. Some are unripe, reserved for bears. Some go into the metal bowl. Those are for you, so you may taste them

Just for a moment. That’s good times: one little sweetness after another, then quickly gone.

Once, this old woman I’m conjuring up for you would have been my grandmother. Today it’s me.

Years from now it might be you, if you’re quite lucky. The hands reaching out among the leaves and spines were once my mother’s. I’ve passed them on. Decades ahead, you’ll study your own temporary hands, and you’ll remember. Don’t cry, this is what happens.

Look! The steel bowl is almost full. Enough for all of us. The blackberries gleam like glass, like the glass ornaments we hang on trees in December to remind ourselves to be grateful for snow.

Some berries occur in sun, but they are smaller. It’s as i always told you: the best ones grow in shadow.

~~margaret atwood  (canada, 1939--)


this poem crossed my path as i sat, waiting for the dentist. so much to contemplate in atwood’s words, the words of a poet, an artist.

she reminds me that my hands, like everything, are temporary. i’ve looked at my hands all my life. smooth and unmarked by experience they once were. today, the veins mark blue rivers of life across their backs. the knuckles, once small and almost invisible, are proud of the decades of movement. the skin once had no spots or lines or wrinkles. now the skin is decorated with all sorts of meandering pathways and earthy, brown orbs. all of life.

and atwood reminds me to share with other creatures, be they wild animals or well-civilised humans. i must leave a portion for others. i must surrender part of what comes to me for the community of beings.

and most, importantly, the poet reminds me that “the best ones grow in the shadow”. it is here, in the less visible, in the darker spaces, that the juicy bits develop. it is here that the lessons of life, the lessons of ageing, reside, some hidden until we are willing to set them free. by doing so, we set ourselves free. it is the process of life repair...looking deep into our lives...that can lead to forgiveness. we can forgive ourselves and other for being human, each of us wanting only the best, gleaming blackberries.