Whenever I am perilessly close to being penniless (which happens far too often to specify publicly) I find it easier to pleasure in the tiniest of things. Unconditional freebies that are ignored or overlooked when my wallet is stuffed with cash (which happens far too infrequently to specify publicly) Like the shwooshing sounds of a breeze wafting through the summer leaves or a traipse down the sidewalk at midnight under a full moon after consuming a bottle of cheap wine, or riding my cruiser with the intent to fill my bike basket with blackberries. Ah, ah, ah--picking blackberries from the bushes that line old country roads, is not only a fun free thing to do--it also speaks to my inner child and reels me back in time. Back to WestChester PA, where my siblings and I would don our rubber boots and gloves, trek with our grandfather through the muddy fields and forest on a quest to fill our buckets with berries--blackberries. Those delicious bubble looking berries that clung to thorny vines while they transformed from red to black. The berries my grandmother would whip into a sundry of seductive delights; pies, pastries, jams, and sauces that would knock your taste buds into orbit.
Last week, during an un-frugal moment (they come in waves) I purchased a cruiser style bike--telling myself that the following week when I'm broke, I'll have something to entertain myself with (even though I have a mountain bike I ride on a regular basis). But technically, after the point of purchase, the cruiser rides would count as a free activity. Although I swore I'd never get one of those "faddish style bikes" once I was practically hand-cuffed to one and forced to try it for a spin--I was hooked. The fat seat housed my cheeks in pure comfort, like sitting on fluffy pillows, while big handle bars made me feel ten again. I bobbled my head back and forth and whistled "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." No gears, no hand brakes (they have "floater brakes" for those unfamiliar with bike jargon) no maintanence--just hop on and pedal into to juvenile bliss.
On my first day "cruising" I decided to explore a few old country roads laden with the end of summer smells. Whiffs of musky wet dirt laced with garden tomatoes and horse dung drifted in and out of my nostrils. Then suddenly there it was that familiar sweet essence of the blackberries. I hopped off my bike, popped the kickstand (another nostalgic feature of the cruiser style cycles) and began to pick away. Soon I was joined by two Gay men visiting Sonoma from Chicago--we had a hilarious conversation ranging from prop 8 to childhood antics to where to hike in the Sonoma hills. They asked me to join them for dinner (as I imparted a wealth of factual info regarding the wine country) and I readily accepted. It would count as another free event since they made it clear--they were treating.
As I bid them farewell and gathered my berries, I chuckled inwardly at my good fate of finding not only blackberries to pick (and to consume) but new friends as well. If I had been bogged down with money, I probably would have postponed the cruise, passed over the berries (and bought some at the local market for an outrageous price), and never would have had the honor of meeting my new acquaintances. I pedaled my way home whistling yet again another version of "Take Me out..." and thought how fortunate I was to be broke.
Of course, there are plenty of other free things to do and enjoy--hiking with my dog for instance or reading a good book (that someone has loaned me). Transforming a compilation of leftovers into a culinary masterpiece is always fullfilling as well. But cruising on my new pink and white big tired bike seems for now to bring the most pleasure and profit. So if you are in the same economic boat as me or heck--even if your not--let go and get a cruiser--kick up your feet , find an old familiar tune to whistle and bring a basket for the berries.
For more stories about blackberries check out my children's story--"The Little Blackberry Bush Who Saved E Street"
Causes Karen Devaney Supports
Eve Ensler and any organization that deals with issues supporting women and children and the advancement of their education.