To Gladden the Tongue

September 26, 2005 | 40 comments
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Blackberries grow all along the edge of the woods outside the South Bend Stake Center. I am disappointed at how few Mormons seem interested in them. “Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart” (D&C 59:18), but people don’t pay much attention to the berries; instead they would look at me and ask me what I am doing when I went to gather a few after church. Then “whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced”(Matthew 11:17). In other ages, people looked for God in his creation, and the study of the heavens was a form of worship. It surprises me that as a people who believe that God’s body is part of what makes him so glorious, for whom “spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy” (D&C 93: 33), we aren’t more interested in the growing things that adorn the earth. Of course, the Catholics don’t seem much better; most of the black raspberries around St. Mary’s Lake dried on the vine, unpicked, though I always came back from jogging with fresh red spots on my fingers. For my part, I feel ungrateful if I don’t pick summer berries. I think I get this from my mother, who has hauled in several bushels of fresh grapes, tomatoes, and apples just in the last few days, to put next to the plums and . . .

There is this one kind of fruit Mormons seem to appreciate pretty thoroughly, though, little morsels like this one:

I don’t have any of those myself this season, but I did have fun luring some other people’s across the parking lot to pick berries with me : )

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40 Responses to To Gladden the Tongue

  1. Adam Greenwood on September 26, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    Ben Huff,

    We went on several blackberry picking trips to the chapel with the Youngs. On one of them our Betsey Pearl invented her own nursery-rhyme variant for our little chubby-cheeked Emma Caroline.

    “1, 2,” she said, “buckle my shoe” and so on and so on until “9, 10, a big, fat EMMA!”

    Coming from the desert as I do, I can’t get over berries growing wild, free for the picking, like they do in Indiana and Oregon. Berries and kids. Sometimes the abundance of the life the Lord has in mind for us is inescapable.

  2. Bill on September 26, 2005 at 7:44 pm

    There are a lot of raspberry bushes in the “wilds” of Riverside Park near the George Washington Bridge where I often run in the summertime. They come into season a couple of weeks after the mulberries that stain the wooded paths. Imagine my horror last fall when, passing one of the best locations near an underpass of the West Side Highway, I came upon a group of young and enthusiastic, but ignorant, parks department volunteers who had cut down all the raspberry bushes along with the weeds. Luckily, they’ll grow back in a few years.

  3. Ben H on September 26, 2005 at 7:56 pm

    Ah, so the Young’s departure for Idaho this summer was part of the explanation for the neglect of the blackberries . . . I did catch them sleeping though, with a small mulberry tree in their own backyard! they hadn’t noticed. We discovered it in their last couple of days before moving. The kids were pretty tickled.

    I seem to remember Sara bringing berry jam to a party at Kirsten’s–picked on the chapel lot perhaps?

  4. Julie in Austin on September 26, 2005 at 8:11 pm

    What I want to know is why fat babies are SO DARN CUTE while the general perception of fat adults is revulsion.

  5. Melissa on September 26, 2005 at 8:36 pm

    Ben,

    I can’t believe you beat *me* to a berry post! I was actually in Connecticut over the weekend for my annual autumn fruit picking ritual—always a day when everything feels right with the world. I usually pick several pounds of gala and idared apple varieties with some macIntosh thrown in for baking. This year the gala were picked over when we arrived so I contented myself with a handful of tart empires and some cortlands. It was early enough in the season to even find some bartlett and bosch pears left on the trees. I was delighted to find them since they’re usually not quite ripe when I go for peaches but long gone when I arrive for apples. After picking all the apples we could carry, we headed over to the sacred raspberry patch by the lily pond for berry picking and conversation for the rest of the afternoon just as we’ve done for many years. Something about fruit picking in the middle of the woods always evokes wonderful discussion. I don’t know if it’s the richness of the colors and tastes and smells or the close proximity to each other over many hours or just what exactly but some of the most meaningful conversations of my life have occurred in the sacred berry patch. In fact, athough I often pick more than 15 pounds of raspberries in an afternoon, I must admit to being so distracted by our conversation (which was of particular interest to me this year) that I only ended up with 7 pounds. Still, it’s enough to make jam for a few Christmas gifts anyway.

