Parables of life learned through blackberry picking | On Faith

A monthly column by Greg Asimakoupoulos dealing in matters of faith.

  • Wednesday, September 4, 2019 10:52am
  • Life

By Greg Asimakoupoulos

Special to the Reporter


I’ve always been inspired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s timeless verse that celebrates the fingerprints of “the creator” in creation: “Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, but only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

The artistic beauty and symmetrical precision of nature points to a “grand designer.” A glorious morning sunrise is call to worship. A breathtaking sunset inspires wonder.

But I do have a bone to pick with Ms. Browning when it comes to picking blackberries. In my experience there is something sacred about that end of summer ritual. It is a holy endeavor. For me the process of berry picking is nothing less than a parable of life.


Because blackberries grow rampant in our neighborhood, gathering the wild fruit has become an after-dinner activity on our long summer nights. I pick the succulent purple treasure and my wife bakes them into a pie. This farm-to-table exercise in the middle of suburbia is an opportunity to “simply” get back to basics.

Returning to our ancestral roots (literally) is a reminder that our lives are linked to those who first lived here. It’s an invitation to remember that a life that matters demands decluttering and finding joy in what is simple. That value does not always have a price tag.


While reaching for those beautiful berries, I choose not to listen to the Mariners. I am content to enjoy the sounds of silence. The quiet of the early evening is a welcomed “interruption” in an otherwisenoisy day.

Being alone with nature provides the atmosphere to reboot my internal computer and sense God’s presence. A meaningful life demands we unplug and “play” (even if our definition of play was once considered work). What’s important is making time to be quiet and getting away from the crowd.


After years of harvesting wild blackberries, I’ve learned to recognize which ones are past their prime and which ones are pie-worthy. It’s also interesting to see how many are not quite ready. What is even more amazing to me is how many berries ripen within a twenty-four hour period. Often I’ll return to my favorite patch within a day or two of my last berry hunt and find a whole new crop from which to choose.

Sixty-seven (67) years of living have convinced me that patience is a virtue. What we long for can’t be achieved in the short term. Goals and dreams take time. Learning to wait is a key to success.


There is nothing quite like a warm slice of freshly baked blackberry pie. To this man of the cloth, what I’ve just described is heaven on a plate. But it didn’t just appear out of nowhere. It took effort and it took time. It also took a partnership. There would be nothing on my plate if my wife Wendy wasn’t willing to take what I’d gathered and complete the task.

In life (and in berry picking) that for which you are working is what keeps you going. And working together as a team is the ice cream on the pie. As my Swedish friends like to say, “A shared joy is a doubled joy.”

Greg Asimakoupoulos is the chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores retirement community.

More in Life

Friendship Circles to host their 8th annual Walk, Run, and Community Day

The event will take place on Sept. 22 at Luther Burbank Park.

Libraries are welcoming spaces for everyone | Book Nook

A monthly column from the King County Library System.

Photo by Nityia Photography
                                Dora Gyarmati.
Redefine goals based on virtues to find joy | Health column

A monthly column about mindfulness and wellbeing.

Photo courtesy of Greg Asimakoupoulos
                                Chaplain Greg Asimakoupoulos uses blackberry picking as lessons for life.
Parables of life learned through blackberry picking | On Faith

A monthly column by Greg Asimakoupoulos dealing in matters of faith.

Donna Colosky is superintendent of the Mercer Island School District.
Welcoming students to a new school year

A guest column from Mercer Island School District Superintendent Donna Colosky.

SeaJAM, which kicks off the SJCC Arts + Ideas 2019–2020 season, will present “An Evening with Debra Messing” on Saturday, September 14, at Benaroya Hall’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall. Courtesy photo
SJCC prepares for second annual SeaJAM

SeaJAM will present “An evening with Debra Messing” on Sept. 14.

Photo courtesy of Greg Asimakoupoulos
                                A plaque commemorating the date the Asimakoupoulos family changed its name.
A summer to remember | On Faith

A monthly column dealing in faith.

Ready or not, college is arriving | Guest article

How parents can help their students embark on a college career.

Stephanie Quiroz/staff photos
                                Covenant Living at the Shores residents and staff with Ageless Aviation pilot and team at the Renton Municipal Airport on Aug. 12.
Covenant Living at the Shores Residents take flight

Tom Norris, Sid Boegl, Doug Wilkinson, and Jack Nelson take flight in a 1942 Boeing Stearman.

Leaving for college anxiety | Dear YFS

A monthly advice column about issues faced by Islanders.

Author Claire Gebben gives blacksmithing a go at Bruce Weakly’s private shop on Whidbey Island. Gebben sought to learn the art of blacksmithing to better understand the life of her great-great grandfather, who immigrated to Cleveland in the mid-1800s. Photo courtesy of Claire Gebben
Island author Gebben’s work named Indie Book Awards finalist

“How We Survive Here: Families Across Time” reveals genealogical journey.

Advice for addressing marijuana use in college students | Dear YFS

Dear YFS is an advice column with reader submitted or posed questions from the Island.