The essay that follows is inspired by the work of Ray Bradbury
in his novel, Dandelion Wine. It demonstrates the use of
descriptive writing in response to a prompt on summer rituals.
Blackberry Picking at
Every summer I gather blackberries, make
delicious jam then, best of all, slice cheese onto bread and
slather them in jam made from berries picked only a few hours
My wife and I go—usually in late August, but
this year on the 8th of September—and pick as many berries as
our pinpricked hands can stand. Blackberries are armoured with
prickles and thorns, so I always have many scratches on my arms
“You want to go to Jericho?” I suggest,
meaning Jericho Park, one of Vancouver’s finest, a park that
includes a large patch of wild blackberries on its northern
We drive across the city, remarking on the
highly overgrown boulevards up and down King Edward Avenue.
Vancouver looks shabbier than usual. It’s late summer, grasses
brown, wasps a bother at picnics, the crisp chill in the air
heralding autumn breezes still to come. Parking is easy along
Fourth Avenue since we’re not heading to the beach. Instead, we
march into the woods.
On the way, we see a family walking home,
buckets empty. We continue. Under the forest canopy it is wet
from Monday’s rain. I begin to fear that the berries will be
moldy or nonexistent.
The blackberries have had a hard year. Half
their normal height, standing barely a meter above the ground,
the plants hide the best berries under dark green leaves, their
glowing purple like the garnets on the fingers of a king. Most
years, I’m teetering like some crazy leaning tower of Pisa,
standing too high on my aluminum ladder, reaching for the
plumpest berry, all the while raked by thorns and, nastiest of
all, by tiny prickles nearest to where each purple black berry
We start picking. The traffic noise is
distant; a fall wind swirls through the poplars. My hands turn
purple as more berries fill the plastic yogurt container hung
round my neck. I eat one, maybe two. The berries are too few
this year to waste; besides, I want to make jam or maybe even a
pie, the best pie of summer, the blackberry, topped with a
dollop of whipping cream.
But there are not enough for pie, even after
one hour of picking, the hot late summer sun burning the backs
of our necks, our t-shirts sticking to our backs. Jam will do,
emerging from our freezer on some dreary, mist-filled February
day, bringing back memories of this afternoon. We make two
batches, taking turns stirring stirring stirring the bowls of
berries. Loaded into jars, we have 13, the unlucky one half
eaten in a day.
Picking blackberries in summer, gathering them
together, then stirring them in a bowl of freezer jam for a few
minutes, the smell of ripe berries wafting up, mixed with the
apple-sweet smell of the pectin, is a favourite summer ritual,
one I hope to continue as long as I am able.
—Draft Four (484 words) See a document that
shows my final changes here.