by Anniel 10/12/15
Last night I dreamed of my mother when she had come to stay with us for a few months. We took a drive to Eklutna Lake to go berry picking and we wound up where low bush blueberries grew on a steep hillside above the unpaved road. Bear, the children and I stayed low on the hillside and I was only half-aware of my mom going a lot higher. When it was time to leave, there was my mother clinging to rocks and low bushes as she searched for the very last berry to be found.
She began carefully backing down, but if she spotted a single unpicked berry she would inch her way over to get it. I called to her several times to forget anymore berries, but she just could not leave until she was satisfied that she had picked every berry within sight.
What is it in some people that makes them berry pickers? Last night Bear said he didn’t care that there were so many berries still left, we could just go and buy a big bag of frozen berries and make jam from them. Our daughter and I gasped at such sacrilege. He dropped his head and tried to tell us he knew how we felt, but we were still miffed when we headed for bed. He knows there are tons of free berries out there for the picking. And that’s no joking matter. Not to me and some of my kids at any rate.
When I was young we picked black, yellow and red currants along canals and irrigation ditches. We drove into canyons for choke cherries, rose hips and elderberries. We planted strawberries, raspberries and loganberries. We made jam and jelly with our own pectin from apple peelings.
I was the only girl in the family for over 11 years so I was the one to help with all the picking, cooking, straining, bottle washing and stirring. I complained a lot, but loved all that jam and jelly in the winter. Or as my great-uncle John always said, “I ust learned to say yam and they yanged it to yellie.” Yogie Yorgenson was no stranger to us.
Then I moved to Alaska and found I was in Berry Heaven. There were high and low bush blueberries, huckleberries, bog berries, lingonberries, salmon berries, trailing raspberries, and the incomparable nagoon berries. Berry Heaven for sure. When Bear and I married one of his first presents to me was a couple of berry pickers.
Before I had children of my own I often took my nephews berry picking with me. I was once picking high bush blueberries, stepped around the bush and noticed steam still rising from blue colored bear scat not more than six inches in front of me. The bear and I had chosen the same bush. I and my berry picking friends left it to the bear.
One autumn my Bear and I went up north to Broad Pass to visit friends and took our berry pickers and buckets with us. The weather was glorious and the bracken and kinnikinnick were orange and bright red. Mt. McKinley (I’m a die-hard on name changes), Foraker, Hunter and the other mountains were so clear we could see the cliffs and glaciers, including all of Ruth Glacier. It looked as though we could reach out and touch everything.
We found a slope with low-bush blueberries and climbed up to pick. I would find a new patch of berries on our hillside and sit down to pick the area around me. I think you can guess the color of the seat of my pants.
I stopped to look again at the glory when very silently a huge bald eagle glided not more than 15 feet in front of us. He barely moved the small feathers at the ends of his wings and his eyes watched us carefully as he went past without flapping those wings at all. Such sights happen only once in a human’s life-time.
This year has been a weird berry picking year, and it’s still not over. Berries of any kind in some areas hardly grew at all, while other areas yielded double or triple amounts. By far the most interesting thing is how huge some of the berries have grown. The picture of blue berries above are in a large man’s hands. I have tried to imagine how many berries I would put in Brad Nelson’s Blueberry Muffin Recipe. One? Certainly not more than two. My daughter has recommended that we try abelskiverswith only one blueberry in the middle. Doesn’t that sound delicious?
There are apples and crab apples still to be picked, too. More applesauce, apple butter, and jelly to go. My mother is over on the other side cheering us on.
Maybe we sometimes do live in Heaven, if we open our eyes. • (1230 views)