It’s sweltering down below.
But up here on the mountain top, the wind courses through the birches and pines, sweeping over scrub covered fields.
Swallows swoop on the wind, crossing with a passing crow. A hawk lazily hangs on the updraft.
We’re ankle deep in blueberries. Some as black as night. Some a soft sky blue with a touch of mist. Large marbles and tiny berry bursts.
My wrist hurts a little from the repetitive sweeping of the blueberry rake. Homemade of wood with some metal tongs, it’s heavy. We got it secondhand from a local doctor who was closing up his summertime blueberry business he staffed with a host of local kids.
If I get a little tired, I can stop and drink the ice cold water from the thermos we brought with us. Or simply hunker down and snack on the blue orbs of mild sweetness around me.
Just out of sight are my two children and my husband. Hidden only by a slight roll of hill or a patch of birch trees. But within calling distance.
Each of us has found our little patch and we’re caught up in our work.
All you hear around you is the wind through the trees and the birds. Occasionally a conversation starts up between my kids and drifts over to where I’m working steadily – a soft bit of laughter as they recall a joke or a hint of a song.
Now both teenagers, my children mostly help. The pick by hand and occasionally spot one of us with the rake.
We’ve been doing this for 8 years. And in past years, when they were younger, they spent their time imagining, playing games together, finding good rocks to climb and jump off of. Picking was done absentmindedly and usually forgotten. Instead, they’d sidle over to where we worked, plop a few blue donations into our bucket and then scoop out a handful, looking at us sideways to see if they’d be reprimanded.
And at the end of the day – usually three or four hours later, we shoulder the two five gallon buckets of berries. Gather up thermoses and hats. And carefully make our way down the mountain, reveling in our haul.
It’s a lot of work. But it means blueberry smoothies this summer. And blueberries in our oatmeal and blueberry cottage cheese pancakes on Sunday all winter long.
Best of all, as we tap into our stores over the course of the year, we are reminded of our day on the mountain.
Idyllic. A day lived like you were dying. A time out of time filled with the simple joy of existence . . .
So let me ask you this . . .
Why – with all this beauty and goodness – why was I busy making calculations while taking a shower the other day?
Why was I calculating how many hours this expedition took . . . multiplying it by my hourly rate as a freelance copywriter . . . and then comparing it to the going price of blueberries as noted in the state agricultural bulletin?
Why was I trying to figure out if this was a good use of my time? If it was worth it?
I’ll leave the question open-ended since it’s something we all hit at different times – it’s not always about blueberry picking on the mountain. But I’m sure you know the stupid calculations you’ve done as well with slightly different variables. Stupid, yeah, I said that.
It’s universal . . .
Too often we leave out all kinds of figures in the balance sheet. I didn’t step back a moment and really tally up all I gained blueberry picking on the mountainside. Sound familiar (only with a few changes in the details)?
So here’s my challenge to you . . . Start calculating. But this time with all the figures that count.