But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” -Jonah 4:9
I worked hard to glean that first harvest, puncturing my skin on sharp thorns as I plucked tiny lonely berries lingering in the back, the purple tips of my fingers shaking with the strain of my reach. For a girl used to finding berries encased in plastic beneath florescent lights, finding food growing in the middle of the woods still took me by surprise. I remember the first taste, tentatively putting one pustule of one berry to my mouth, unsure of its name, of its potential power to kill or make me an indentured servant to intestinal demands. As the sweetness filled my mouth, I simply did not care and swallowed the whole berry, scribbling “I am eating wild berries” inside my journal on the off chance a family taking a Sunday afternoon stroll found my unconscious body lying on the trail. But surely nothing this sweet could be harmful. Berry after berry found its fate between my teeth, past my tongue, and down my throat. Statistically, my pleasure decreased with each one, but each down to the last worth the effort, paying the thorns directly with blood and sweat, no intermediaries, no HR administrators doling out my tuppence nor checkout clerks with scanners and vacant eyes. Two weeks later, marks still linger on my body, pale skinned ghosts of scabs gone by. And unlike most times when the body bears proof of its memories, they are reminders of delight, mine and God’s as He watched me like the blue sky peaking through the canopy of shifting green light as I savored His unexpected gift.
This evening, I went back to that patch armed with knowledge of the berries’ names (wild black raspberries or, if I was feeling more formal, Rubus occidentalis), and an assurance that they could do no harm. I found them with little difficulty and rejoiced that the berries that were once so small had tripled in size. I greedily popped three berries in my mouth, hungry not only for their sweetness but also their sustenance. I realized immediately they were different, less flavor and even bitter. I was sure of their identification by their location and leaves. I was also furious. I had been looking forward to this berry feast all day, planned my gratefulness in advance. Curses upon this fruit, I thought. Curses on the seed that bore it, the sky for giving it rain and sun. Curses on its capability to so deeply disappoint, to remind me of all the times I try to re-enact a good thing and it falls into bitter little pieces, to embody what it is like when something, someone looks the same and in that looking makes promises he did not intend to give or keep. Two weeks. Two years. Things change, he said. But can I live with the reality of the second, not wishing to remove the first? Can sweet and bitter dwell together in the same mouth without curses, only blessing, blessing the coming and the leaving, blessing the scars that linger still?
This post sounds very personal, but it is actually a little made up. The berries part is all true, but the part about two years is not true. It is mostly drawn from an experience I had when I was little when I played this really fun game of stuffed animal war and then tried to re-enact it and it was really lame. That felt like it would be harder and less relatable on some level. Not that I haven't had my fair share of heartache/ "things change" kind of pain, but it's not exactly so simple as I made it out to be!