A Promise made in Spring

May 30th, 2014, 11am

I knew these two things about my mother. Two gifts always turned her head and captured her full attention.

She loved to get a gift of smoked fish. When traveling in Northeastern Minnesota along the North Shore of Lake Superior, I always stopped at a shop that smoked the catch of local commercial fisherman: Lake Trout, Herring or White Fish. She would pull the grease stained parcel from the bag with delight in her eyes. (My father’s gift was a happy wife!)

What really pleased her, however, was my announcement that I found a patch of ripening wild blueberries somewhere in northeastern Minnesota or Northwestern Wisconsin. She called my father to the table, discussed when we would ‘go picking’, who of her friends might be invited, where they had stored the picking pails and when we would purchase the makings of our lunch in the woods.

We calculated the departure time so we would be in the woods about 9:00 or 10:00 am after the dew had dried. We picked until 3:00 or 4:00 when our backs ached from stooping, our fingers blue and sticky, our skin itching with the welts of bites in buggy years.

The Tantalus of the Northwoods, some years wonderful blueberry crops grew other summers, none. Some years I found the patches, other years they eluded me. Some years I returned home with a only a few cups full; other years we had gallons.

So I go looking for blueberries in the spring at the time they blossom. Blossoms, however may be killed by a late frost. The growing berries may be shriveled by lack of rain or too much heat.

Maybe the promise of abundant blossoms would be fulfilled; maybe not. Often not.

Maybe I could bring news of berries to my mother or not. I could always bring fish.

My mother loved picking blueberries.

We spread her ashes in a wild blueberry patch.

I still hunt for a good patch each summer and bring news of wonderful find, now to other folks. However, I don’t feel the same deep satisfaction nor see quite the same delight in their eyes when I announce the news.

Sanna and David Wade said thanks.

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Ken Jackson

An avid outdoors man. Retired and retiring, living on the shore of Lake Superior

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