  6. Nate Oman on September 26, 2005 at 8:58 pm

    Melissa: Apple season comes a little later south of the Mason-Dixon line, but we are getting ready to make our trek to the Shenandoah for a day of apple picking. When we lived in Boston we made our annual pilgramage to pick apples. There are few places more wonderful than a New England apple orchard on a long, cool fall afternoon. For me there is something heart-rending about Fall in New England. It is so fabulously beautiful that it makes you sad because you know it will soon be over.

  7. Chad Too on September 26, 2005 at 9:00 pm

    One of the true pleasures in my life is having an office that is a stone’s throw from the Farmers Market. I try to stop there on my way to work in the mornings during the growing season and get some of whatever’s in season. Better that than something from the vending machine.

    There’s a strain of huge blackberries (easily 1.5-2 inches from top to bottom) that grow around here. I buy them from a co-op of teachers to pick the berries over the summer to supplement their incomes.

    The last week of July is when the blackberries peak and the most delicious nectarines you will ever taste come in from the orchards. That makes for a very happy week.

    This year I wised up and figured out how to make the magic last longer. There are 5 quarts of homemade nectarine jam, a gallon of pureed nectarines (for future sorbets) and a gallon of blackberries in the freezer. I’m saving the berries for a Thanksgiving pie.

    Suffice it to say that I am very jealous of those who are up north and not yet out-of-season on the berries. Of course, I won’t be jealous of the snow you get later; sorry.

  8. Melissa on September 26, 2005 at 9:09 pm

    Nate,

    Where did you and Heather go to pick apples in Boston? Did you ever pick strawberries at Ward’ berry farm in July?

  9. Nate Oman on September 26, 2005 at 9:12 pm

    We went to Honey Pot Orchards, which is out past Stow, as I recall…

  10. Melissa on September 26, 2005 at 9:14 pm

    “there is something heart-rending about Fall in New England.” So true. For nothing gold can stay.

  11. Melissa on September 26, 2005 at 9:18 pm

    I’ve heard of Honey Pot, but never made it there. Do they sell fresh flowers there too? (I’m headed that direction in a couple of weeks and might try to stop by). Even after I moved to Providence I continued to drive all the way down to an orchard near New Haven (what can I say? I get attached easily) and never did much exploring of orchards further north.

  12. Katherine on September 26, 2005 at 9:35 pm

    This post reminds me of a delightful book we read to our children called Jamberry by Bruce Degen. To give you a taste, the inscription reads “For my special Berry Picker and the two Little Berries”. If you appreciate berries and children, you ought to give Jamberry a try.

  13. Jonathan Green on September 26, 2005 at 9:50 pm

    “Jamberry” shows that Bruce Degen is a great illustrator who should stick to illustration. Nice pictures, but he really, really needs Joanna Cole to handle the writing.

  14. Russell Arben Fox on September 26, 2005 at 10:44 pm

    Ah Jonathan, don’t be a sourpuss! “Quickberry quackberry, pick me a blackberry!” Degen’s book is a classic in our home.

    All these posts make me sigh. Since leaving Virginia, we’ve been far away for any serious berries. Now that we’ve moved to Illinois we’re doing a lot better on fresh vegetables, and we’ve located some pretty good orchards too (though not with the selection that’s available in the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast). But I haven’t seen a truly decent strawberry patch in years, and as for blackberries–forget it. We need to get back closer to the hills and the lakes for them…

    Nate (and anyone else in the D.C. area)–if you haven’t discovered it, check out Cherry Hill Farm, out in Clinton, MD. A wonderful place for picking apples, peaches, strawberries, blackberries, as well as picking up a lot of fine produce. Their apple-cider doughnuts are to die for.

  15. Kaimi on September 26, 2005 at 11:06 pm

    Ben, Melissa, and other berry-philes,

    I certainly hope that your annual berry-picking ceremonies also include a trip to a local dairy to pick up some cheese. If not, repent ye, repent ye, for kingdom of cheddar is at hand.

    (Personally, I recommend a trip through upstate New York for apples, followed by a quick jaunt over into Vermont for cheese and maple syrup).

