Salmonberry Man

The boughs of hemlocks and Sitka spruces seesawed in the breeze. Ripe salmonberries hung in the brush, tiny tangerines in a vast field of green. I remembered when I used to pick salmonberries, eat them along abandoned logging roads with the dogs, mush them into a compote for ling cod on the barbecue. I once picked salmonberries along coastal streams and tossed them into slack pools. Seconds later, a rearing salmon would gobble the bounty. I would never see the fish, only the ripple.

I was once a salmonberry-gathering man, but then I got away from that habit. I got away from so many good habits when I left the refuge in 2008. I long to become a salmonberry man again. To do that, I need to place a big bet, a bet on myself, on my abilities to invent and reinvent. I have no idea what the odds are on this bet.

It was a gray morning. I sat in the car drinking cheap cold brew, waiting for an extraordinary friend to join me for a hike in the woods.

My friend arrived even though I was waiting in the wrong parking lot. He intuited that I would be in the wrong parking lot and went there instead. Such is the unique nature of our friendship.

We hiked the trail and conversed. It was a trail through a mixed hardwood and conifer forest that seemed to have naturally seeded itself, a rarity in an Oregon forest. We saw a rabbit and a squirrel. We saw a majestic big leaf maple and a twisted spruce. We saw a dead tree with nothing but mushrooms for branches.

The salmonberries were prolific and I was hungry and dragging. Here and there we stopped to eat them. I hadn’t tasted salmonberries in ten years. It all came back to me. I was instantly revived and refreshed by eating salmonberries. There was a new pop in my step and energy in my talk.

I’ve got to find a new home where I can harvest salmonberries around the edges of the property or trespass through a few fallow fields to find them. Those homes are out there, waiting to be reclaimed by salmonberry-gathering people.