Would they really be here? We had picked them twenty years ago here in these sand lands of northern Wisconsin. So I kept searching in the almost-shade of low shrubbery, small trees, just off the trail, in a sweeping line into the trees and back to the trail. Eventually I found them them, blue at my feet here and over there. Yes, I shouldn’t have doubted. I knelt down in the grassy, spongy softness of a jack pine forest long gone, settling in to gather them gently using both hands.
Last week when we came up with as many of the family as could get away on short notice to swim and picnic at Cheney Lake. Lisl had to search only a short time until she found there were blueberries.
So yesterday we packed four women and eleven children, food, buckets, and swim stuff into three vehicles and headed north to Cheney. The children planned to swim. Kristine agreed to be life guard in deference to the need and as preference to wading in bug-land and unknowns accordingly when one gathers blueberries. (Kristine is a smart gal and nobody faults her at all for not liking bugs. She is also courageous and patient with this crazy, nature loving family she married into.) Lisl, Charlotte, and I were off to the boonies to pick blueberries. It was a perfect arrangement.
We also had three neighbor children along. Sebastian told me this while we were picking berries, “Your family are the kindest people I have ever met.” Now there’s a challenge for us, family. I suppose we have little knowledge with what he might be comparing us.
You learn things from these children of our neighbors when you include them. All three of them had things to share from their hearts. For privacy reasons I can’t say them here, but I was reminded again that God gave us to each other for a reason.
The small thuds of berries hitting the bottom of the bucket lasted only a short time. Lisl asked the traditional question in the berry patch, “Mom can you still hear your berries?” I did get the bottom of my bucket covered before she did hers.
“You have too big a bucket.” I told her eyeing it for size. But she soon had hers silent and blue, too.
I’ve picked berries in the woods often with my mom and with my daughters and though I try hard I have never kept up to Mom’s ability to fill her bucket in such a short time. It takes me hours to fill an ice cream bucket with wild blueberries. Mom could do two to my one. Lisl fusses that I am so fast, but she and Charlotte did just fine and came home with a proper amount of them.
We saw where the bears had swiped off the tops of ant hills, and where they or other pickers had cleaned up whole patches of berries. We saw that the hazel nuts are making fruit just fine. I took pictures of irresistibly, beautiful red lichen on an old stick of jack pine. On closer inspection, I counted three kinds of lichen growing on the stick.
But mostly we picked berries staying within yelling distance of each other, keeping our bearings by the sand road nearby where the Jeep was parked.
The children played in the water the whole time we were there except for when they were eating sandwiches or pie or cookies. They wore their life jackets in the water for the mom’s sake. And yelled and teased and just generally made lots of racket. I felt sorry for the couple who came down to “unknown” Cheney Lake to fish. We noticed that she caught a fish immediately, but the noise had to be deafening to them. They left in about ten minutes flat.
To be honest, we want all that noise. It clears the area of any self respecting bear who knows it’s time to give over to the humans for a day. We didn’t see any of them.
It is nice to have re-established the berry picking tradition after ten years of marrying children off and too much busy-ness. Kneeling in the deep grass and moss of the woods with the cicada music, hot sunshine and cool shade felt almost surreal to me. Amazing opportunity to worship and wonder. Again I realize that we have been putting far too much importance on things and schedules.
After this,I want to find time every summer, as mom and her sisters did, to get away for a day now and then to pick berries or play or take the children swimming.