Blueberries by the handful

It is proving to be a good berrypicking year in the Northwoods.

Humidity drapes the north. It is there in the morning, beading into little drops of sweat that mingle interchangeably with the ever-present dew.

The air hums with heat and the droning of cicadas. Storms linger on the periphery, the sound of distant thunder rumbling almost imperceptibly. On evenings when dark clouds gather, the sharp spikes of pine split them open and they spill out, drenching the earth. As the land dries out, the deep scent of wet soil laces each inhaled breath.

The third week of July dawns, and I begin to drive slowly down the backroads, skimming the ditches for the gleam of ripened blueberries. As reliable as the sunrise, they are there — wiry green bushes laden with fruit so sweet you can smell the sugar in them.

It has been too long since I’ve found the time for this tradition, so I grab pails and a couple dogs for companionship and head into the woods.

For as long as I can remember, this is how I’ve spent a few hours every year. I like the stillness of it. As a person who struggles to embrace inactivity, preferring to push ever onward, berrypicking is my meditation. For a few hours, I am still, leaning back on my heels, eyes and fingers the only thing moving. The entirety of the world distills into only that which is in front of me.

All the complexities of existence is simplified to the sand crushed under my knees, the sweetness spreading across my tongue, the spider weaving nearby, the tree swallows dipping effortlessly overhead, the soft patter of my buckets filling with little jewels of fruit.

In a matter of hours, my pails are filled and my fingers stained a rich purple.

When I walk out of the woods, I leave with far more than just the berries in my buckets. The blackberry vines snatch as me as I pass, soon to grow heavy themselves with ripened fruit. Soon enough, I will return, my buckets empty and my mind full to brimming.

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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