Saturday, July 08, 2006

Ripe for the Picking

The warm, lazy days of July bring back fond memories of childhood, and one family tradition I love to revisit every year is picking berries.

Last year the Chef Mother and I took the lovely Phoenix out to the fruit farm south of town for a Saturday morning filled with blueberries and three colors of luscious raspberries (red, black, and purple). And though the Chef Mother isn't around the area yet for the summer, Phoenix and I decided we'd still keep the tradition alive... and drag along Mr. Nice Guy.

So after our trip to the farmers' market, we climbed into the car and drove south down a winding, rolling country highway until we arrived at the vast acres of berry fields.

Buckets in hand, we headed first into the rows of blueberry bushes. Phoenix and Mr. Nice Guy took one row and the gallon bucket, and I took another row and a slightly less spacious bucket. And away we went!

There's nothing quite like the peace of picking berries in a place where all the pickers are spread apart, and the sounds of anything except the birds are muffled. I don't think I'd want to go picking every day, as I suspect that might spoil the enjoyment of each moment on this annual outing. But it's always a pleasure to go once a year and stock up on fresh local berries.

After we filled our buckets, we returned to the car to exchange the blueberries for empty quart containers, and then we ventured into the rows of red raspberry canes. The pickings were slim in some spots, but we eventually filled all five quarts.

Back home, we divided the spoils, and surprisingly, they only took one quart of each kind of berry, leaving the rest for me to freeze, dry, and otherwise enjoy in the coming week. One tray of blueberries immediately went into the freezer, and one tray of raspberries went into the oven for drying.

And when I had time to rest and bask in the glow of the morning's work and the delicious rewards, the poetry of the experience slipped out and landed on paper, waiting to be shared:

Picking Berries

Birdsong echoes loud and clear
From the high trees bordering the field
Locusts raise their chattering chorus
In the warming morning sun
Rows of high lush blueberry bushes
Mute the conversation of other pickers
And I move slowly down the row
In timeless peace that recalls summers past
The deepest bluest berries elude easy reach
But gentle handling and patience
Coax them into makeshift buckets
Bees and beetles buzz overhead
In search of riper fruit
Dreams of desserts and muffins
Frozen and dried morsels of summer sweetness
Trail along the grass in my wake
This one startlingly bright and vivid hour
Becomes an eternal now
Of simple happiness


At 7/10/2006 11:17 PM, Anonymous Spicyflower said...

Oh, sounds absolutely lovely. And speaking of lovely I really like the photo on your front page.


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