Monday, May 4, 2015

Picking Blueberries: An Artist's Date

A few minutes from my house, and just down the road from where I keep Tank, there is a blueberry farm that is now open for U-picking. After several weeks of unseasonably hot and humid weather, this weekend was fresh and spring like—the sun shining from a cobalt sky dotted with cottony clouds, so I decided to go blueberry picking for the first time. Here’s what happened:

Acres of blueberry bushes

After I park my car, the farm proprietor ties a white plastic bucket around my waist and tells me which sections were picked for market and which should have berries left. I walk down the grassy road between berry sections and choose my spot. There are other pickers scattered through the rows, a few with children in tow. U-picking with kids is popular, and this is one of the first weekends the farm is open. I see several generations of family members, from grandparents to toddlers, enjoying the experience.

And that’s why I’m here: to enjoy the experience. This is an artist’s date as well as a way to stock my freezer with fresh blueberries.

Once I choose my section, I begin slowly walking between the rows of shoulder- to head-high blueberry bushes. It takes me a few moments for my eyes to adjust to seeing the plump purple berries hidden in the foliage. I drop my first berries in my bucket with a thunk. While I search with my eyes, my ears listen to the sounds around me: the breeze flirting with berry bushes, the lady in the red t-shirt humming along with her iPod, the children calling out excitedly, and even the loud speakers periodically blaring screechy bird sounds to keep away other birds who would eat the berries. My mind is free to wander, but I find it mostly stays quiet, absorbed in the task of looking carefully for the ripe berries. I deliberately pick a few unripe berries to paint because they’re such pretty colors. I also remember and use Laure Ferlita’s advice to look up, look down, look all around.



As in life, in blueberry picking, it pays to go slowly, look carefully, and be gentle (so the fruit doesn’t fall on the ground instead of into your fingers). You need to look at the bushes from several different angles, and sometimes you will find perfect berries missed by others who have worked the same row. This is sort of like the process of creativity—good ideas, ripe for the picking are out there, waiting for the right person to come along.

It takes me about two hours to fill my bucket. I probably could have moved to a section with more berries per bush, but for once I’m not in a hurry. It is a pleasure to be doing one thing and one thing only. Once my bucket is full, I return to the entrance, pay my money, and carry a plastic grocery bag to my car filled with my bounty.


When I get home, I’ll have the work of drying out the berries (they don’t like to be wet), freezing them, and deciding what I want to do with the ones I won’t freeze. Blueberry muffins for my son, and lemon blueberry scones for me, I think.

This artist’s date was a huge success. I not only deeply enjoyed it while it was happening, but I also wrote about it in my journal and in this post, and I painted those berries! So far, I’ve only experimented with different colors for the berries, but I also want to do a full watercolor sketch page of various elements from the day.

What did you do this weekend?

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4 comments:

Debbie Nolan said...

Dear Kathy - thank you so much for sharing your "artist's date". I scrambled over to see what that date meant and read your post written in 2011. This is such a great idea.
As for the blueberries -I will be sure to have one of those scones with you. This was a wonderful post. You inspire me. Hugs!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

You're welcome, Debbie. Thanks for your kind comments, and for taking the time to visit--and even follow that link!

Claire M said...

It was pure delight for me to read about your blueberry picking "date". It sounded wonderful and with your written description I really felt like I could picture being out there with you. Its fun to hear that you're sketching/painting some of the berries. I'd love to see what you come up with. Enjoy your baked goodies too!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Claire--I'm glad you enjoyed reading about the blueberry picking. I have started painting the blueberries, mostly just fooling around with colors and shapes, but I'd like to do a page on the experience. I'll let you know when I post it someplace you can see it! And we are enjoying plenty of blueberry goodness, as I went picking again on Friday!