Earth Day, This Day
by Audrey Y. Scharmen
The daffodils beside my fence bloom very early each year. This winter I hurriedly picked a small bouquet before a mid-February snowfall, certain the rest would not survive the night. They did. Only slightly bowed, they bounced right back with the first rays of morning sun in the melting snow. They are as all things that live here in my yard beside the creek: sturdy nonconformists.
Now with spring well established they are fresh and abundant, and they toss merrily in the sharp wind that follows me along the lane. I am on my way to inspect a patch of wineberries nearby, the last of many that once lined our lane. Progress has taken a toll of such things, and this clump is especially vulnerable now, located as it is on a choice corner lot.
I catch sight of the thicket and my heart quickens as I see familiar graceful canes flushed rose with a delicate fuzz that identifies their kind, a lone touch of color in the grey landscape. But I note with alarm the small mound of raw soil and some freshly cut trees, signs of a perc-test, which heralds the destruction that precedes construction.
It is inevitable, I murmur, as I kneel on the hard cold ground to lop a tip of a cane for my own perc-test. I see the wonderful green within the stem, and there is the sharp prick of a sticker through the worn leather of my glove. It is a good thing, this strong urge of life in us both.
I pause to recall a steamy July day last summer when my young houseguest came running excitedly into the house to fetch a basket and declare that the wineberries down the lane were ripe. I told her to pick enough for a cobbler as I rummaged quickly in the pantry for the proper ingredients.
She is my youngest grandchild, who introduced me long ago to wineberries and taught me how to distinguish them from the more common variety of wild ones. Their fruit is juicier and much larger, said she. And the canes are all covered with rosy fuzz to disguise the vicious stickers. She is a born wood-nymph, raised beside the tow-path along the Delaware River’s shore in Pennsylvania where all things thrive in the rich black soil.
I close my eyes to summon the image of her as a toddler, all golden and new as the pup that bounced alongside her at the edge of the berry patch. She gleefully picked and shared berries at random with the pup, and both went to bed that night with a tummy-ache. Even at that tender age she knew where her range hens laid their eggs and just where grew the finest morels. She is a willowy teen now, yet not too sophisticated to run barefoot through the woodlands in search of precious things.
Dessert was a great success that day last summer, with only a few scraps of fluted leaves and a couple of teensy winged creatures (necessary additions to an authentic wild cobbler) amid the berries and cream.
The cold seeps into my knees; it is time to leave, and I rise clumsily from the patch, an aged arthritic woodsprite trying not to attract the attention of curious passersby. I limp homeward with the scent of warm cobbler and a sweet Bay summer hovering in my memory, and I whisper a plea to those in charge of perc-tests and bulldozers: Err here. Err there. But let the berries be...
Scharmen, of Lusby, has taken first prizes two years running in the Maryland, Delaware, D.C. Press Association editorial competition for her reflections in Bay Weekly, where she has written for each of our 13 years.