Berry Picking

By Joyce Maynard, "Berry Picking," July/August 2011

Author Joyce Maynard's essay on picking berries with her daughter.

The years have mellowed us both. Audrey at 32 readier to appreciate me, for all my failings now and in the past. I, at 56, able at last to simply take in the moment—mountain, sky, birds, berries, daughter—without needing anything more. We picked in silence for most of our time on the mountain, though I felt her presence as powerfully as the sun on my skin.

The other day—separated again by the distance between my coast and hers—I called her, as I often do now, for no reason but to hear her voice. She was fixing oatmeal with her boyfriend. “I was just thinking about you,” she said. “We still have a few packs of blueberries left in the freezer. The bag Tod just took out had a date on it from last August. We label them, so we can remember the days.”

I pictured her standing at the counter in her little cabin. Stirring in the fruit with a wooden spoon, pouring on the syrup she’d made by tapping the maples on her father’s farm.

They may be smaller, but the wild berries are definitely the most flavorful. All you need is a handful, to sweeten whatever’s in the bowl.

Joyce Maynard’s most recent book is a novel, The Good Daughters, coming out in paperback in July. She lives in Mill Valley, California.

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