Lessons from a blackberry bush

A blackberry bush only gives berries on its second-year canes. Meaning: the stalks that grow this summer will not bear fruit until next. And the canes that are covered in berries this year? They will never produce again.

You’ll have to cut them down. Make space for the new.

And what I want to say is this: the work of the world is always unfinished. You will never arrive at perfection. Because things keep growing.

The problem you solved yesterday, the great class you taught, the book you wrote last year? It’s done. You’ll never solve that exact problem, teach that class again, rewrite that same book. If you try to repeat your success word-for-word, eventually, you’ll wither.

Be a blackberry bush.

Send out new growth.

The same cane never produces more than once. But each year, the new canes are larger, as if they’ve learned. Underground, the canes share roots.

Meaning: even if it looks like your new project is unattached to all that came before, it’s rooted deep in you.

The work of the world is always unfinished, and you will never arrive at perfection. But each year, each effort, each imperfect, outstretched attempt, you grow a little more.

So you might pause every now and then to take stock. Imagine a blackberry bush. There’s last year’s cane, draped heavy now with dark berries. Alongside it, this year’s new growth stretches tall and fruitless into the blue summer sky, waiting. In a few months, you’ll cut the spent branch down, mulch it into the dirt at the base of the new cane, like fuel.

In your life – family, career, creative projects — what’s just now ripening? What’s already in process, setting you up for next year? What might you eventually need to cut back, clear out, repurpose?

And what is deep underground, like the ever-expanding root system of your own life, supporting it all?

Sarah