I went blueberry picking on Sunday with my dear friends Sherman and Matt. When some people say blueberry picking, they mean filling up a bowl with enough berries to make a pie or snack on for the week. When I say blueberry picking, I'm not messing around. We left with about 100 pounds of huge, ripe, mouth-watering fruits, my hatchback filled on all surfaces with boxes, our fingers stained and our bellies full.
I grew up picking berries and freezing them every summer. My sisters and I would go with my mom to local strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry fields, bring home buckets, wash and sort them onto towels on the kitchen counter, and let them dry before stuffing and labeling bags destined for our large chest freezer. Three years ago, I wanted to continue to tradition but didn't have a big freezer in my new life in Eugene, so I just up and bought one, proceeded to pick 40 pounds by myself at the Blueberry Patch up the McKenzie Highway on a sweltering 95 degree day, and covered my kitchen counters in nostalgic piles of drying berries. I've kept that freezer more or less full of berries, tomatoes, corn, and other random farm delights ever since.
We drove all the way to Anderson's Blues, a farm north of Corvallis that happens to be Sherman's family's favorite spot and the farm down our street where I grew up picking. As we started harvesting and commenting on the sweetness and size of the berries, I told my friends about how when we were little in this patch, we would find berries wider than a quarter and insist that they needed to be sent in to the Guinness Book of World Records, and we would be forever famous as the pickers of the world's biggest blueberries.
I don't think we ever actually got any in the mail, but the memory remains vivid.
A couple more buckets and many handfuls of soft berries stuffed into our mouths later, a family comes within earshot of us a few rows away. The little girl is chattering away at her parents, and we hear her voice drifting playfully through the weighted branches: "Look!! This is the biggest blueberry in the whole world!"
We laugh, and time once again spirals around itself to find me, twenty five years ago, running past these same bushes with the biggest blueberry in the whole world cupped in the palm of my hand, tugging on my sister's shirt to show her and prove that I, too, can find the big ones. It's me over there, chattering in the afternoon heat, and it will be that girl again in twenty five years, marveling and relishing the cool pop and sweet drop of big blueberries in the bottom of our buckets.
Ah yes! In reality it's Mama who is right: tanks are perishable, pears are eternal
- Milan Kundera in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting