• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Importance of Blackberries

Air Date: Week of

The original model.

Technology can be friend or foe, depending on how we use it. Commentator Tom Montgomery-Fate wonders how much longer he can resist the pull of a PDA like the Blackberry, in his desire to stay closer to nature.


GELLERMAN: Well, in case you missed it, October 11th was Michaelmas Day, the day English folklore warns us to stop eating blackberries until next year.

ItÂ’s said that when the angels threw Satan out of Heaven, the devil landed in a blackberry bush, and was so angry with the thorns that he spat on the brambles and cursed the blackberries.

Commentator Tom Montgomery-Fate picks up the story.

MONTGOMERY-FATE: On the last good "beach day" of the year, my family and I drove to Michigan to enjoy the lake. It was hot, and the cool blue pulse of the water was a lovely distraction. Amid the blazing heat I noticed a young man sitting near us on a towel in the sand working on a little hand-held computer. He was typing madly with his thumbs. But when I asked him what he was doing he was calm and friendly. “Just staying in touch with the office," he said, smiling. “I love my Blackberry.”

“Your Blackberry?" I asked.

The original model.

I had, of course, heard of Blackberrys, but I had never seen one up close. Call me a Luddite if you want, but I was amazed that the beeping plastic brain in his palm was named after my favorite fruit. How is a sweet, sun-drenched berry related to a hard plastic tool?

I did some research: The Blackberry designers noticed that the little buttons looked like the tiny seeds of a strawberry. But they thought “straw” sounded too slow to represent the speed and 24/7 ultra-convenience of the modern business world. Since it was black, they decided on "Blackberry." It was all a marketing strategy.

But I shouldn't be so cynical. These days I both need and fear this little device. I need a Blackberry because I can't keep up. Like most people, my life is complicated and I tend to get scattered and distracted. Last week I again couldn't find my car in the parking lot. A month ago I found my lost billfold in the cheese drawer of our refrigerator. 

But I also fear getting a Blackberry. I worry that if I get one, I'll become so programmed and productive that I'll never do the slower “impractical” things. Like picking real blackberries with our kids. Which is one of my favorite things to do. Which is why I already miss summer. It all has to do with nostalgia, with remembering the continuity of my life with my children's—which I can't program into a computer.

Blackberries thrive in Michigan's sandy soil. I often picked them there with my parents forty years ago when we visited the lakeshore. Now my wife and I do the same with our kids. And little has changed. They still ripen in August, marking the end of summer and the unmeasured hours of childhood. The thorns still scratch and cut us as we reach into the thicket for the ripe black clusters. The purple juice still bleeds on to our hands and stains them with memory. I can taste it now—the aching sweet and sour of a ripe blackberry. Even as I sit here in my office grading papers and answering e-mail and wondering how the summer passed so quickly.

GELLERMAN: Tom Montgomery-Fate teaches teaches writing at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. And heÂ’s the author of “Steady and Trembling: Art, Faith, and Family in an Uncertain World.”



Tom Montgomery-Fate bio


Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth