Late afternoon Sunday pale gold sunlight freshened the air and meadow where we were searching for juniper berries, apparently most of them scavenged by deer. No berries in sight—frown, frown. But those silent, Christmas tree-looking, fluffy, green trees, they kind of cheered me.
Suddenly Kent spied treasure. Grocery bags in hand, we plundered one tall tree, reaching low for loads of berries. Then as we reached for higher stretches, bending the branches down, Natalia said, “Let’s make it a competition, who can get the most!”
Laughing, we grabbed and fumbled berries, trying to outdo each other. Natalia shouted, “I love doing this!” Me too. I knew that I would once I got there.
But before then, you have to know there were some disgruntled harvesters, two-thirds of a three person family. One-third of us declared, “I don’t want to go! I’m still sore from thorn cuts yesterday, and my arms ache!” Another one-third of us muttered, “We went yesterday. It’s Christmas season, right? So we’ve got lots of stuff to do! Can’t we just skip it?”
The third third of us kept his peace and relentlessly got ready to go.
Well, I did want to get the berries to make the oil and bless some people with it as gifts as well as use it ourselves. And I had been longing for us to do more family projects together, things that matter to all of us, and just enjoy each other’s companionship more. At home we often scatter 3 different directions and emerge for a meal and then return to our own things.
Ok, so I wanted to go. Just not Sunday. But the steel velvet will of one-third of us prevailed. We got out the door, into the car, on to the land.
Then the magic of the place itself took over. Leaning into the amazing hush over the land, rejoicing in the sunlight after several gray days, walking through tall, rustling yellow grasses that looked like long manes of hair, smelling woodsy fragrances…it all soothed my heart, so disconnected from the nature experiences I had often known as a child.
My family had owned land on the Brazos River, where my brothers and I did experience wonder, listening to wind rushing in the treetops, watching sunlight gleam on the river, wandering without destination, unfettered from school worries, home chores, and the ever present TV.
Research indicates that children of today are not well acquainted with the marvels of the outdoor world. Of course it’s true for adults too, who may spend the whole day indoors except for getting in and out of cars and buildings. It’s called “nature deficit disorder.” (Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods)
But we can change this. We can all venture forth, even if only into the backyard or a nearby park. Let the children lead the way. They’ll soon find a wiggly bug under a rock, a bright leaf, an old locust shell, a trail of hustling ants. A child lit up telling you about a leaf boat race after it rains—better than a video game triumph.
Last week we saw straggly lines of geese flying in lazy V’s on their annual migration vacation—thrilling! Present day pioneer-experiments like hunting for jubies—fun, free, and life-giving!
A day that makes you smile when you hit the pillow that night.