I got out for my strawberry picking this past week, heading out the door a little later than usual, since I’d slept in a bit after a long week. By the time I arrived, pickers covered most of the rows, and I berated myself for that extra hour in bed. But then I found a few empty spots, so I plunked my container down and began.
As I picked, I noticed again how meditative berry picking is. I had to pay attention to what I was doing – it’s simply not possible to pick and do anything else with your hands at the same time. Plus, you have to be present enough to notice if the berry is worth picking. Some looked a nice glossy red from one side but had mold on the other, or were ripe on top but white on the bottom. And I had to look a little harder this year, investigating under leaves and behind stems, both because of smaller berries and the heavy picking.
As I got into a pattern, I finally came out of my fog from the week and noticed other things. The warmth of the sun on my back. The incredible sweet scent of the berries. The festive brilliant red amongst the green plants. The feel of the fruit in my fingers, firm but slightly yielding, with the tiny bumps of seeds. The satisfying minute snap as I tugged a berry free.
I listened, too, to the conversations around me, which made me smile. Here are some snippets.
“They have some lovely berries this year.”
“Mom, can we pick more?”
“Can I eat one?” – and the response, “If you do, they’ll have to weigh you when we leave.”
“Look at this one. It’s shaped like a heart!”
“I picked one all by myself!”
In short, I was surrounded by the sounds and scents and feel of life, quite a contrast to my days normally spent in front of a computer. And it reminded me how easily we can forget that food is life. Not only the life it gives us with its energy and nutrients, but the life it once possessed and the lives of all the people nurturing it. I don’t know how many people work at Maxwell’s Farm, but they all contributed to my experience, making it possible for me to bask in the sun and pluck delicious fruit from the vine.
It helps me remember, again, how lucky I am to be able to do this, lucky in so many ways, to be grateful for all that I have, and to remember the gifts of slowing down and truly noticing the sweetness around me.