I love huckleberry picking! I enjoy being surrounded by sunshine, the breeze off the mountain, and watching God’s creation move in harmony. And the smell! The aroma of ripe hucks permeates the breeze and makes my soul jump with joy. At the day’s end, I walk out with purple teeth, lips, fingers and arms, and purple splotches on my clothes and face. The color takes a couple days to fade off my skin, so I have that lovely memory with me, and if people see my fingers we exchange stories of the day. How much did we pick? Is it a good year? Was there enough rain? See any bears???
Climbing out of the car, strapping on the “tools of the trade” – my bucket, water bottle, side-arm (we DO sometimes see bears!) and small lunch pack along with a few carefully folded squares of TP, are moments spent in preparation for the walk of victory…coming down the hill with a bucket heavy laden with the cool, flavor packed, violet bubbles of joy.
In my home state of Montana, during this short season, hucks can be sold for $50 per gallon. I NEVER sell my berries. EVER. Here, giving huckleberries is a sign of loving affection. It takes preparation, stamina, and a lot of work to bring them out of the woods. Also – a lot of walking. Uphill, into the patch, standing on your feet for hours, bending over, and picking the luscious little nuggets. They are worth every scratch, knick, bruise you get. Worth getting up early on your day off. Worth the gas, the cooler of food and drinks. Worth the chance bear encounter, and multiple mosquito bites. Worth the way you smell when you leave the woods after a day of hiking, climbing and sweating!
Years ago I was out hiking in a berry patch and stepped on some bear grass, which was draped over a very large hole. The damage to my foot and ankle endured for years, finally requiring surgery. By that time, it had gone from a constant dull ache to debilitating pain; my life was narrowed to work and home to sit out the evening. Walking for pleasure no longer existed. Hiking was out of the question. Picking berries was unendurable. Until that time, I had taken walking for granted. After surgery, I was not allowed to put my foot down for several weeks, then I used a scooter, then, I had to learn how to set my foot down on the floor (very painful at first), then to scoot along, then walk. Eight months later I am doing well, but I still have a little ways to go. It’s late July – huckleberry season. My doctor encouraged goals – going huck picking was 1 of my big ones.
It won’t be easy, and I will be in pain from the effort, but I am going to be happy – ecstatic! I will have a bucket of berries! I will not take for granted the beauty, the bucket, or the berries God gives me. Not the work, or the vehicle I drive into the woods, the cooler of food, or the breeze, the sunshine, or the aroma of berries wafting through the forest. I won’t take my walk for granted anymore.
What are you taking for granted?