Wednesday, July 18, 2018

It Was Always About Blueberries

It is a ritual each summer.  We grab old ice-cream pails, waiting until the heat of the day has passed, and employ all available hands, even our tiniest ones, to walk down into the field, and out to the patch.

It is always the same.  At first everyone grumbles.  They stall, some kids have to go to the bathroom all the sudden, others seem to completely disappear.  I am patient.  I find them.  I call them.  Eventually we all wind our way down to the end of the grassy field.

We pick during the golden hour of the evening.  It is work.  We begin with reluctance, then gradually, some kind of magic begins to take hold.  It is the light maybe? The golden hour perhaps, with it’s orange highlights that flood through the trees and cast a glow to our skin.  Or it could be, the relief of cool air that hits us after the first of the summer heat waves.  For me, it is the humbling and grateful sight of pure abundance all around us: blue, sweet fruit, teeming off of a multitude of branches.

It could be called work, but in the light, in the cool, in the sunset beauty, in the togetherness of it all, there is magic.  We are all in this together: this is our family. While other families are spending their summers at exotic places (and our kids resent this sometimes), we are out here picking blueberries.  The difference between drudgery and productiveness though, is in that we are all engaged together in the task.  Someone cracks a joke and suddenly we are all laughing, someone spills a pail and we are scooping them up off the ground.  The tallest child is called on to reach a higher branch, a competition ensues to fill pails faster, the littlest one eats her entire harvest, some berries might get thrown among teenagers. There is one kid who picks, but doesn’t like to eat blueberries at all (why is there always one?)  Some drop to the ground, so ripe they fall before they can even be picked.

We pick in one spot, exhausting all within reach, thinking we are finished, and turn 15 degrees to one side and see more.  We pick and pick.  There is abundance everywhere, and reverence for that abundance we all feel.

I didn’t want to live in this brown house.  I didn’t want a high deck with little kids.  I didn’t need a farm field.  I didn’t want a pond or a creek with littles and safety issues.  The real reason we ended up choosing this place:  It was always the blueberries.

I never get tired of them: watching them bloom in the spring; waiting patiently for the first ones to ripen, the thrill going down my spine when I walk out in the sunshine and hold the first ripe one in my hands; my big boys sneaking out quietly when they are hungry and filling their shirts full of berries.  Then there is our baby, who would not eat the fruit at first, when finally discovering their sweetness, plowing through handfuls upon handfuls till her face and fingers were blue.  Picking, freezing, canning, baking, even adding them to salads.

Then fall comes, and with it busy piles of school supplies, bus schedules to look at, and backpacks by the door.  The farm is yielding squash, dahlias, and potatoes, and the harvest is in full swing.  The blueberries then put on their most beautiful show, turning scarlet, showing their warm colors along with the golden big-leaf maples, the colorful vine-leaf maples, and highlighting our harvest.

It was the blueberries that brought us here.  They have also blessed us with memories and miracles – this abundance of family and food and life and faith I will be grateful for forever.