09 July 2009

Just a thought

It's berry season 'round these parts, and at our house, that means black raspberries. They're wild, they're tart and sweet, and even though they're a little bit seedy, they're super tasty just the same. The kids and I go out every day to pick, and we usually end up with about 3 cups of berries. Well. I end up with three cups. Charis and Judah end up with berry-full bellies. My rule for them is that they may eat whatever they pick, but whatever berries end up in my bowl are off-limits. I mean, they still get to eat them in the end, tossed with sugar and topped with whipped cream, or flipped into a pancake. But while we're by the bushes, my bowl of berries is a hands-off zone.

Besides producing a bumper crop of berries, our backyard, situated 1/4 mile away from a pond, and wooded, sees more than its fair share of mosquitoes. And it seems the mosquitoes LOVE the berry patches. They positively swarm. Which also means I get attacked whilst picking, making the berry harvest a true labor of love. So in the midst of picking, swatting, and protecting my berry bowl from greedy little hands, I try to distract myself by thinking deep thoughts that will pull my mind away from my present strife. Usually, my thoughts get no further than gee, maybe I should go get the insect repellent, but the other day, I actually came up with something worthwhile, and I wanted to share it with you.

Our black raspberries are wild, as far as I know. The vines are very thorny, and since they're not cultivated by us, they grow in a very haphazard way. They proliferate along the border of our woods, so between the thorns and the woody brush, any black raspberries that are not within arm's length are out of bounds. They will rot on the vine and never make it to plate or belly. But it always seems like the biggest, juiciest-looking berries, shiny, with the most beautiful purple-black bunches, are always just out of reach, while the tiniest, dry-looking shrively berries are the close offerings the vine has for us. So the other day, despite the fact that I was wearing non-thorn-friendly shorts and a tank top, I decided to approach the berries from the back, through the woods, hopefully securing for my family the choicest black raspberries. I was fairly salivating as I tramped through the brush, swatting away ever more bugs, treading so carefully lest I encounter poison ivy or a snake. There were prickers there, too, which made the going even tougher than I'd imagined. Finally, many minutes and scratches later, I arrived at the back of the patch and reached out my hand for the Promised Berries. Huh. Somehow, up close, they weren't as juicy-looking and plentiful. I picked a small handful and disappointedly made my way out of the woods.

It was the old grass-is-greener phenomenon; the berries that were out of my reach looked so fabulous compared to the inferior berries I was picking, but upon closer inspection, they were just the same old berries, just farther away.

Extrapolate with me, will you? Abe's sister and her husband are some of our dearest friends in the whole entire world. We spend all kinds of time together, because in every way, we are compatible. Beth and I have similar interests, Abe and Tim like the same things, too, and our kids, when they're not antagonizing each other, get along swimmingly. Up until recently, they rented a home. Then they got an amazing deal on a huge house and 37 wooded acres and upgraded from their teeny tiny rental. Suddenly, my house looked so tiny, so inferior. I was wildly jealous for a while, until I realized that it's just a house. It's a beautiful house, sure. But God provided us with a lovely house, too. THEN, to add insult to injury, they recently had to purchase a mini van to accommodate their growing family. The van they acquired is newer, shinier, and lots prettier than our heap. Again, I could taste envy. I was so ungrateful for my van, with its lack of air conditioning and TV screens. But again, I realized it's just a van. Ours works just fine, even if it is a little less posh. But their house and their van were like those berries--so beautiful from afar, but up close, they were just a house, and just a van. Just like we have.

Around the corner from us, there's a business that has a sign reading: "Fight the recession: Learn to be satisfied." Whether you're talking about recession, berries, or bigger things, I think that's pretty sage advice.

I almost fell for the juicier-berries lure again today. But I did not succumb. The berries we have are perfectly delicious.

(photo acquired from oregonberry.com)

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