Blueberries Bring an Abundance of Happiness

July 17, 2015    BY Claudia Cummins

I’m standing in the middle of a blueberry patch, the long arms of the bushes reaching out to me, practically begging me to relieve them of their berries. The sun is hot and the air is cool. My sons charge ahead of me, picking and eating and musing about the best way to nudge a blueberry off its stem.

I’m standing in the middle of a blueberry patch, the long arms of the bushes reaching out to me, practically begging me to relieve them of their berries.

I stop picking, look up at the clear blue sky, and sigh. I catch myself smiling. I realize that I am happy, right here and right now—in this moment.

I want to hold on to this moment, but I know it’s impossible. This lightness and ease shines so brightly and yet it feels so shy, so ephemeral. I remind myself to simply enjoy this moment and to savor it fully.

I continue massaging the branches and enjoying the plunk-plunk-plunk as the berries fall like raindrops into my bucket, and I try to remember what those wise old Buddhists have to teach us about joy. Their wisdom has never failed me in times of difficulty; it has always offered me comfort and hope. But what do they tell me about happiness? Enjoy it but don’t cling, I suppose. Be present for it. Don’t overpersonalize it, and remember that this feeling, too, will pass.

I move on to the next abundant blueberry bush. The words of the poet Naomi Shihab Nye bubble up from the depths of my body. “It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness,” she writes in one of my favorite poems. “With sadness there is something to rub against, / a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.”

I pause as I struggle to recall the rest of the poem, where surely she has something to teach me. I recall her words “happiness floats” with a smile, since that is exactly how I feel right now. “It doesn’t need you to hold it down. / It doesn’t need anything.” Yes, she’s right. I understand.

All this happiness wafts through me like fresh air, and for a few moments I almost feel like we’re all floating, carried in a little bubble of happiness that slips into the sky like a helium balloon set free. I realize that we’ve been picking blueberries for an entire hour and not a single sour word has reached my ears. Everyone around me, in fact, seems bitten by the happiness bug. My sons have been chattering and plotting and discussing and (sometimes) picking, but miraculously they haven’t bickered once. The families around me have been kind and generous to one another, as sweet and as smooth as the blueberries we pick.

All this happiness wafts through me like fresh air, and for a few moments I almost feel like we’re all floating.

Perhaps it’s the weather or the blueberries themselves. Or could it be the incredible sense of abundance we all feel right now? Blueberry-laden bushes extend in all directions, so there’s plenty for all—and no need for anyone to feel territorial or threatened or greedy. I wonder what the world would feel like if we all lived with our hands held open like this, in total faith of the world’s abundant generosity.

“Happiness floats” indeed. I savor. I enjoy. I ask the boys if they’re happy, too, and they are; they say they could stay here and pick all day. “If you’re happy and you know it,” I call out. And they respond in our family’s typical refrain: “Then know it!”

Finally, we can carry (and eat) no more, so we head back to the cashier to pay for our bounty. A woman is just heading out into the blueberry patch, with a baby on her chest and four smaller ones clucking about her like noisy chicks. Even she is smiling, I notice. It’s just that kind of day.

We return home. The boys carry in the berries while I dash upstairs in search of Nye’s poem. When I find it (it’s called “So Much Happiness”) I devour it hungrily and happily. “Since there is no place large enough / to contain so much happiness,” she writes, “you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you / into everything you touch….”

I float back downstairs and pull out all the plastic give-away bowls that I can find. I rinse our berries in cool water, and I ask the boys to consider who might need a little happiness today, who might like an offering of fresh berries. We begin naming names, and sending out wishes for happiness, as we spoon shiny purple berries into bowl after beautiful bowl. Because, of course, when you find yourself surrounded by a bumper crop of blueberries—or perhaps with an abundance of happiness—the proper thing to do is to share it, to spread it, to give it all away.

Claudia Cummins
Claudia Cummins lives, writes, and teaches yoga in Mansfield, OH.

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