The Art of Picking Blueberries

Summer's Bounty

Summer’s Bounty

“You missed one,” Bill says, pointing above my head and a bit over to the left.

“No, I didn’t,” I say, squatting low on our patio. “I have a system, an imaginary grid. That way I don’t miss any.”

I’m talking about picking blueberries from the five bushes in our container garden. Over the past three summers, the bushes have actually tripled in size. Bushy and bearing, they’ve reimbursed us for our initial expense and offered solace in my picking practice. Or is it in my practice picking?

We all can agree blueberries are expensive. And organic blueberries are crazy expensive.

Ever wonder why?

It’s actually not all about the “Blueberries Boost Brainpower” boom and their being rich in antioxidants.

If you’ve ever picked them, you’d know. It’s all about hand picking them, gentle nit-picking really. Because you see, just because it’s blueberry season (July is designated Blueberry Month), it’s not all-together blueberry season. You can’t take them all at once, like a clump of grapes, all ripe at the same time.  For within each clump, each blueberry has its own unique season.

That’s why it’s a careful process, causing me to survey limb to limb, bottom to top, right to left, and then twisting my head upside down to spot the hidden ones underneath and in between.

And just when I think I’ve discovered all of the good ones, I’ll glance upon a ripe blue ball, sticking out among the pink and green, the red-violet, the almost-there-but not-quite-yet ones. You must be careful though. Some berries appear ready, but it’s only after you pick them, you realize they’re still green underneath. That’s when you do the gentle touch test, distinguishing the soft and ready, pliable ones, from the hardened and not ones.

Waiting for each one’s best season proves to be worth it.

All in its own season.

All in its own season.

So what about our seasons?

We have multiple ones which can be exhilarating if we like what each season is producing. But what if we don’t?

I’ve loved most all of my adult seasons. Turning 30, 40 and 50 never rattled me. I was inspired and energized by my multiple roles. I thrived on only 4-6 hours of sleep. Being an early riser and a night owl rarely took its toll. I was productive.

So what happened when my body turned against me, requiring that I sleep more, multitask less, lift lighter loads, constantly push through physical pain? I got frustrated and wanted to fix it. Now!

“You have to recognize, Ann, you’re getting older. You simply can’t push yourself like you are accustomed to doing,” Bill said in hopes of encouraging me.

I couldn’t hear him; I couldn’t settle for a life diminishing so fast. After a couple of years struggling, pushing half-heartedly through my days, I finally went to my doctor. Dr F heard irregular heartbeats and sent me to a cardiologist.

“You’re not supposed to be here!” Dr. B said, finding me in one of his waiting rooms.

“Exactly,” I said. “I’m not supposed to be here.”

It ended up, I was. My lifelong low blood pressure had begun rising to dangerous levels. When Dr. B explained it was because of several problems with my heart valves, I countered with my solution.

“What if eliminate the junk from my diet and force myself to exercise as I had before the pain?”

“No, you were born with it, and it has to be managed with medications that lower your blood pressure.” He then explained the harmful consequences of living with high blood pressure if it’s not properly regulated.

I began to feel better. Yet, for the two years that followed, I still felt like I was pushing/struggling through my days, not my best physically.

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” says Socrates.

So have you ever wanted to stop your world, get off and regroup?

But you didn’t think you could, so you kept pushing?

Since March, I’ve been doing just that, examining this new season in my life with all of its changes as I prepared to turn 60 in May.

Let’s just say I’ve been in a dormant season these past few months. I mixed up my days and the pressure I put on my days to be productive. I still saved my best energies for my husband and grandchildren, but I took time to have lunch with old friends. I took a weeklong art workshop in Idaho. I vegged out. I sought the Lord. I also sought out more medical advice. And somehow, without my realizing it, I was growing in wisdom, even bearing good fruit for lifelong healing and health.

This is when I encourage you: if something is not right in your body, your energy is lagging and/or you’re dealing with pain, be persistent to check it out. Ask, seek, knock.

