PATIENCE- You rush the process at your peril. The ripe clusters invariably hide in the shade and shadows, so you have to be willing to slow down, move leaves, bend down and look upward.
BALANCE- I grew up in the Pittsburgh area, where we often played outside near the “jagger bushes”. I can’t tell you what they really were, but they had thorns similar to the thorns of the black raspberry canes. You only needed to fall into the jagger bushes once to know that you would never do it again. Now, when I stretch my arm toward a berry, right foot planted and left foot aloft to counter my weight, I remember that valuable lesson of my childhood.
FOCUS- To keep your yield maximized you will have to reach deep into the thicket. Placing your hand gingerly through the gap to retrieve the fruit is only half the battle; you must be able to draw back your hand in the same manner you placed it originally, or you may pay a dear price for one berry. You are awarded bonus points for retrieving a berry unscathed if there happens to be a breeze.
TENACITY- When I pick, I often imagine myself in my kitchen on a cold, dark and icy winter morning. I’ll start the coffee and retrieve one serving of black raspberries from the freezer. These I thaw in some water while I spoon some yogurt into a cup. When the coffee is ready the berries are too. I introduce them to the yogurt, purposely breaking some of the berries with my spoon to color my food. With my coffee in one cup and my yogurt in another, I will sit in the quiet and recall every scratch, bug bite and ache put upon my back in collecting these berries. On those days I never need to add honey to the yogurt; on those days it’s sweet enough.
TIMELINESS – A smith must strike while the iron is hot, and a berry picker is under that same obligation. There is a discipline to waking up in the morning and preparing your mind for the work ahead. It is a time consuming and mind consuming process that only pays out large dividends to those who have the wherewithal to see the task through; not upon your own timeline, but upon nature’s.
APPRECIATION- The canes are a wonderful reminder of evolution’s simplicity. When I pick the ripe berries, the remaining energy the plant takes in goes toward ripening the rest of the fruit. I’ve learned that in years past, if I neglected to pick regularly from the plants they would not produce as well in the subsequent year. The canes are at the mercy (as we all are) of the environmental conditions of the season, allowing them to thrive or forcing them to remain dormant for a time. Only a fool would ignore the lessons that biology and evolution teach us, seeing that we’re all made up of the same stuff anyway. A wonderful balance of beauty and chaos, destruction and renewal, laughter and difficulties, engage us upon every newly awakened day. I simply do not experience those things when I buy my berries from the grocery store shelf. ~TH~