  16. Jack on September 26, 2005 at 11:24 pm

    I’m the winner! I’ve held that little morsel in my arms. There’s nothing more healing than holding a sweet little baby–though gazing at the stars or feeling the cool breeze or watching the fall colors appear can be restore my soul too.

    I hope Ben doesn’t mind me saying this, but the Huff family has always had a wonderful healing influence on me. Wonderful people.

  17. Melissa on September 26, 2005 at 11:29 pm

    Cute, Kaimi!

    You know I’m a turophile! Still, on Saturday when we stopped in at the farm market after being out in the orchards all day I was disappointed to see that the little country store (which used to sell mostly produce, homemade baked goods and flowers) had started selling upscale cheeses—of the type you and I like so much. Imported cheeses seemed so out of place in that little pristine world. It was actually a little upsetting to me. I didn’t know who or what to rage against but did mention to the girl at the counter that I thought the new cheese section was a mistake (as if that would do any good).

    I’m fond of Vermont too. There’s this little shop in Woodstock that makes the most wonderful maple walnut ice cream (with real maple syrup) that is almost worth the trip by itself. . . . maybe not from California though.

  18. J. Stapley on September 27, 2005 at 12:40 am

    The finest blackberries are in the wild of the Pacific northwest. On a hot day, the well watered fruit explode in the mouth. Transcendent. We also have raspberries and blueberries and strawberries and elderberries and huckleberries…

    This reminds me of one of my favorite Frost poems.

  19. Ben H on September 27, 2005 at 1:12 am

    Are you kidding, Melissa?! I wrote this post like two months ago when the blackberries were ripe in South Bend, then changed that part to past-tense today and updated it with the grapes etc! I held off to get out of the long shadow of Rosalynde’s dragonfly post. I guess you’ve had other things on your mind in the interval.

    Adam, I’ll admit they aren’t quite as captivating as berries, but I teased a few oats out of heads growing wild by the roadside (okay, next to a field of corn) while on a walk in this desert region (out in the flats of Utah Valley) the other day. Yum. I could live on those for a while. The wild mustard in the mountains is nice, too. Lots of stuff takes water added, but it is just about as overwhelming when that is all it takes, as was the case with the tomatillos in my parents’ garden for a few years. They would just come up again each year and take over as far as we let them, til our shelves were stuffed with bottles. We would pick buckets, then a few days later buckets more. We’re still eating them in salsa, orangey-lemoney sweet like I’ve never had them except from our own garden because we would let them get riper.

    Jack, I actually got to squeeze that dumplin’ the other day after persuading him I’m safe by reading to him one of his favorite books, at his mother’s suggestion. He’s a lot of fun.

  20. Ben H on September 27, 2005 at 1:18 am

    Oh, that was nice, J. : ) Thanks

  21. Lamonte on September 27, 2005 at 8:27 am

    Ben, Thanks for bringing to our attention one of the simple pleasures that we often miss in modern urban life. I hope you have shared this experience with my grandaughter Whitney from your primary class to join you in the berry picking. I’m sure her parents would appreciate it.

    Nate, My wife and I reserve the last weekend of October for our annual trip to the Blue Mountains and Williams Family Orchard, about 16 miles up Skyline Drive from Warrenton. Thay have several choices of already-picked apples and much cider for your enjoyment…and the colors are at their peak.

    Picking huckleberries just outside Moscow, Idaho in my college days resulted in one of the tastiest pies I’ve ever experienced. You have to keep an eye out for the black bears but it’s worth the risk.

  22. Adam Greenwood on September 27, 2005 at 9:03 am

    ‘Jamming in berryland” is great.

    So when does an obsession with cheeses, fruits in season, artisanal this and that, etc., become gluttony? Don’t respond here, do it in Russell Fox’s thread.

  23. Bryce I on September 27, 2005 at 9:11 am

    Another vote for Bruce Degen’s “Jamberry” as a great children’s book.

    His best work in collaboration is with Nancy White Carlstrom on “Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear”.

    My kids love picking raspberries from the bushes next to their grandparents’ home in Alaska every summer.

  24. john scherer on September 27, 2005 at 10:59 am

    Thank You Ben,
    Your post has made me reminisce about Autumns in Pennsylvania. We’ve recently moved and I didn’t realize how homesick I was. I think an Autumn visit and a trip to the Apple Orchard and Pumpkin Patch is in order.