Because God allows pain for us to recognize something is wrong. Yet, all too often, too many of us ignore the symptoms until we’re paralyzed by pain’s convincing power.

Please realize: We don’t have to be frozen in silent despair.

Sometimes I wonder: Could it be much of our frustration lies in the fact we have no way to adequately express to another what we’re going through? Even for those who are listening, can it be they never completely understand how we feel, whether it is emotional, mental, spiritual and/or physical? Ask, seek, knock. Examine. Scope it out.

The Power of Pain:

Even with mustard seed faith, even with positive dialogue, what happens when pain fails to dissipate? Does it serve a purpose, drawing us nearer to God, our family and friends? Is it connecting us with those in similar straits?

The problem with pain is it confines us. And sometimes we simply can’t grasp the fight we’re in. Whether it’s for more energy and/or time, more wherewithal to accomplish what our lives dictate, we are battling unseen foes.

We’re tempted to draw inward, ceasing to be generous because we have nothing to give.

And being miserly makes for wretched days, most especially when the heart aches to give, only the hand is empty.

With those shadowed times, I have learned to seek answers, persistently, diligently. Fair warning: it takes time to mend and heal, to go deep under the shadow of the Almighty, in the cleft of His rock and be determined to emerge with new strength.

For I discovered if I choose to never examine me, I could be missing something—for example, in my praying for others, let’s say, and their poor life choices/attitudes/actions while totally missing my own, or ignoring a health problem that could have been easily remedied had I checked on it earlier. If I don’t watch it, I could be living a sublevel life, missing out on God’s best seasons.

But what about those seasons when trials overwhelm us? It may be physical or mental or emotional or spiritual, or all of the above. Somehow or another our whole body aches to be whole in all of those areas since they’re all connected. One affects the others, one powerful enough to knock them all out of sync.

Authors Loehr and Schwartz advise in their book The Making of a Corporate Athlete that “recovering energy is as important as expending it.” It’s not that we need more time; we need more energy. We’re not restoring completely what we’ve completely exerted. We’re taking quick pit stops to add a gallon of gas (or gulp down some caffeine) to get us to the next event, rather than refueling the whole tank.

Authors Cloud and Townsend offered some wise advice in their book Boundaries that I finally heeded. I learned to say “no, I can’t.” According to them, when we begin to set parameters that protect us and our health, we’ll discover who really cares for us and who is simply using us because we are always appeasing and thus, available. It’s even scriptural, so we don’t have to feel selfish. (And how many of us in our sincere quest to be selfless simply overcommit because it is easier than setting boundaries?)

Take time to think about it.

I realize I am entering into a new season. However, I’ve resolved I am now much like the Sharpblue Early Season blueberry bush in July. Throughout June, it was the bush that consistently offered us cupfuls of tasty plump blueberries. Once the other four began producing in July, this early season bush still offered blueberries, they were now smaller and not as many. Yet, they were still rich in color, the deepest of purples, just as nutritious and tasty. What they lacked in quantity and size was balanced in rich quality. Maybe for me, that’s what after-60 means. What I’ve discovered throughout these past few months allows my physical pain to be reduced/managed.

Yes, we’ve all been rich and poor, in spirit and heart and body. Let us choose rich in spirit. Let us choose watermelon, tomatoes and strawberries in season. Let us see past what is before us and choose both fuchsia azaleas and pale pink weigelas, side by side, both in bloom, just in their varying seasons.

This week I was overwhelmed with the overcoming power of the human spirit. I watched a young man born with no arms play the guitar masterfully with his feet. By the smile on his face, it was apparent he is in his season. Let us be in ours, always.

“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” II Samuel 22:33

“When someone is hurting or brokenhearted, the Eternal moves in close and revives him in his pain.” Psalm 34:18

“Even in the face of severe anguish and hard times, their elation and poverty have overflowed into a wealth of generosity.” II Corinthians 8:2

Check out theTattered Butterflies page about “Re-birthdays.” On the Art page I share a painting I started at a workshop last month.  The Heavy Hurts page shares our need to be more discerning.

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