I haven’t lived in Seattle all that long. At my core I’m a spiny east coaster who, upon relocating, didn’t have a clue what it would be like to live and raise my son on the ‘other side.’ It was truly the Emerald City I was coming to, an OZ I knew little about.

It’s tough to start over, especially when you are 30-something and leaving behind your secure self…family, friends, your job… not to mention the home your first (and in my case only) child was born in, full of precious memories of long days that turned into the clichéd short years.

You lose something of yourself, and hope to gain something else in its place.

What remains after a big life change is a new existence begging for clarification. Who are you now that you are not defined by a life that fit like a well-worn pair of Uggs? (Is it good or bad that you no longer are remembered for the time you boozily fell off a barstool and, never one to be deterred, picked yourself up and joined the band as their new tambourine player?)

For most of us in these situations, one of the first things we do is try to establish new traditions, new memories that can be cherished and made part of the life we are creating.

Living in Seattle, one of my favorite new traditions is picking blackberries in Discovery Park with my son in the late summer. As any Seattleite knows, blackberry bushes are legion. They are a much loved and much maligned part of our terrain: the usurper, the invader, and finally, the gift.

Blackberry bushes are thorny things, pricking our fingers and scratching our cheeks. Yet, what a sweet companion they make when not being tussled with in our backyards during the wet months.

The spectacular summer days here are long (the years still short), and I can vividly see my little family, each berry season a visual memento. We are winding down the trails, the tall grass swaying around us, a marker of time’s power, as we seek something sweet and tangible.

The sky for our blackberry day is a brilliant blue; the water is sparkling like a wishing star. We are home here, making our way down this path toward our summertide treasure.

I picture my son with his specially-sought blackberry-picking sticks, and I recall how the first year we lived here he wanted to keep his stick always. And I still have that first weathered, storm-tossed stick perched on a shelf, a sunny talisman for days when the rainy chill fills the air and my mind.

I hope that you too have found your traditions, whether you have been in the same place decades or are a newish transplant, like me. A sense of place, of belonging, I think we will all come to know, is not found in years, but in openness of heart.