It’s Hand to Branch Combat with the wild berries


Yesterday after playing piano for two Masses and after a fattening lunch at Georgie’s, I battled the growth in my yard, especially the berry vines. Anyone who lives in rural western Oregon knows the berries that grow wild here—salmonberries, thimbleberries, blackberries, huckleberries—are a blessing and a curse. They offer delicious fruit, but they pop up everywhere, and the vines are vicious with thorns that grab at you like claws and don’t let go.
I live in the forest. The pines, berry vines, sword ferns, ivy and no-name weeds would take over if I let them. The forest would close in and smother the house and me and Annie along with it. So I spent my Sunday afternoon in hand to branch combat. I cut for hours, soaked with sweat and scratched with thorns, but loving the feel of my muscles working, growing strong. I don’t need a gym. I get plenty of bending, stretching and lifting working in the yard.
 
Cutting between the dog pen and the fence, it rained branches that piled up along my feet while Annie dashed around grabbing sticks to chew on. I cut everything sticking out or hanging over—as high as I could reach. I filled my squeaky yellow wheelbarrow over and over, but there was always more to cut, poking out of the fence, through the hedge, or sticking up through the boards of my deck. The berries are even choking the life out of my beloved blue hydrangea. It’s like a monster movie where you can’t get away from the monster. But I attacked wherever I could. And now, if anybody has a truck, I need a trip to the dump.
The forest plants and I are living creatures fighting for the same space. I will never win, but as long as I never stop, I will not be defeated.
Today, mosquito-bitten, sore, and mysteriously two pounds heavier, I look out at my clear path and neatly trimmed vines and feel power pulsing through my suntanned body. I have loppers, and I’m not afraid to use them.
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Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, and Childless by Marriage. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I teach writing workshops and offer individual editing and mentoring. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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