The two-year-old Jane wants to go for a walk and Dad needs to go for a walk (ironically, after years of being run over by bulls and haybales and bikes and Little Lakeland Conference running backs, it’s the cumulative sitting and typing that has begun to pinch nerves and fray tendons) so in the pack-pack she goes. We start with the dew and dusk already cooling things. I carry pruners to cut back the neglected trails. Jane provides the play-by-play. The first batch of berries surprises us, and from then on we’re on the lookout for them. Blackberries, mostly. I think. I’m not the expert. I pick a half-dozen, hand them back over my shoulder, grab a few for myself, and walk on. Underripe, they are hard and tart. Overripe, squishy and grape-y. Peak ripeness, they taste of liquid cotton candy. I get a lot of “MORE!” so we work on please, which with her particular emphasis winds up being “PEA-uzz!” We pause at every patch. Once we find three bright raspberries and these rate a “YAY!” At one point we step into a clearing between Norway pines and a whitetail arcs across the trail, three bounds of red against the green. I whirl and point, and the poor kid gets near-whiplash, but she does see the deer, which quite magically disappears into a bank of mist just then settling into the wooded hollow.
She’s getting cold in her short sleeves then, and we’re deep in the valley so we start back up. There are apples everywhere this year. We sample from tree to tree. She keeps discarding them after one bite. Then we reach a crab apple. Red as the proverbial cheeks of a child. The sour of these apples cramps my face. But there is an addictive underlying sweetness, and Jane chomps straight around the equator, and asks for another. I limit her to two, fearing stomach cramps, but we stand to watch the last red ease from the sky then it’s up the hill past the chicken coop and across the yard to the yellow lights of the house, where bath and bedtime and Mom and blankie await.
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