I remember going blueberry picking in the bush near the cottage in Britt when I was eight or nine. Mom carries baskets. Dad carries peanuts in shells. We always bring Princess with us, my great-Aunt Irene’s German Shepherd. Princess leads the way over the granite and moss, into the desolate, dense back bushes on the coast of Georgian Bay, guarding us from the possibility of walking into sleeping black bears or sunning massasauga rattlers.
We find a clearing with smooth, warm rock bordered by thick, low blueberry bushes. Mom gets to work right away, kneeling by a bush, filling the basket with only the good luscious blueberries, not the shrivelled or mangled ones.
Dad lays on his back on a rock in the sunshine, his arms spread, soaking in the fresh air, settling in for a nap. My little brother, Colin, runs around the area with Princess. He carries a big beaver-chewed stick that he uses like a bat, whacking piles of rocks and dead, grey trees while Princess barks with excitement.
I sit near Mom, eating the berries she places in the basket—too scared to put my hand in the bush and pluck them, imagining fanged snakes will chew my arm to bits.
“Do I need to tell you the story of the Little Red Hen?” Mom notices I’m eating her berries. “These are for pies.”
So I make a fist, plunging it into the bush real fast, hoping to punch the imaginary snake in the fang.
“You do it like this,” Mom says. She reaches into the bush with her right hand, holding some leaves back with her left hand. She gently plucks the berries off one by one, carefully placing them in the basket.
I don’t like moving so slowly, being so gentle. It takes too long to feel like we are making progress.
Dad starts to shell peanuts, still lying in the sun, throwing the shells by the tree line. Colin and I run over to Dad and grab a handful too, pulling the shells off. We sit side by side, waiting with anticipation for Chippy the chipmunk to appear while Mom works steadily in the bush, filling the basket with berries for pie.
Eventually I return to sit by Mom, picking berries and placing some in the basket, but mostly I eat them.
Mom grew up picking blueberries. Grandma would send her out into the bush in the morning with a basket and say, “Don’t come home until it’s full.”
Mom said she often got distracted in the bush too. She spent most of her time in the bush making houses out of moss by peeling up layers of moss off the rock and repositioning them, making floor plans on the granite, then playing ‘house.’ She waited until the last minute before frantically filling her basket with blueberries for Grandma.
I like to think that distraction is a natural part of the process of getting things done.