Kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk. You know what I’m talking about.
This is a summer sound. It will be heard on a windy, sunny day here in Robert McCloskey country. One morning I will think, Atop our favorite blueberry picking hill the berries are finally pickable.
We will have come to gather food for the winter, like the bears. These berries will fuel our hibernation. We dream all winter of such a day on these barrens—every time we go to the freezer to deplete our stash of summer blueberries.
Our blueberries will end up in muffins, pies, scones and buttermilk pancakes. In fact, once our picking trips start it will be weeks before we eat a meal that does not include blueberries in some form. The berry density of muffins must not fall below 25 per cubic inch.
These are not cultivated blueberries, flavorless and as big as marbles; the ones we’ve grown accustomed to in the supermakets for months. These berries are tiny, wild, the essence of blueberry. And essence includes labor at the source for the tasty payoff. We are picking at the primal farm. The fruit grows here because it belongs here, and always has.
It takes a long time to earn a mouthful. It’s not like picking strawberries—a couple of stoops, a few handfuls, and you’ve got two quarts and can head home. Just one quart of wild blueberries will take you thirty minutes to pick; more likely an hour, since the amount going into the pail will pale in comparison with the amount going into your mouth. Kerplink.
“One for me, one for you, two for me, one for you,” I say to my pail. Kerplunk.
On one such day, our daughter, Ariel, said, “I hope some momma bear doesn’t mistake me for her cub.” She has read Blueberries for Sal enough times to know that people and bears must share their wild blueberry patches, and if their paths should overlap someone must courteously yield to the creature with prior claim, or bigger paws. Today we are the only critters in the patch.
Walking to the car, we top off our tummies with a few more handfuls of berries from our buckets. So many left to harvest! So hard to make it all the way home without consuming the whole morning’s work!
However, we will pass the homemade ice cream stand at the head of the bay! They do make an awfully good chocolate chip ice cream cone. I must admit: man does not live by blueberries alone.
Enjoy your summer berry patch. Whatever the berries, may they be wild and abundant. May the bears share generously with you….and you with them.
Todd R. Nelson is principal of Brooksville Elementary School.