finding hope in berries and nuts

“Bur Oak”      2021      Photo by K. Rummer

Berries and nuts

Finding courage and hope

by Ken Rummer

Along the High Trestle Trail, late-summer berries are setting on.

Elderberries hang purple from red branches, dressed like Red Hat ladies out on the town. Honeysuckle opts for Christmas colors, setting red balls among still-green leaves. And the clustered white berries of the local dogwood carry dark center spots that make them look like manic eyeballs.

Seeing the berries cheers me up. 

The news may be more than I can bear to watch, but a man on a three-wheel bicycle is gathering elderberries for a batch of wine or a few pints of jelly.

The battle against the virus may be losing some ground, but the honeysuckle managed to turn yellow-white flowers into tiny red spheres again this year. 

Wildfires may be getting wilder and hurricanes may be getting stronger, but the cardinals that nest in the dogwood thicket have their late-summer pantry well-stocked once again. 

Despite disaster and disruption, some of the deep cycles of life continue on.

In Genesis, at the end of the great flood, Noah offers sacrifices to God. The ancient storyteller gives us God’s response with some internal dialogue that concludes with an assurance. 

As long as the earth endures,

     seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,

summer and winter, day and night,

     shall not cease. — Genesis 8:22 NRSV

Deep cycles, life and season, continuing on. That’s what I see in the berries along the trail.

I find comfort in the regularity, even if it feels increasingly fragile. When the migrating insect that feeds on a particular flower arrives at the usual stop to find that the flower bloomed two weeks early due to a warming climate and no flower juice remains, the deep and regular cycles begin to lose their grip.

I hear the seedtime verse in Genesis as God’s intention, but not as a guarantee that God will overrule the effects of climate change. Still, checking on the berries, witnessing circles of life beyond my own, I feel less anxious.

The trees are getting in on the act, too. The bur oak near the entrance to the creek trail is going nuts. It’s showing off new acorns already wearing their distinctive caps. Red buds dangle their browning bundles in preparation for the great seed drop. And near the creek, a broken locust branch still nurtures the spiral seed pods children love to shake like maracas. 

That locust branch inspires me. It was a major part of the tree, perhaps twisted beyond its strength by the derecho wind a year ago, broken off mid-tree but not cleanly, still connected by living layers of bark. There it is, broken beyond repair, but still bringing seeds to maturity and dropping life into the future.

In a season of much brokenness, I hear an invitation to embrace the steadiness of bushes and the courage of trees. There is still time to offer our best gifts, our acorns and berries, to the world, and to the future.

Ken Rummer writer

Ken Rummer, Teaching Elder PCUSA, Honorably Retired

 Ken Rummer writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail. Additional posts are available at