Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Blackberries and Fireflies

I spent an intense week immersed in Autistic Culture at Autreat, a 5 day long retreat by and for individuals on the Autism spectrum. This was our third Autreat and as ever, the experience is profound, moving, and exhausting for me and my sons.

I can't even begin to fully articulate how safe it felt to be in my own skin there. It's a place to let down my defenses.

Two images persist from our week: fireflies and blackberries. Each evening at dusk, the fireflies would rise from the grass to dance a galaxy of light in the field next to the dorms. The same incredible show night after night and I never tired of it.

We stumbled onto the blackberry patch one hot afternoon and braved the brambles and the thorns to endulge in the tart/sweet fruit. Our hands looked bloodstained afterwards and our tongues were purple. We drove eleven hours home in 4th of July weekend traffic with styrofoam cups full of fresh blackberries.

When we lived in Dedham, the house we rented had a blackberry hedge that lined the driveway. New neighbors moved in next door and they chopped the hedge down--I have never forgotten that. I wrote this piece last summer, twinning that memory into a story of wanderlust and homecoming.

Early Morning Berries

Its brambles snagged
my winter scarf, scratched
nail marks along the flank
of my car. Etched tattoos
on bare limbs of the unwary. It grew
tangled and dark in the driveway
that separated our houses; untamed,
unrepentant. Hard black knots

swelled in the spaces between thorns.
We waited: Sparrows and starlings,
blue jays, crows. Me with my cereal bowl,
milk in a glass bottle. For two weeks
I let the sharp sweetness implode
on my blue tongue, stain careful
fingers. I flew south

searching for more exotic fruit,
found papaya and banana, learned
to eat fried plantains
with red beans and rice.
But the tang of blackberries
lingered on my lips, teased me home.

ljcohen, 2004

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