Picking Berries

"Close Your Eyes And The Whole Universe Disappears" oil painting by T. Boehle copyright 2009

My husband and I just returned from berry picking.  We are fortunate to live down the hill from a wooded, wild groove of berry bushes.  We each set out with a plastic quart container left over from carry out.  As we started up the hill into the woods the path is dotted with black berry bushes.  The berries are sweet and are the first to go.  Our neighbor, probably got here before us, I think to myself.  I make my way into the bushes, spotting a branch laden with the dark berries.  I notice that I feel resentful that my neighbor got here first.  Wasn’t it just yesterday that we noticed the ripe berries? I ask my husband, Mm hmm he says busy picking.

I breathe and remind myself that I can still enjoy the picking.  With that I switch from left to right brain.  In moments I am lost in berry picking.  Carefully, considering the ripeness of the forward berries, scanning the picked umbrella-like cluster for missed berries while scouting for branches out of sight heavy with berries.  The sound of the berries hitting the bottom of my plastic quart is satisfying.  I am focused and experience a sense of peace while I work.  I slowly realize I have depleted the resource and as I begin to back out of the bushes I am aware that a vine has attached itself to my bare leg.  When I reach to attend to it, I find it is very sticky and has tiny thorns that have worked their way into my skin.  It has a hold of me.  My awareness causes slight alarm and I shift from right to left brain as I consider my dilemma.  Standing still and balanced, I reach to carefully lift the top end of the vine and slowly pull it away from my leg.  I become painfully aware of the thorns as I force them to tear away from my skin.  The pain is unpleasant, but I feel pride in my endurance to bear it.  I am here to pick berries.  There are some really sticky vines in here, I say to my husband who is ahead of me.  Mm hmm he says.

I pass him as I climb the hill.  Deep into the woods the wine berries are everywhere.  I begin to make up rules about how to pick them.  My left brain is excited.  Be sure to finish one whole bush before moving on.  Only pick the deeply colored red berries.  Be vigilant to empty each drupplet.  I become aware of my rules and take a breath.  Enjoy, I think.  I smile to myself, understanding how hard I can be on myself.  With out a chance to think otherwise, I leave the bush and begin picking at the next one and then I notice that just a bit further there is a bush filled with aggregates of beautiful deeply colored red berries.  They are large and succulent looking.  I am greedy, as I softly drop berries atop of berries.  I feel pure joy at my discovery and in that realization I become aware that I have abandoned my own rules.  A fleeting notion of guilt passes and I remind myself that I am here to enjoy myself.

With my next breath I let go of the guilt and fix my gaze inside my carry out container.  There are creatures climbing on the berries.  There is a small Daddy Longlegs making her way to the top.  She is easy to help out.  Another spider is tiny with a very bulbous abdomen.  She is a yellowish color.  I try to convince her to climb onto my finger, but she is wary and my finger is so big compared to her size that it is clumsy in coordinating a capture.  My inept attempts send her deeper into the berries.  I think better and turn my attention to the tiny green bug that I previously thought was a piece of leaf.  I marvel at all that is in my cup.  My right brain is in the flow as I delight in the surprises of color, line and movement.  It is a painting come to life.

Where are you, I hear my husband call and I shift to left brain.  I am way ahead of you, I say as I survey the land.  I look at the container full of berries and calculate that I bet I have more.  My husband rounds the corner.  How much do you have he asks and holds up his quart filled to the brim.  I show him mine, ¾ full.  I smile.  You are so competitive, I say.  I am, he says.  I smile and look into my quart, shifting in to right brain.  The berries are beautiful, a range of red colors.  Each berry soft and fleshy.  Each comprised of plump sections that catch the light.  I am curious.  I place one in my mouth.  Let’s get ice cream he says.  Mm umm, I agree.

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2 comments
  1. I remember picking blackberries when I was a child. I can relate to how the act of picking berries plays on several sensory elements. Pushing through the leaves to grab the juiciest and sweetest berry, the many insects and even the various stains on my clothes no matter how careful I was. Great post!

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