Picking Blueberries And Seeing Small

Today, I brought my attention to picking blueberries. Eight years ago, I planted a row of berry bushes in my backyard, and all the rain this year has produced a bumper crop. Each time I walk from our house to my office, a former potting shed in the backyard, I pass the bushes, and usually pluck a few berries en route. But today, I made a full stop, took in the line of plants, and slowly picked one berry at a time, popping each into my mouth.

One Thanksgiving several years ago, I paid this kind of close attention to making cranberry sauce, focusing on only that dish one night, and the cranberries revealed themselves so fully to me, I wrote an essay about the experience for my book. Today, aware that I was “thinking small,” I began by noticing what happened each time I plucked a berry from its branch. First the sound, which ranged from the frailest of snaps to slight tugs just on the cusp of pops—depending on the length of tiny stem still attached. Then I noticed that on the bush, the ripe berries appeared lightly dusted with whitewash, which disappeared wherever I touched them, to reveal the polished deep-blue skin beneath. I wondered if this dusting functions the way sunscreen does on humans, protecting the skin and fruit beneath from ultra-violet rays. Or, is the whitish coating an insecticide of sorts, keeping the fruit safe from insects that might find them tasty?

As I thought about this whitish dusting or coating, blueberries evolved for me from tiny orbs meant to be popped into my mouth, to organisms with needs of their own. And despite their tiny size, these organisms are able to take care of themselves. As they mature, the berries produce a coating that protects them from damage, and with this protection, they are able to ripen to perfection..

Indeed, most of the berries I plucked today, formed perfect, tiny, orbs, slightly flat on the top, I could roll smoothly between my thumb and index finger. As I did this, I found myself becoming quite protective of the tiny berries. These berries were at my mercy, and I began to understand that by consuming them, I was not destroying them but fulfilling their purpose. Blueberries grow and mature to be eaten—by humans or birds or rodents—and in the process, some of their tiny yellow seeds are scattered and create new plants. The berries contain within their flesh, what they need to regenerate themselves.

So you can see how by thinking small, the blueberries became so much more for me than a delicious fruit to be popped into my mouth and enjoyed. They went from tiny orbs of pleasure, to embodiments of the cycle of nature.

I have certainly heard about the cycle and deep ecology of nature, and from time to time, have reflected on it. But I have never experienced the cycle so personally and with such force. Today blueberries became my teachers. Through them, I had a deep experience of the complexity and power of nature.

I have small to thank for this.

Peeling Paint


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