MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Monday, August 31st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s berry-picking season. WORLD commentator Kim Henderson knows all about that.
KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: Blackberry picking at our place was exceptionally good this year, and I now know the secret to it: Have your land logged and let the remains go for a summer or two. The result will be vines galore.
Lest anyone doubt how prolific is my blackberry patch, allow me: one afternoon I simply stood at the edge of a field in shorts and flip flops and filled half a bucket. That, as any berry picker of any consequence knows, is not the norm. The norm is fully-cloaked and shod in your husband’s best snake-stomping boots, inching your way toward the center in hopes of gathering a handful.
This year our vines were dotted with magenta-colored fruit at eye-level, ground-level and every other level as far as the eye could see. That’s why I picked with determination, the kind that results in jam jars and a good many Christmas gifts for the men in my family (who are generally hard to buy for).
Blackberry picking, however, is not easy. It is the “thorns and thistles” work of Genesis 3. Wild blackberries ripen on briars, in case you blueberry pickers don’t know. And, yes, I have heard of the thornless varieties of blackberry plants, though I cannot imagine the pluck without the plight. Surely some things are best left alone.
There is, after all, a certain nostalgia associated with berry picking. It is similar in nature to hanging a load of laundry on a backyard clothesline or churning ice cream by hand. To do such things these days is a defiant decision to remain on an old path, but the joys of berry picking go beyond nostalgia. Experts tell us that picking can help you turn off your brain in a very good way.
It seems that there’s a network of neurons located in our brains (the Reticular Activating System, or RAS) that’s responsible for detecting environmental stimuli and then reporting findings back to the brain. The RAS is always scanning for patterns, and when it detects a repetitive one like “reach, pick, drop; reach, pick, drop” the RAS calms the brain and allows it to veg out.
Now you know why an activity like berry picking can be relaxing.
But I don’t tell my compadres that. I tell them to put more berries into their baskets than into their bellies (as they try to lick away the evidence). And to pass on past-prime ones. And about my only sure-fire redbug defense. I’m not sure my son-in-law understands the seriousness of the issue.
Then I tell them that I’ll make a cobbler when we’re done, if they’d like.
Yeah, they’d like.
And after an hour of turning our backs on the world and gathering in what God has given, we come to the table hot, dirty, and hungry. Briars have left their mark on some, and only time will tell how we fared against the redbugs. But as we enjoy the fruit of our labors—cobbler a la mode—life is sweet. Berry sweet indeed.
I’m Kim Henderson.