Raspberry Coffee Breaks

Picking raspberries at four o'clock on a weekday in summer.  Never have I been happier to have an opposable thumb.  

A fence and thorns are no match against desire.

Four o'clock used to find me sitting in an airless studio eight stories above ground, staring at three computer screens and a mic and launching NPR's "All Things Considered."  The urban equivalent of taking a 20-minute raspberry time out was the 10-minute walk to La Columbe a half block away for a cup of black coffee.  

Untethered to an 8-hour schedule, let alone a desk, makes the day feel like it unfolds and unfurls, rather than sprints or gallops.  Time moves past like a light breeze rather than a slanting rain.

The raspberries, by the way, belong to my neighbors.  They've got a crazy thicket of brambles and canes just over my fence.  Now, before you call the village police on their behalf, know that they've given their blessing to my foraging.  It's like that around here.  Nature's abundance -- whether in eggs or zucchini or day lilies -- prompts a sharing economy.  

The other day, running errands in nearby Bluffton, I ran into an acquaintance who was carrying a cutting from a snowball bush.  "I've got them all over my yard," she said.  "Want some starters?"

A library patron who raises chickens said she keeps a list of people to whom she gives extra eggs when the hens are especially productive.  "High on the list is librarians," she told me with a big smile.  Now she tells me.  I just gave notice that I'll be leaving at the end of the month.

Then there's the friend whose farm I was visiting earlier this spring who showed me what was coming up in her garden.  "Would you like some?" she said.  Quick as a rabbit, she grabbed a shovel and a bucket and dug up spearmint, dill and indigo for my still-bare beds.  The indigo didn't make it, but the dill and spearmint have taken hold.

In New York City, there's ample evidence of this "have some" mind set, too.  It's called garbage day.   

On any given night, walking home from the subway through my Brooklyn neighborhood, I could have taken home an unwanted sweater that someone had draped over the wrought iron fence beyond their front stoop, or a mirror that was left leaning against a tree or a lamp placed by the curb with a hand-lettered sign Scotch-taped to it that read, IT WORKS.  


But that's not a sharing economy.  It's more of a re-gifting one.  There was even an app  -- I forget the name of it -- that provided real-time info on where you could get some good trash.  "Bureau, E. 72nd & York."  "Wicker chair, damaged, Clinton St & Montague St, Bklyn Heights."  No longer needed or wanted, these items were left out on the curb where the garbage cans go. It's code for disavowal and abandonment, a different semaphore than that of the bicycles I see pitched over in some of my rural neighbors' front lawns, right where their rider had dismounted to come into the house for dinner.  

Mayor Bill de Blasio famously left free stuff out on the curb, including a plastic bin and a Christmas tree stand, when he, his wife and two kids moved from their longtime home in Park Slope, Brooklyn, to Gracie Mansion, the traditional residence of New York City's mayor.

Picture, DNAinfo.com

Picture, DNAinfo.com

Sharing come from a different place.  It's not anonymous.  It doesn't depend on luck, on beating the garbageman to the curb, for it to happen.  It's deliberate.  It's specific.  It's intentional in its cause and its effect.  It doesn't come from a position of too much or not right, but of having enough.