On an overcast April Sunday, we rode with our neighbor to pick blueberries at a local Upick place in Mims, Florida. Lexi stayed home to rest since she's getting over a cold, but the rest of us carried a white bucket lined with a plastic bag to the blueberry patch.
I spent the first 20 minutes trying the various kinds: Prima Donna, Emerald, Jewels, Spring Low, Spring High. The smaller patch with Spring High and Low were my favorites, so I started there. Unfortunately, a huge crowd had come through the day before, so we had slim pickings. I found as many as I could and then meandered to an Emerald row to pick with Laina.
For an hour, we hunted for ripe blueberries, reaching out to pluck them and drop them in the bucket. Ku-plink, ku-plank, ku-plunk. I was reminded of the children's story I used to read to my girls when they were little (Blueberry Sal) about a little girl and a little bear who go blueberry picking with their mothers. Like Sal, we ate as many as we picked, at least at the beginning.
Every ten minutes, we heard a loud “ca-caw, ca-caw” as a mechanical speaker broadcast to scare away any nearby birds. When I asked the owner where his scarecrows were, he said, “That's me.” If that noise doesn't scare them away, he runs out and yells at them, chasing them away from his plants.
The day was gorgeous and peaceful. The clouds kept the sun from beating down on us, and a slight breeze cooled us further. As we reached between branches, the water from the early morning rain stained our shirts and shorts.
The only frustration was the lack of ripe blueberries. We had to take a step back or move a branch or squat to look underneath in order to find a few ready to be picked. How like life, I thought, that a shift in perspective can bring bounty.
“The bottom of my bucket's covered.”
“I'm tired. Is it time to go yet?”
She wasn't as bad as the little girl a row over who said that her dad had picked “four hundred berries” and then kept saying, “You have enough, daddy. You have enough.” However, we were working hard.
We had envisioned bushes bursting with big blueberries. We had pictured handfuls of blueberries staining our fingers as we dropped them into our buckets. Instead, we had to work for them, bending and walking for over an hour. We each ended up with a little over a pound and a half, but it was worth it.
Picking fresh blueberries reminded me that we are so blessed, that we take so much for granted. Yes, we can waltzed into the grocery store and buy a container of blueberries anytime of the year, but we still don't know what we are eating, what we are putting in our bodies, what we are participating in. Are they fresh? Are they organic? Were they sprayed with pesticides? Were they genetically modified in any way? Were they picked by workers who were paid a fair price for their labor?
Outside in the blueberry patch, I worked for that pound and a half, and I left hungry and satisfied. Hungry for real food, satisfied by a job well done. Every time I eat a handful of those berries, I will know where they came from. I will know that my hard work produced them. I will know what I am eating.