The day I find the blueberries is hot. My computer malfunctions, protesting the heat, maybe, just in time for a looming deadline. I’ve brought my girls up the road to their grandparents, and I’m supposed to be working. I start repairs: a backup, new software, and finally, an operating system update. 3 hours to complete, the screen tells me.
Screw it. I go bike riding.
A week before a friend had given me a tip—a blueberry spot her dad showed her as a kid. The berries were wild, she said, but big. And so, so many.
She told me to “suit up” — expect brambles and poison ivy. And most importantly, not to tell anybody, and not to let people see me going in. I thought about the 20-pound boxes of wild Maine blueberries my mom used to bring home from the farmers market every August, and the way it felt when she opened the waxed flaps and told my sister and I to go ahead, not hold back, just dig in.
I won’t tell, I promised my friend.
I get to the spot and backtrack, parking my bike down the road a bit. Don’t be seen, I remember, don’t hint. I find the path and pull ragged leggings over my shorts and socks over my pant legs. A black Jeep passes. I dart in.
The path is overgrown and laced with poison ivy, and then it opens up, suddenly. “Holy cow,” I mutter. It’s loaded. There are bushes everywhere, of every height. Some grow over my head, some are at knee level, others at eye level, just right. Some of the berries re pale blue and dusty, others have a dark purple, almost navy shine. They are the biggest wild ones I’ve seen.
I pull out my yogurt containers and start picking. 2:24pm, two quarts empty. Each berry makes a hollow plunk. I remember climbing under the cheesecloth with my sister to pick blueberries at our best friend’s homestead in Maine. I can almost smell the sheep barn where we hid to eat them. And I can still feel the fresh pang, after their parent’s divorce—the way it felt to lose a beloved, foot-memorized piece of land.
A branch cracks, breaking the memory. Another woman comes out from the path, older and defended with denim. We don’t speak, just nod and smile. One quart full, 2:44pm. The woman and I stand fifteen paces apart, silent, picking.
I think about the berries I pick each year at a farm in Dennis, where I get 15, maybe 20 pints in an hour. It’s amazing, and yet, I have come to expect it. Today is pure luck, pure astonishment. I feel giddy.
By three I’ve filled my containers. I nod goodbye to the woman. On the bike ride home I think about pie: my mother’s, cold from the fridge. She always uses small, wild berries, and I think it’s best the morning after she’s baked it. I’ll get a lemon at the store, I decide. I’ll make a crust. And tomorrow I’ll take my girls picking. They’re wise enough to keep the secret.