Some berries don’t get to pail
As we sat down to eat dinner, the menu could have been from a century earlier. We feasted on bass, pike, squash, and wild blueberry cobbler. We were real huntergatherers -- for that meal. Aside from proving our ability to survive one whole dinner without the grocery store, there were organic, five mile benefits to our feast as well.
As I tucked my spoon into a thick, gooey bite of the cobbler, I found myself reminiscing about the berry-picking experience. I could almost feel the sunshine on my face again.
Days before, I was being lightly jostled around the back of a truck. Peggy, our blueberry sensei, was at the wheel. My friend Melissa acted as the expedition scout, scanning the landscape for shocks of blue.
Before long, Melissa called out that it was time to stop and I was handed a pail. As I ungracefully dismounted from the truck, I went over the instructions I’d been given on the drive in. Among others, I was on the lookout for big blueberries. Anything much smaller and I would “keep moving.”
I followed Peggy and her determined stride to the first patch of sun-soaked blueberries. I watched as she skillfully “tickled them off the bush.” Then I strayed off to my own quadrant.
Not confident in my abilities yet, I put the pail under my hand to catch anything that didn’t land in my palm. Those that did, went straight into my mouth. I’d skipped dinner, to get picking as soon as possible, and my pail’s contents would reflect this truth. Store-bought “franken-berries” may be big, but nothing takes me back to my childhood picking berries in Parry Sound like the sweet pop of a wild blueberry followed by the intense explosion of flavour.
I’d have to focus on picking as it was clear that my hosts were intent on bringing home a haul of fruit -- this was not simply a social occasion. In fact, there was very little talking from them as we picked, and even less from me as I picked and ate.
It was hard for me to focus, with a silly smile pasted across my face. I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be at that moment. I kept looking around at our beautiful surroundings, mindful that I’d just passed a mountain of bear scat. The sun was creeping towards the horizon, bright in our eyes, but illuminating the berries if you went at the patch from the right direction.
Once the sun abandoned us behind the trees, the temperature dropped markedly. You could almost see the trees puckering and changing colour a bit more. Then when the mosquitoes’ singing started to drown out the loons’ conversation on a nearby lake, I was done.
My berry masters kept picking for a few more minutes before seeking shelter in the truck from the onslaught of bugs who pollinate the blueberries. My pail sat sheepishly beside theirs, dwarfed in proportion and bounty. I truly had much to learn.
Reflecting back, it was backbreaking though rewardingly delicious labour; the joys of which I could taste in every bite of my cobbler two nights later.