  25. LisaB on September 27, 2005 at 11:50 am

    Given the emphasis on pleasure in the scripture you first quote, ought we to consider ourselves Christian Hedonists? (Or do other Christians consider us Hedonists?)

  26. LisaB on September 27, 2005 at 11:53 am

    Oh–and Julie–perhaps because skinny babies more often die than chubby ones? Whereas the opposite is true of adults?

  27. Melissa on September 27, 2005 at 12:10 pm

    Are you kidding, Melissa?! I wrote this post like two months ago when the blackberries were ripe in South Bend, then changed that part to past-tense today and updated it with the grapes etc! I guess you’ve had other things on your mind in the interval.

    Why would I be kidding? You may have written the post two months ago but you only posted it yesterday. I did my berry picking last Saturday and was hoping to write a post about it as soon as I had a moment this week. There’s only been an “interval” from your perspective, not mine.

    This darling bundle of smiles is the spitting image of your sister. I wondered if he wasn’t a new nephew.

  28. Ana on September 27, 2005 at 12:36 pm

    Another vote for Jamberry here. The rhythm and rhyme and general berried messiness make it the ideal book for two year olds, though my fruit-obsessed four year old continues to love it.

    Any other displaced Alaskans here yearning for sour wild blueberries as the weather starts to cool? Preferably picked in the midnight sunset with soft moss underfoot. Our favorite spot was Ester Dome outside Fairbanks, where my father in law had one of his experiment stations. I remember it most clearly from the summer I was engaged. We’d go up there after the late movie. Ah, youth!

    But now I’m in California, counting the months again until strawberry season …

  29. Rosalynde Welch on September 27, 2005 at 4:10 pm

    Thoughts on berries… There used to be wild blackberry cane growing on the south-facing slope of Maeser Hill bordering, uh, eighth north (?)—maybe they’re still there. I used to gather the berries at the end of August, once indulging a little too enthusiastically right before going on a long run. Oops.

    One of my childhood homes in Southern California had a long, long driveway lined with Valencia orange trees, with blackberry brambling at their feet. My mom made a great cobbler, but I remember even more clearly the long, hot, scratchy afternoons obligatorily searching through the ivy and rotting fruit for the berries.

    Years ago my home stake had responsibilities at a church-owned welfare farm, which was really an orchard of peach and pear trees. We’d go harvest the fruit as a family, and then bring home several cardboard boxes full for my mother to bottle. I think the orchard was sold, and my mother now hasn’t canned fruit in years. But I still remember those pale pears glimmering in their bottles at the supper table.

  30. b bell on September 27, 2005 at 5:43 pm

    Jamberry is a great book.

  31. Ben H on September 27, 2005 at 7:16 pm

    Melissa and Nate, the climatology here has me baffled. How is it possible that the berries are just ripe now where Melissa picked, when they have been over for many weeks in Indiana?

    I know you just went picking, Melissa; my point is that there have been berries for a very long time this year now. What took you, of all people, so long to go picking? : )

  32. Melissa on September 27, 2005 at 11:26 pm

    Ben, berries of various kinds have been available since mid-Summer in New England too.

    I’m not sure if you’re just teasing me but there are very good reasons for my late arrival on the berry scene this year.

    Unfortunately I missed picking strawberries in July because I had a broken ankle (you may remember). Hobbling in and out of my elevator-less department wasn’t a pretty sight, but picking berries while on crutches wasn’t even an option. Blueberries are at their peak in late August (along with the peaches). I happened to be moving and finishing a prospectus that week (Hmm, you might remember this too?). Raspberries, my personal favorite (much tastier on ice cream than strawberries and easier to jam since they don’t need to be individually stemmed), are at their best in late September and so raspberry picking is usually combined with my apple and pumpkin picking trek in late September. We have gone to pick raspberries as late as the second week of October, however.

