Blueberries Enough, and Time

“Look! Blue apples in the trees!”

Peter in Blueberry Land
(Elsa Beskow)

Today I went out with my wife, son and daughter to pick high-bush blueberries. We have five bushes, and they’re bearing well this year, which means that some days in July we need all hands on deck. We head out with our containers and go along the row, reaching up and down, pulling branches back, sometimes merging with the bush to find the berries hiding in its depths. Blueberries become, for us, an element in themselves–deep blue like the sky swelling with rain just before a storm breaks, or gleaming even more darkly, like black pearls. “Annihilating all that’s made / To a blue thought in a green shade” (with apologies to Andrew Marvell–again).

We’re not alone, of course. Ants crash this party as they do any other. One of our cats wanders over to see what we’re doing, losing interest when it concludes that what’s happening is actually some form of work. The resident mockingbirds, perching a couple of bushes down from where we’re picking,  keep an eye on us and give their alarm call now and then. They started feeling uneasy about me when I trimmed the hedge where they have their nest, and now their darkest suspicions have been confirmed. We leave some blueberries for them as a peace offering.

When I close my eyes at night, I still see blueberries, hiding behind and under leaves in the sun and shadow. I’m holding a handful already, but wherever I look, there are always more. I reach through the bush to where I’ve just glimpsed the best one yet, round and ripe, dusky twilight blue, finding it more by touch than sight.

Sometimes I miss, and wind up picking a berry that’s still small and green, and now will never ripen. But more often than not, it’s perfect.

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