I’ve had a torrid love affair with berry picking all of my life. Like any good story of a torrid nature, it starts in my early childhood.
My parents still tell stories dating back to my early 90’s childhood concerning my love for berries. Once my mother demonstrated that these colorful objects could be picked from something leafy and green and placed right in one’s mouth, I was completely engaged – which is saying a lot for a child of single digit years. On family camping trips I would ravenously consume blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strange bitter purple berries, awful red berries, gritty grey berries…and the list goes on. In fact my love for berry picking was so intense that I developed no discerning eye for a particular berry, shoving in whatever I could scavenge at such a rate that I would come close to consuming twigs and leaves along with my valued berry prize.
At some point in my berry history, I’m guessing around my moody years of adolescence, my love of picking able to pick something right out of nature and consume it faded. Berry picking was no longer a loved pastime associated with family vacations and gluttony. Instead all it meant to me was baking in the 108-degree sun in a dusty field for the equivalent of a palm full of pulpy, stain creating juice. Remind you however, I was young and moody, so I found most things as enthralling as I found pulp and berry stains.
Berry picking in this region however seems to be a big part of life in the summertime. For the past three weeks I’ve heard of folks going out to pick blueberries and salmon berries (a berry I was ignorant of until recent) and then heard tales of their uses from jam, to scones, to pancakes. While delicious creations such as those do entice me, I must admit that when I was asked to go berry picking on the tundra the other day, I felt the urge to channel my inner berry disdaining adolescent.
I’m happy to tell you that this story has a happy ending. As simple as it may seem, blueberry picking with members of the KNOM staff and fellow volunteers has been the most Alaskan experience I’ve had in my short tenure here. Everything about the hour and a half spent kneeled down amongst the miniature sized jungle that is tundra vegetation was immensely zen and soul-easing. The rolling hills, the sound of wind making its way across the tundra, and the occasional call of a raven or seagull paired with the company of new friends made for a wonderful time. To put it gently, the berry lover in my got his groove back.
It is the small wonders in life that truly add flavor…and Nome is a city ripe with small wonders. Small wonders and sweet, sweet berries.