    I admit to having nothing intelligent to say about the “climatology” of the berry schedule in New England. I just know when to show up : )

  33. LisaB on September 28, 2005 at 10:17 pm

    Once again it’s gone, but I’ve been thinking about this… I was serious about my question, and did not mean hedonism in a negative way. Quite the contrary, actually. It is a quality I admire greatly and aspire to. I read a book several years back called “Desiring God” which proposed Christian hedonism of a sort… I didn’t think it was far off. We are that we might have joy–and the pleasurable experiences of our bodies are meant to be a large part of that joy–even eternally, I think. And your post seemed to imply this also. Did you take it as a criticism? There was another (art criticism) book I read called “The Scandal of Pleasure” which talked about the negative reaction American critical circles seem to attach to any expression of sensual pleasures in artworks. These two books together made me look at LDS views of the sanctity of our physical bodies (not just as houses of our spirits, but sacred in themselves) and of all physical creation and wonder why we as a people are not more hedonistic and why you might have had the reaction (possibly distain for your plucking the fruits on the Sabbath–or for paying them any head at all?) from church members.

  34. Ben H on September 28, 2005 at 11:45 pm

    LisaB, although the word ‘hedonism’ is a tricky word, yes, I did mean to be drawing attention to the sacredness of, even obligation to certain kinds of pleasures. Failure to find/take pleasure in some things is ingratitude. And I think the Mormon world-view is especially supportive of proper pleasure, particularly pleasure which we can experience through our bodies. Of course, we have plenty of influence in our thinking from less body-friendly forms of Christian belief and such . . . we need to be more faithful to the truth we have received. In general, Mormonism is much less guilt-oriented and more joy-oriented than is usual in the Christian world. But we also might do better to stay away from the word “hedonism” because it has so many problematic associations.

  35. LisaB on September 29, 2005 at 7:52 am

    Except that considering the problematic associations can do much to give us an understanding desire and pleasure–righteous and otherwise.

  36. LisaB on September 29, 2005 at 9:07 am

    Not only that, but I think the problematic associations are the very reason many Mormons have difficulty properly appreciating the very necessary and soul-enlarging pleasures of this life in the first place. So using the (“problematic”) term hedonism gets right to the heart of what’s at issue here when talking about pleasure and desire.

  37. Ben H on September 29, 2005 at 5:03 pm

    Okay . . . yes, the word does bring up key issues bearing on discernment between righteous and unrighteous pleasures. I think there is a reason, though, why the word “hedonism” has come to mean pretty much decadence, an unrighteous pursuit of pleasure. Before I would want to take it on board, I would have to be pretty convinced that I had a winning strategy for overturning those connotations. I’m not sure there is such a strategy to be had at the level of discussion where the connotations of words are set: fully public discussion.

    This is closely related to issues on my mind lately in my philosophy work. Socrates in the Gorgias argued for judging pleasures by the standard of the good, rather than judging goods by the standard of pleasure. For now, I’m kind of sold on Socrates’ strategy: do the good, and then remember that you’re supposed to enjoy it. Not that it’s ideal, but that is a strategy calculated to avoid some of the pitfalls of the human condition.

    Of course, if you don’t mind being kind of “in your face”, the word might make your point very effectively : )

  38. LisaB on September 30, 2005 at 9:04 am

    Strategy? Have a strategy? What’s that? Yeah, guess I don’t operate that way much. I’m more a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type gal. In your face. Hmm… I’ll have to think about how much I want that to be the way I come across.

    So is Socrates saying that pleasure should be the reward, not the goal? Perhaps I disagree with Socrates. I’d have to read Gorgias to know, and I can pretty much guarantee that’s not going to happen anytime soon if ever. Maybe true pleasure–that which vitalizes/ enlivens us–IS our guide. Direct experience seems to me a necessary element in developing discernment and understanding, and those who divorce themselves from sensual experience (think 1/3 of the hosts of heaven, but by extension those of us here on earth still making life or death choices) are as in danger of becoming spiritually numb/ past feeling as those who overindulge (and thereby become spiritually numb). Elder Oaks gave a talk about desires some time ago… about how we will all ultimately inherit what we desire. I’ll see if I can find the link.

  39. LisaB on November 24, 2005 at 12:01 am

    Okay, don’t know if it’s everlastingly too late, but I was able to pick up a Plato collection my last library trip with the kids–I’ll see if I can make some headway this holiday weekend.

  40. booklogged on April 20, 2006 at 9:45 am

    Ben,
    Are you related to anyone named Bill, Joyce, Ila, or Burt?

WELCOME

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