This piece was originally written in 1994…
Of all the fruits I’ve known and loved, blueberries are the only ones I’ve reached a real understanding with. Purists will maintain that the smaller, low-bush wild berries are the only legitimate blueberry, and I’ll confess that I do prefer them in cooking; their form suits that function perfectly. But for eating out of hand, my taste buds give them no clear advantage. For compactness, convenient picking and overall ease of maintenance, high bush berries get my vote. And for a few weeks each summer my breakfasts consist of roughly equal amounts of cereal and blueberries, with just enough milk to moisten.
Because it was rainy yesterday morning and I did not pick, the bushes in my yard are laden with ripe berries. Surveying them from the back porch, I imagine I am standing on the moon looking earthward and the heavens are strewn with small blue globes, immeasurably precious. Each is complete unto itself, birthed by the universe and suspended in space by the slenderest, greenest of threads. They are fat and ripe and ready to fall. Overhead, the sky reflects that blue as if some watercolorist has flung dabs of cobalt into the air and spread a wash from horizon to horizon. I walk into the cool morning air. Deep, dewy grass licks my bare feet. A branch so heavy with berries it brushes the ground beckons me. I begin picking there.
This picking is not the indiscriminate feeding frenzy of the blueberry rake. This picking is berry-by-berry, each one turned between thumb and forefinger, inspected, and consciously chosen or left to ripen further. I circle the bush with slow deliberation, pausing now and again to admire and cherish the early August morning swelling to life around me. The quiet rustlings of the woods and the low murmur of the stream down the hill… the sparkling elegance and symmetry of spider nets newly slung. A pair of large, perfectly ripe berries anchors one such net. With a nod of acknowledgement to the demure and inconspicuous architect (who resembles nothing so much as an unripe berry) I pass them over.
Unseen and unheard, our little orange cat suddenly appears at my elbow, mewling. I scratch behind her ears. She purrs and rubs her arched back against the lowering blueberry branches, then scampers away at the approach of the dog. My small plastic container soon overflows. I rise and turn toward the house.
In the living room my son sits in the recliner, wrapped in the fur-soft blue-and-white blanket we keep draped on the back of the sofa for just such mornings as this. A shaft of dappled sunlight carves the space between us, slanting across his face. He smiles.
“Isn’t it cold out there?”
“A little,” I reply, rubbing my damp feet on the carpet to warm and dry them. I return his smile and tousle his hair, then follow the scent of fresh coffee into the kitchen.
I half-fill my bowl with cereal and pour berries in. They roll and tumble, pattering, and I am well satisfied to my take pleasure in small blue portions.