Over the past few weeks I've done a lot of blackberry picking. Each time I've been out, I seem to find a great analogy about how blackberry bushes are like life. My flatmate commented on how she was thinking the same thing!!
Perhaps the first thing you notice when you chance upon a blackberry bush is the delightfully ripe black berries. When you see the berries, you can't help but reach out for them. Not only are they delightful to eat fresh, but your mind immediately imagines all of the wonderful things that can be created from blackberries, like pies and jams galore. Life can be the same way. You can often see the wonderful things of life right in front of you, and imagine future glorious possibilities.
But then as you reach out to grab the berry, you run into a little tangle. Literally. Because the second thing you can't help but notice if you've spent any time around blackberry bushes are the very large and very plentiful thorns. And also a very large amount of medium sized and tiny thorns. There are even thorns underneath the blackberry leaves. It's like every single part of the bush is making is difficult for you to reach your most prized possession. And oh buddy, can life feel the exact same way. Oh how there are thorns in life. There are large thorns, there are tiny thorns, there are thorns in places that at first glance would seem nice and innocent. And they hurt. They scratch. They catch hold of you and don't let go. They leave marks that last for days.
But interestingly enough, despite the pain that you know will be around for a while, the clothes that will get ruined (not just by the thorns, the blackberry juice itself does a good job of putting clothes out of commission...), your hand reaches out anyway. Because the joy and delight that will come from that berry is worth the pain.
When you go blackberry picking, you have to take risks. You might be able to get a few blackberries here or there without brushing through thorns, but to really get a good harvest you have to be willing to make some sacrifices.
The bush will also hide the berries from you. You would be amazed at how many extra berries you find just by shifting a leaf a little bit. And even more mind boggling is how after you have cleared one spot of all of the ripe berries and are convinced there are no more berries anywhere, you can take a little step or two to one side and all of the sudden there are so many more berries in exactly the same spot you were just picking. Sometimes with life there are so many good things right in front of you, but they seem hidden by all of the extra bits of life that you are surrounded by. Sometimes all you need is a little shift in perspective and you can see so many more blessings that were right in front of you the whole time.
Another interesting thing about blackberry bushes is that you have to pick the ripe berries everyday. The blackberry bush will stop producing berries if it senses the ripe berries still on the branches. But as long as the ripe berries keep getting picked, more berries will keep on coming. Life is similar, you need to work at life every day. For the religious minded, this is a good analogy for reading our scriptures everyday and praying everyday. If we don't take time to take care of ourselves every single day, we can reach a point in our lives where we are at a standstill and are not bringing forth good fruit.
Blackberries with the best flavor are the bushes that have lots and lots of sunlight. Too much rain dilutes the flavor. Our lives are filled with the most flavor when we are positive and grateful. Obviously some rainy days are going to happen. And obviously your life, just like blackberry bushes, needs a good amount of rain to be able to grow, but we also need to make sure we are putting ourselves in places where we will get light. Personally, I have always loved the symbol of Christ as light. For me, when I put myself in places where I can feel more the presence of God in my life, when I am grateful for the wonderful blessings I have been given, when I am positive and full of hope for the future, I can taste the perfect sweetness that life has to offer.
Blackberry picking is always best done with friends. You are going to get stuck in the bushes, and it always helps to have someone close by to call out to for help. They can come and pick you out. And in turn, you will be there when they call out when they have gotten stuck as well.
Another interesting thing about blackberries is that the first day they are black, they are tart. Sometimes you want tart berries, there are some recipes where they are the exact flavor you are looking for. If you wait one more day, the berries become sweet, and often this is the precise flavor you are looking for. If you wait too long, however, the berry will lose its flavors. Sometimes in life you need different flavors, and the trick is knowing how long to wait. Sometimes you need to act immediately. Sometimes you need to have patience and wait a bit longer. But always it's a bad idea to remain in limbo too long, not wanting to make a decision until it's too late and you end up with no flavor at all.
All of this pondering about berries and life made me remember another analogy of fruit and life, found in the Book of Mormon, starting in 1 Nephi Chapter 8. A few verses in particular seemed quite fitting:
And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.