Finding Your Place, and Making Wild Berry Jam When You Get There

Place.  It is the framework of our life, the background in our photos, the thing that not only describes its inhabitants, but is shaped by them too.  

And it’s funny, how ‘place’ is something we don’t often think of.  Sure, it’s a destination, a map dot at the end of a journey, but we have a hard time being present enough in this life to see a place beyond the small moments that happen there.

On a casual Friday, no different than the one before, I stuffed my pack with items not often found there: a bottle of sake the color of a gem, a mortar and pestle, a golden bottle opener, a thick ball of mozzarella, and a juicy tomato, too.

With windows down, and rubber to road, the asphalt struck a mark through blooming sagebrush fields, and the lake shimmered, competing with that sake bottle for which was bluer.

The ashy sky lead the way, and eventually we turned down into the Black Canyon, descending into the depths of what I am sure is prime mountain lion territory.  Cliff bands, sheltered by bramble, rose up on either side of the road, and we hoped that cat was off somewhere taking a nap.

In the parking lot, we snapped our packs on, and secretly I was grateful that our hike out later would be without the weight of sake and beer.  Picnic basket at the ready, we descended further into the canyon, the heat peeling away as we stepped lower into it’s depths.


We had one mission in this place: forage for wild raspberries, plump currants and veined gooseberries, for a picnic with a view.

Unless you really understand the place you’re in, you’ll have a hard time knowing which plants will have the goods.  

Unless you really understand the place you’re in, you won’t know where to look.

Foraging for the ingredients for a simple jam of honey and wild berries makes you ever present of the place you're in.  You can’t ignore the bramble, and the prick of gooseberry bushes, or the stickiness of currants, swollen in the heat.  

If you don’t know the dirt your shoes kick up, you’ll walk right past the small raspberries, hiding under their leaves.

So we leaned off the path and plucked a few berries here and there, making sure to skip 10 plants between harvesting so those critters have something to eat, too.

And once we collected a mess of wild berries, some fireweed, and elderflower, we found a bench under the trees, popped beers, and twisted off the cap of that blue bottle.  I poured the drinks, a friend mashed the berries and we sliced thick rounds of mozzarella and tomato with a pocket knife.

And we sat in that place.

We tasted the tart fruit, and felt dust under our toes, and we got to know each other, all over again, the laughter traveling down the canyon with the emerald water.

© Cayla Vidmar July 9, 2016