The past few days, we've had heavy rain. I'd planned to go picking but knew the ground would be too soggy so I stayed home.
Gathering up my bottled water, keys, purse, and phone, I headed out the door knowing my trusty GPS would guide me. I'd only braved this trip alone once before.
I was surprised to see about ten cars already parked on the gravel lot outside the farm entrance. I assumed there would only be one or two cars at most since yesterday was a complete washout.
Making my way up to the check in desk, I was greeted by a young girl. She wanted to know if I was there to pick strawberries or blueberries. I told her both.
She handed me two baskets and pointed me in the direction of the open rows. I decided to wander down the strawberry rows first since I knew it was the end of the season and there wouldn't be many berries to pick.
The rows were rain soaked and muddy. I wished I'd worn my old sneakers instead of my new ones. Doing my best to dodge the puddles, I bent over to check the strawberry mounds. The first few I checked had no berries, so I made my way further down the row hoping no one else had gleaned the fruit there.
The sun was beginning to rise and I felt the heat on my back. At the end of the field, I found a few berries. Most of them were overripe and mushy. The others were under ripe. Yellow jackets hovered near damaged fruit and I made a point to veer away from them. I didn't need a sting.
After picking half a basket of subpar berries, I decided to shift my focus to blueberries. I knew they'd be abundant and quick to pick.
Heading over to the blueberry bushes, I meandered to a shady part of the row. A neighboring dog barked loudly and startled me. Thankfully, he was behind a tall fence.
Turning my attention back to the bushes, I noticed they were weighed down with fruit. Beautiful, lush blue berries clung tightly to the branches. Among them were scattered dots of light purple, unripe berries and tiny pale green baby berries. The contrasting color was so stunning. I stopped to take a few photos.
A cluster of berries caught my attention and I moved to pluck them one by one. Dropping them into my basket, I continued picking a few at a time until I realized the berries were so ripe, I could grasp a handful and pull gently allowing them to drop steadily into my basket. Soon I found myself thinking about friends and life in general.
Every berry I picked reminded me of how my friends were slowly disappearing. One by one, they were finding themselves facing a recurrence of cancer and then, days, weeks, or months later, they'd pass away. It seemed so unfair.
I wanted to keep my friends in a tight little cluster, healthy and whole instead, they were ripening and falling - ripening to the devastation of cancer, slowly and surely.
It was hard not to cry as I worked my way down the rows, picking, and sorting the berries. I wished there was something I could do to help my friends.
Each of them was in a different stage of decline. Most of them were waiting for test results that would determine their fate. None of them had a positive perspective. My heart hurt.
With my basket full of berries, I didn't want to leave the farm. There was such solace there and although there were other people picking, none were near me. I felt alone.
Finding my way to the shade of a large pin oak, I lucked up to find some empty wrought iron lawn chairs. I almost sat down for a spell, I was hot and tired, but noticed a large red bull in a pen adjacent from the tree.
The bull and I locked eyes. As he lifted his head from chewing, I spoke to him. "Hey buddy, how ya' doin'?" He listened attentively for a few minutes and then went back to munching on grass. I stood watching him for a minutes wondering how such a large animal could survive on grass.
A bluebird flew out of his nesting box and startled me. The distractions of nature kept my mind busy and pushed the depressing thoughts about my friends' health to the back of my mind.
I wished I didn't have a heart of empathy. It would be so much easier. But I do. And I'm invested. I love my friends. I want them to live.
I left the farm with 8 pounds of blueberries. I was tired and hot and smelly, but it was a good day. I enjoyed the solitude among the berries. It's always good to take time to process your thoughts, even if it's hard to do at times.