Blueberry Picking

Last week was the worst week ever. It was bad in that way that stubbing your toe is bad -- you know what I mean: it's not that bad-seeming, so you don't have anyone's sympathy or support, but man, it really hurts. You know? Last week was composed of a series of uncomfortable circumstances that were not so severe as they were manifold. I started teaching fourth grade and found out I am terrible at teaching fourth grade. I consistently forgot my lunch at home every day. When I was working out in the morning (Hey: I was working out in the morning; that's a shitty situation in and of itself) a cockroach climbed on my toe. Then I screamed at it, and instead of taking the scream to mean, "Please get off my toe," the cockroach took the scream to mean, "Please climb up my leg as fast as possible."

I cried multiple times a day. Granted, I cry at Folgers Coffee commercials (the families just love each other so much and I think it is so beautiful), but this was a lot even for me. I tried watching videos about baby llamas, and reading excerpts from my embarrassing library of Westernized Eastern religious texts ("Buddhism for The Girl With A Cappuccino;" "The Tao of Haircuts With Bangs;" etc.), but nothing could suppress the nightmare that was knowing I had to go to work in the morning. I decided I needed to do something really relaxing over the weekend. I decided I needed to go blueberry picking.

In Portland, blueberry season isn't until mid-to-late July. It's the part of the summer where you're almost feeling tired of summer. You've seen everything that's on television already because everything is in syndication and on repeat (every season ever of "Project Runway" was cool the first time around, but now you're just annoyed at how those single moms and either-bulimic-or-lying skinny boys can whip up a ball gown). Your friends are on vacation and they're not writing you postcards like they said they were going to. It's hot. Then someone says, "You know what we should do today? Go blueberry picking." And that sounds like the best, most exciting idea in the entire world. Your head is swimming with daydreams about blueberry pancakes and pies and muffins. Then you eat them all on the car ride home.

In New Orleans, blueberry season is now. My roommates and I went one year to a farm out in Covington. After we each picked a gallon, my perfectionist roommate Hannah insisted we lay them all out on a cookie sheet so they wouldn't get mushy. ("That's what the farm TELLS you to do!" Then she added, with a look of disgust and horror, as if the mere suggestion were akin to going to church naked, "You weren't just gonna leave them in the BAG, were you?") Afterwards, we rode our bikes along the tracks-to-trails bike path in Abita Springs and told stories to each other about how we'd each lost our virginities. I embellished mine a little bit, because really, what's interesting about losing it in the back of a Geo Prizm? 

Last Saturday, I took my friend Ned to the same farm, and I did it like I was on a spiritual pilgrimage. I felt entitled to my day trip after the week I'd had, and for some reason -- I couldn't put my finger on it, exactly -- blueberry picking felt like the ultimate daylong vacation.

Here were non-negotiables of the trip: We were going to listen to Beyonce across the Causeway, no ifs or buts, and with the windows down. I was going to pick the most blueberries. If Ned picked more blueberries than me, he was going to have to give me some of his blueberries and tell the guy at the blueberry-weighing counter that I'd actually picked them. Actually, no. If Ned picked more blueberries than me, he was going to have to slow down and give me a chance to catch up, because nobody -- nobody -- was picking more blueberries than me on this day. Or on any day. I am not a competitive person.

When we got there, we found a little spot on the farm where everything was ripe and there weren't a lot of other people around. Occasionally, someone would pass into earshot, and we'd get to eavesdrop on their conversation.

There was a pack of bros wearing khaki pants with cargo pockets and backwards caps (because apparently they never evolved beyond '90s Bro) throwing berries at each other. "Hey! Bro! Don't hit me in the neck!" "Sweet, bro! I hit you in the neck! Now it's like you got a raspberry on your neck... but... it's a BLUEberry!" (Uproarious laughter.) (That conversation is taken verbatim.) (Seriously.)

There was a pair of leathery septuagenarians shamelessly flirting with each other with openly Republican banter. The man said, in a rich Tennessee drawl, "No, but really, it's big OIL that's suffering. No one can see that, but it's true." The woman swooned. They probably did it behind the tool shed later. Gross.

And then there was this mom who kept berating her kid for eating the blueberries. The kid said, "Can I try some?" The mom said, "You can try ONE." Five minutes later: "DON'T PUT THOSE IN YOUR MOUTH, TYLER." One minute later: "THEY GO IN THE BUCKET, TYLER . THE BUUUUUUCCCCKKKKKKEEET." Thirty seconds later: "You think it's funny!??!? OK. EAT ONE MORE. TRY ME. TRY ME."

When I asked Ned what I should write about blueberry picking, he said, "Maybe you should write about how when you pick blueberries, you really spend time with each of the berries. Each berry is unique and special to you."

Each berry is unique and special.

I'm so glad that Ned said that, because it made me realize what is so liberating about berry picking. The whole point is that when you go berry picking, NONE of the berries are unique or special. There is literally a countless and boundless amount of them. You can completely eviscerate a shrub, and look back and see hundreds of ripe berries you missed. The point is that you shovel them all off the branch like an animal and put as many in your mouth as you possibly can at one time, smooshing them against your cheek and dribbling seeds down your chin like you maybe have a rare type of Tetanus. The point is you eat more than you pick, because you can, because they're never going to be better than they are in that moment, because YOU LIKE BLUEBERRIES. You are a BLUEBERRY monster. And that is awesome.

I can think of no fate on earth more wretched than being at a hot blueberry farm with your lame mom on a Saturday and being forbidden from eating any blueberries. Doesn't that mom know that blueberries are a superfood and the fact that her kid wants to eat them is one of the healthiest and best things possible? Doesn't that mom know that there is a sign outside the farm that says, "$10 a gallon, and as much as you can eat while you pick FOR FREE!" Doesn't that mom know ANYTHING about parenting?

No. She does not. People of the world: HEAR THIS. Blueberry picking is about being reckless with your blueberries. There are too many things in life that have boundaries and rules. Blueberry picking should be an anarchist free-for-all: a blueberry genocide, with no mercy and no survivors. 

This week so far has been better. I have blueberries. They are, however, really, really mushy.