Nothing is quite like the first bite of a strawberry
Not from the fresh produce section at the supermarket
Because they were picked some time ago and Fresh
is gently plucked in the field, getting down on hands and knees and struggling
back up to walk the row for more. Then eating them for breakfast.
Once we had a pick-your-own strawberry farm.
We tended the fields from early spring until November.
In spring late frosts would sneak in from the North, and nights were spent irrigating the fields to save the crop. Days we battled weeds and blight,
and armies of gypsy moths that marched along the irrigation pipes and munched
on tender leaves and flowers.
Supervising groups of teenagers desperate enough
to try farm work to earn a dollar, we learned the truth of the old farmer’s mantra:
“One boy is a boy, two boys is half a boy, and three boys ain’t no boy at all.”
When people came at harvest time they saw the long, straight beds
raised up to house the roots in soil deep enough to nurture abundant growth, and rocks mysteriously gone, even though this is New England and rocks grow
over the winter to snare the spring time plow.
And after the harvest, we tended the fields until November, when finally we could put the fields to bed, covering the precious plants with mulch to see them safely
through the winter. Sometimes, depending on the weather,
we had to miss Thanksgiving dinner to beat the cold.
Only during the actual harvest time did I sit sometimes and rest.
The old timers came and picked without complaint,
blessing us with stories of their youth, when they picked a quart to earn a nickel.
The younger ones came, and city folk, too,
Who sometimes complained about the heat, the bugs, and the cost of berries.
One time as I was weighing a woman’s tray of berries, she said to me:
“Running a pick-your-own farm seems like a good idea. All you have to do is sit there and collect the money, while we do all the work.”
I’m pretty sure she was in the city folk category, so I gave her a pass and didn’t reply. Or bury her way in the back of the field, which is what my sun-burned, mosquito-bitten, blistered and exhausted brain told me to do!
It occurs to me, though, that most of us humans make this mistake too often. We get a very small glimpse into someone’s life and make very big assumptions about what it is like for them every day of every month of every year.