Thursday, April 28, 2005

Birds of Sadness, Pandora's Box and Hope - and Why Blackberry Kisses Are The Best Kind of All.

I've just finished reading "Walk Two Moons." I don't know why today I decided to read a children's book that I've owned since I was in elementary school. As far as I can recall, I never read it. But it's a Newbery Medal winner and it's by Sharon Creech - a fantastic author of young adult literature. I'm glad I picked it up. The story grabbed me in ways I don't think it would have if I were younger, maybe because I'm in the middle. I can identify with the children in the tale as much as the adults. I know a part of everybody and it makes the story that much stronger for me. If you have not read it, I advise you to find a copy - or I'll send you mine, as it's a registered BookCrossing book and I've been planning a Release for it since Easter.

It's a sad book. "You can't keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair." Someone's mother runs away. Someone else's mother is never coming back. There are bittersweet memories about home and family. There is a little tangent about Pandora's box, and how Pandora, being curious, opened it and let out all the bad things into the world - and there was Hope at the bottom of the box. It's a tough book to explain without reading it, but the part that caught in my consciousness the most involved blackberry kisses. They're kisses that, for Salamanca, taste like blackberry - because that's what her mother had just put in her mouth before she kissed the tree.

See, Salamanca's mother loved trees. I can't paraphrase the story, so here it is:
"As she approached the corner of the barn where the sugar maple stands, she plucked a few blackberries from a stray bush and popped them into her mouth. She looked all around her - back at the house, across the fields, and up into the canopy of branches overhead. She took several quick steps up to the trunk of the maple, threw her arms around it, and kissed that tree soundly.
Later that day, I examined this tree trunk. I tried to wrap my arms about it, but the trunk was much bigger than it had seemed from my window. I looked up at where her mouth must have touched the trunk. I probably imagined this, but I thought I could detect a small dark stain, as from a blackberry kiss.
I put my ear against the trunk fo the tree and listened. I faced that tree squarely and kissed it firmly. To this day, I can smell the smell of the bark - a sweet, woody smell - and feel the ridges in the bark, and taste that distinctive taste on my lips."

The kiss tasted like blackberry, of course. Later Sal falls in love - though she doesn't use that word. She simply shares a blackberry kiss with the boy. I think that the blackberry kisses are Sal's expression of love; the taste of blackberries is a reminder of her mother, who she loved, and later she connects it to the boy she also falls in love with. The idea seems romantic and slightly abstract - I can't capture it here. I guess what I wanted to say is that everyone has a kind of Blackberry Kiss. They're the little actions or phrases or expressions that capture love for us, immediately recognizeable and perfectly unique. They're a thing two people share, even if they take it for granted or don't always notice it. They're little things - smiles and tiny presents and the way she brushes his hair out of his eyes. Blackberry Kisses take a second to happen, but they take a lifetime to forget. And maybe, like wild blackberries, they can be bittersweet.


  1. I remember i first read this book when i was in 5th grade. It was difficult to understand in some parts but for the most part i understood it. I never really liked reading so i didnt really look that far into it though. Then i read the book again when i was in 7th grade and it was so different. I could relate to the characters so much more and i understood it more. That book is for children but it is way too complex for most children. I really liked the book and it is one of the few that i enjoyed reading. I would probably see it in an even different light today if i read it again but i dont read much. That book is such a good book and i agree with u. If someone hasnt read it they should even if they dont like reading because it is such a great book.

  2. Very melancholic... maybe I should pick it up someday too. I guess I've still to wait for that person to pluck a blackberry with... though it seems as though I've found so many in the past and have realised that they were, indeed, altogether bitter...