This afternoon, my parents and I packed a picnic, said goodbye to the dog and piled into the car for a trip out to Sauvie Island, for some blueberry picking. After a stop at the post office and the bank (this is always the way with my family) we were finally on the road. It’s been a cool and slightly overcast day here in Portland, perfect for picking.
The drive out to the Island is deeply familiar to me, it’s one I’ve taken, either behind the wheel or as a passenger, for the last 18 years of my life. In the time my family’s lived in Portland, the only summer I missed the blueberries on Sauvie Island was the first summer I was in Philly. Driving over the bridge that crosses the river, my mom commented that they are building a new one, right along side the old. I said a silent goodbye to the graceful old bridge that has carried so many back and forth over the years, and stated out loud that I couldn’t imagine that the new one will be nearly as lovely.
Unlike blackberries or strawberries, picking blueberries isn’t hard work. The universe had the good sense to design the bushes so that you can pick standing up and without any hazzardous thorns or brambles getting in your way. There’s sort of a zen that develops, as you tune your senses to find the ripe clusters of berries and remember how to curl your hand in order to tease the berries off their stems. It’s a great place to have deep conversations, as you have your face and body mostly concealed in a bush, creating a sense of privacy, while still being able to be heard by the person in the next bush over.
We picked almost 30 pounds this afternoon, and each ate at least a pound during the picking process. My dad always tastes a tree before deciding to plant his bucket under it, to make sure that particular variety is to his liking. My mom goes for the big berries, trying to ease the jam-making process. I like to approach it methodically, making sure to get all acceptable berries off the bush I’m facing before moving along to the next.
The hardest thing about blueberry picking is determining when to stop. Our buckets were full, but the fruit-laden trees kept presenting themselves to us, and so someone kept saying, “just another minute!” Finally, we decided to put both hands on our buckets, center our eyes and walk out of the patch. It wasn’t a perfect plan, as I got smacked in the face a couple of times by an errant tree limb. But finally, we were out and declared ourselves done. It was a fun afternoon and now we are awash in blueberries. There are absolutely worse things in life than that.