Monday, July 28, 2008

Grateful for the Gift of Blueberry Picking

All year round I look forward to one particular summer activity in the Berkshires. While listening to a stunning performance by the BSO on the luscious grounds of Tanglewood is indeed a highlight of my vacation, as are many other ‘Berkshirian’ events, somehow blueberry picking has a special place in my heart’s excited anticipation of summer. To pluck a blueberry off a branch fills me with a profound sense of gratefulness.

The owner of the blueberry farm, his countrified face fashioned in rugged lines of sunburned strength, matter-of-factly informs me that the crop of blueberries had not yet ripened. “ You’ll have to be a bit more choosey to find the ripe ones,” he said.

I place the empty bucket around my neck and turn to face the endless rows of blueberry trees. Each cluster is a portrait of changing colors, from pale green slipping into shiny red, reaching the rich blue color of the sea in summer. I stand in the hazy sun, my arms at my sides, my eyes absorbing the gift of nature’s humble beauty, the beauty of the blueberry.

Each movement of my finger is greeted with an infinite bounty of one ripe berry after another. The branches are dappled with blue, and contrary to the farmer’s assertion, the selection is more than plentiful.

My bucket fills quickly. I move from tree to tree, unable to strip bare any one single branch. I feel like a child in a candy store-all these tangy-sweet berries within my grasp, all for the taking. Of course I had to pay for them, but paying likewise becomes a reason for pleasure and delight. I experience the great blueberry bargain, a bucketful of berries costing not much more than a pint or two in the grocery store. The bang of a bargain was muted by a much deeper experience, the awareness of how priceless a gift are the treasures of nature’s generosity. I now had in my possession blueberries beyond counting which could fill jams and pies and cereal bowls with their nutritious and succulent flavors.

I recall the passage in Genesis: “…the land produced vegetation; plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds…” Again, exactly like the year before and so many years before that one, the earth had given forth its gift of tiny, plump, life-enhancing fruits of the tree. Whether one believes in the kindness of Providence or in Nature’s nurturance, one cannot escape the wonder and mystery of this magical gift. The spiritual awareness of nature’s unchanging plenty brings home to me, each summer, the gratefulness for the blueberry. And for this I give thanks.

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