Some berries don’t get to pail

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - OPINION - NA­DINE ROBIN­SON

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.

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