It’s blueberry season, two weeks early this year. I’m on an orchard ladder, with a small red bucket hung from my belt, near the top of one of the old, eight foot tall blueberry bushes that have been on this old homestead for decades. I notice my hands, dancing.
Both hands work blueberries off the fine branches of the canes, sometimes in sync, often independently. Palms up, thumbs and forefingers lightly pinch each little blue-black globe, roll it off the stem. The hand rotates at the wrist and the berry rolls down into a small cache of berries cupped in the same hand, held by the three other fingers. I can hold about ten in each hand before I risk dropping them—maybe a few more where the picking is easy and I don’t have to twist too much to grab the next. The left hand spills its load into the right, and that hand drops to my waist, to deliver the berries to the pail.
One hand hooks a step while I climb up another rung and lay over the top of the ladder to reach a rich trove of ripe berries. I’m watching my hands twist, rotate, fingers grasping and cupping, adjusting to every angle, reaching around, so agile and versatile by design.
I have two gallons in the freezer already and the season is just coming on. I’m careful not to pick too many in one session. The repetitive motion can build up in my hands and arms. I don’t have to do it all at once. The berries will be coming on for a week or two more. Two quarts is enough for today—an hour as the evening cools.
I climb down, pour the bucket into a larger kettle and go back for more. Yesterday I leaned a little too far to the left and the three-legged ladder tipped. I pushed off, hit the ground and rolled. With my imbalanced weight gone the ladder stood back up. I didn’t hurt myself but spilled most of the belt bucket. Had to pick the berries for a second time, out of the grass. I was amazed again at the precision of the fingers completing this task. Might be best not let the bucket get so full. And I’ll see if I can stay on the ladder. It’s enough work to pick them once.
It’s cooler this evening and my hands drop to zip my jacket. The left hand inserts the pin on the left tape into the box on the right tape, braced by the right hand. Right fingers grasp the pull tab while the left keeps a hold on the bottom stop. The teeth mesh as the slide rises up the chain. Hands again: their magic. The front of my jacket closes against the chill. Back to the blueberries.
Remarkable how well it all works, when I let myself notice. The biggest mistake I can make is to become inured to the small wonders of the world—to take life for granted, and stop seeing the stunning unlikeliness of this place, of what’s happening here, of this existence. So much kindness in the interstices between grand gestures. With so much to be horrified about in the big picture, it’s essential to let ourselves come back to the little majesties that enfold and hold us every moment. It’s a wonder we ever stop weeping.