Rebecca Carhart was my very first college roommate. She is one of the people I think of when I wonder if I went to the right school, and I think about our conversations often. She challenged me (and still does) in so many ways. She is also a lovely writer. I think you'll enjoy getting to know her. The first house I lived in was in town, a Nebraska farming town of about one thousand people. When I was two years old my family moved a few miles out into the country. At the new place we had a large garden, acres of trees and pastures to explore, and, when we were feeling particularly adventurous, walks to the Big Creek.
The Big Creek generally ran no more than three feet wide, but in places it had high, steep banks that were quite impressive to small children. When my siblings and I were young we could only go to the Big Creek with our mom. Adding to the thrill of the excursion, we sometimes pretended to be characters from the books our mom read to us. I distinctly remember being designated as Edmund from the Chronicles of Narnia (which was fine with me; I liked him better than Lucy).
In summer—late June and July—there was an additional highlight to our walks: the mulberries came out. Near our usual path were several large trees, some with purple-red and one with white mulberries. There is something uniquely delightful about being able to linger beneath a tree, reach into its branches, and bring fruit directly to your mouth. Mulberries taste like warm sun, prairie winds, deep-earthed roots, and full leaves. Like summer.
At the third house I lived in, just a few more miles away, we could walk outside after supper and pick our fill from mulberry trees just at the edge of our yard. There was one tree with a hybrid of white and red berries. My sisters and I rated the qualities of the various trees; I speculated that the sweeter berries are those that get more direct sunlight. We used mulberry juice to dye cottonwood fluff and to make ink for drawing fantastical maps and writing mysterious messages. We gathered mulberries for our mom to make into jam.
Over the years, jars of that jam have traveled around Nebraska and beyond—including into the fridge in my current home, so that I can enjoy summer year round.
The third apartment I’ve lived in is in a pleasant, lively suburb. This is my second mulberry season there, and I know where the few nearby mulberry trees are hiding out. Most are along the Prairie Path (which actually has quite little to do with the prairie). These berries are not usually the best quality, but sometimes I stop on the path and furtively sample a few. I worry that I’ll be run over by someone jogging, zipping past on a bike or pushing a stroller roughly the size of a bulldozer. So I keep walking, and I wonder if anyone else pauses to notice the mulberries of summer.
A native of rural Nebraska and graduate of Taylor University, I now live in the Chicago area. Currently I work in publishing, where I am paid to help find mistakes and make books better. Through various seasons of transition my life has remained centered around my family (biological and beyond), seeking truth, and knowing and serving my Heavenly Father.
Rebecca blogs at rebeccafaith.wordpress.com