Dear secret reader,
Pssst. I know a place where we can find blueberries. Fat, ripe, wild blueberries so thick on the bush that you can grab handfuls at a time. But first you have to hold up your right hand and solemnly swear on your neighbor’s blueberry pie that you will never reveal the location. No matter who asks or how they tempt or torture you, this secret must die with you. Really? Really.
You’ll need buckets. Gallon plastic containers with handles, the kind you can buy filled with ice cream at the super market, are perfect. Bring a few, just in case we get really lucky.
Dark thunder clouds are gathering at the mountains. It’s sunny now, but there will be a downpour later, and then more sun. So wear your rubber boots and bring your rain gear. Grab the mosquito repellent, a few snacks for the kids and the dogs, and a bottle of water.
We’ll drive a little ways, and then we’ll hike a little ways. We might see some grouse or ptarmigan. An owl might perch in a spruce branch over your head. We’ll probably see bear or moose tracks in the muddy trail. And eventually we’ll find ourselves at the edge of alpine tundra, where the spruce and birch forest gives way to Labrador tea bushes, lichen covered rocks, and knee-high berry bushes.
The lowbush cranberries aren’t ripe yet, so don’t pick them. And the blackish crow berries are edible, but not very good, so let’s leave those behind. Here — these are the ones you want. You see? The fat, sweet-tart blueberries.
When you first start dropping them into the bucket, they’ll make a loud “plunk,” but then, as your bucket fills, they will land silently on the heap of other berries. Your bucket will get heavy, and you’ll become completely absorbed in your task. You’ll skip over the skimpier bushes, the berries that are small or oddly shaped. You know what you want now. That luscious dark blue hanging heavily from the branch.
Tonight we’ll spread the berries on cookie sheets and put them in the chest freezer. Once they’re firm, we’ll transfer them into gallon plastic bags and put them back in the freezer.
When you climb, tired and content, into bed tonight, you’ll close your eyes and see the tundra, the bushes, one berry after another dropped into the bucket as you drift off to sleep.
Come early winter, when you’re yearning for those sunshiny days on the tundra when the cinquefoil and saxifrage bloomed in the marsh and the owl flew off into the trees, you and I together will make some blueberry jam or a whipped-cream topped pie, and we’ll pretend it’s August again.
P.S. Thanks to Mr. Baer and Chickaloon Jenny! 🙂