Peg Sullivan and Brian MacDonald

Brian MacDonald
Inspiration Piece

Passion can begin with something as simple as a Dixie cup, on a warm summer’s evening, and a bush full of wild blueberries, ripe for the picking. With a cup clutched in my right hand, my mother’s hand grasping my left hand, we headed out to the fields of knee high grass, dotted with bushes laden with bright blue berries tinged with red.

Summer was luscious and comforting, wrapping us in its arms like a soft warm blanket, the gentle hum of bees droning as they lazily swooped onto the ripening bushes, providing a quiet symphony to a peaceful summer’s evening. “Pick a bush and stick with it,” my mother instructed, as she went to work choosing a bush full of ripe, succulent berries. Her large metal can, strapped around her waist by some clever creation crafted by my father, was in sharp contrast to my little Dixie cup, perfectly sized for my 5-year-old fingers.

Plink              plink          plink      plink     plinkplinkplinkplinkplink

The sound of the firm blueberries hitting her can’s bottom, at first slowly as my mother tentatively picked the choicest berries, quickly accelerating as she got into the rhythm of picking, the sound disappearing as the can began to fill.  My hand clutched my little Dixie cup as I picked a berry, dropped it in so very carefully, bringing it over to my mother and asking her if it looked ripe.

Each evening, that comforting summer, my mother and I would head to the fields, berries waiting, her with her can and me with my Dixie cup, to pick the bushes clean. “Open the bush”, my mother would instruct, “that’s where the best berries are” and I would scratch my way into the center of the bush, calling her, laughing, hiding, not picking but playing, dixie cup always clutched in hand, as my mother picked, and talked, and smiled, so happy and alive, that endless summer.

And now, so many years later, as I head to the blueberry fields every summer, different fields, same passion begun so long ago, with a Dixie cup and my mother during an endless, comforting summer, I have my own can strapped around my waist with a cleverly attached bungee cord, and a wide brimmed hat to shield the sun.  The bees still hum and drone, the murmur of wind and quiet voices of other pickers drift between the bushes, the plink     plink   plinkplinkplink sound of berries as they hit the bottom of my can, envelopes me like that summer, so long ago.

And I open the bush, to find the choicest berries, my mother smiling, young, alive, picking by my side. In the many summers, since that golden one, that I have visited a blueberry field, I’ve learned to pick the ripest berries not simply by color, but also by touch—-firm, yet giving, clustered, easily plucked from the bush. I don’t always pick a bush clean, and still feel a twinge of guilt, as I flit from bush to bush, pushing branches aside, finding the perfect bush, the best berry, my mother’s voice now but a distant memory.

Did my mother know the feel of a ripe berry, too? Did she know that bees hum in unison with the wind, and with the murmur of human voices? Did she pick with her back to the sun to feel the warmth on her shoulders, but also to provide a better angle to see the ripe berries? Did she realize then that passion could begin with a simple Dixie cup, in long grassy fields full of succulent bushes of berries and lazy bees?

Of one thing I am certain: she taught me that real joy is found on warm summer days, in blueberry fields, with a can strapped to your waist and a lifetime ahead of you.

Peg Sullivan


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