This morning I got up at 6 a.m. to drive to Few's Ford on the Eno River, and set out banners to direct folks to my sweetheart L's baptism. It was a glorious day; I placed the altar right by the river, and reveled in the morning and my ability to get up early for a good reason.
The baptism was a sacred and joyous event, with L's parents, friends, and members of our church there to celebrate her and her decision to be reborn into God's abundant love. (How I came to the place where I could say things like "reborn in God's abundant love" is its own story, one I'll definitely be writing about here.)
I hosted a blueberry pancake breakfast after the baptism; the blueberries were ones that I picked myself on the Saturday before July 4th. One of the many wonderful things about being with L is that she initiates things like blueberry picking -- something I like the idea of but probably wouldn't have found the time to do on my own. But she was passionate about picking blueberries and blackberries (though you need to get there first thing in the morning for blackberries -- 8:45 a.m. was too late). And so it was right that the blueberries I picked with L and her friends were brought into the day of her baptism, and with the berries, the experience of that day.
I'd never been blueberry picking before, so I didn't have any idea what it would be like -- I wasn't even really picturing bushes, exactly.
So first, I experienced an embarrassing wonder of seeing actual blueberries growing out in the world -- not in a package in a grocery store. Then amazement at how good each one tasted. The feeling of the ripe ones dropping easily into my hand.
L went to search out her friends and I found myself alone for a little while, picking one or two or three blueberries at a time, and dropping them in my bucket. I started to pray, or meditate, in gratitude for the sun and the coolish-morning air, and the sweat on my face and the feeling of the dampness of the ground seeping through my overalls. I sat and stood by this one bush for a long time, looking and feeling for the ripe berries.
I’ve been so raggedy and anxious lately. I’m so tired of answering “busy” when someone asks me how I’m doing. I’m tired of the whole wonky culture where being busy, or too busy, means you must be of value or worth something (am I projecting my own stuff out there?). I’m over “busy” conceptually, but I’m struggling to make the actual, um, you know, life changes.
So here I am in the blueberry field being still, present, and having a meta-moment of, “oh, this is what being still and present feels like.” Oh, this is what I want. Good to note. Keep an eye out for it happening again.
Before we arrived, I was worried the berries were going to be picked over, that we were too late in the day, etc. As I focused on that one bush, the anxiety dissipated, even before I wandered further into the field and realized and I realized that there were bushes that were overflowing with berries, and that my careful pick-pick-pick wasn’t really necessary. Of course, it was necessary, it was the essential blueberry picking experience I was destined to have (whoo-ha), but as I moved along was able to fill my bucket pretty quickly – which was good, because religious experience or no, I wouldn’t want to hold up the group.
In the midst of my blueberry-bliss, I sent a prayer to the folks who pick blueberries for a living (or for less than a living wage). My friend and colleague Tennessee Jane Watson works with the Maine Migrant Health Network during the blueberry-picking season. Found her family website here. She’s even more amazing than this description makes her sound.
Go, go, blueberry picking. Herndon Hills Farm is no more than five minutes from Southpoint Mall – they have the “NO MALL” sign on their garage to prove it. This farm captures the Platonic idea of a blueberry field -- it looks like a rose garden. Give yourself an hour and end up with 6 lbs of berries at $2.25 a pound. You’ll find they go very quickly, especially if you eat them out of the freezer like candy. Directions are below.
At one point in writing this entry, I actually referred to a blueberry as “a sweet orb.” Yes, I did. It’s such a terrible phrase that I just have to share it with you. I hope you cringe with delight in its awfulness.
Herndon Hills Farm - Blackberry, Blueberries, Muscadine Grapes
7110 Massey Chapel Road, Durham, NC 27713.
Phone: 919-544-3313. Click here for a map to the farm. Email: Open Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday 7 am-7 pm; July thru Oct 15. Typical harvest dates:
Blackberries & Blueberries - early July-mid August
Muscadine Grapes - early September-October.
Directions: From I-40, take exit 276 south on Fayetteville Road. Take 1st left on Herndon Road, go 1/2 mile, turn right on Barbee Road. Farm is 1/4 mile on right.