Strawberry meditation

Some years ago, I was privileged to participate in a strawberry communion. It was in a church community, a small, very liberal one. The minister and his family had picked strawberries the day before, and on Sunday morning, everyone present was asked to take one and hold it. Everyone ate their strawberries together. This was a powerful experience for me, many years before I had any knowledge of mindful practices or had even heard the phrase, “being present.” Even without those contemporary tags, here was this strawberry communion.

So today, when I tackled the job of getting our annual strawberry supply, I thought to try to make the work my practice for the day. It wasn’t quite as simple as sitting on a cushion or doing bioenergetic exercises! However, I want to really be where I am, so I persisted in bringing my attention back, over and over, to what I was actually experiencing.

I could tune in to the sensory aspects of the work, feeling my knees or seat on the ground, noticing the berries in my hand, the various degrees of effort to twist and tug the berry from the stem, the texture of the berry in my hand. I noticed how coyly some berries hide themselves away, tucked under a leaf or two, requiring my full attention to locate them. And then I had a thought about the nature of these berries, gorgeous deep red, contrasting with the green leaves, provocative and eye-catching. This is no accident. These berries are red because we can see them, can distinguish them from the leaves (well, most of us can. People with red-green colour-blindness would be exceptions), and can pick them, eat them, and conveniently NOT digest their seeds. We are a seed-dispersal system for strawberries. We are being manipulated by the luscious aroma, the rich colour, the melting softness, into eating these berries. It is a pretty near perfect system. And yet the strawberry gardener or farmer thinks that he or she is in control…that the plants are grown to make berries for me to pick, and to pay the farmer for those berries. True, of course, but not the whole picture. Then, because I was practicing, I noticed that I was thinking (“thinking”) and brought attention back to what was right in front of me. Ah, yes, berries. And children and parents, birds singing, a light breeze (my mind goes to gratitude for that softening of the heat)…and oops, back to paying attention!

I also held awareness, while picking, that I was holding onto summer for winter. At our house, we pick berries to freeze, to be turned into jam at a particular cold winter time. That taste of summer in winter means a lot, and knowing that I picked and processed the berries and my dear partner made the jam, and that this is a pattern of our lives together brought me a sense of continuity and wholeness, independent of any discomfort of berry picking. I could feel some sort of sensation in my midsection as I became aware of those thoughts. There was a fullness…or maybe I had been eating too many strawberries.
When I got home, I had berries to process for the freezer. Lots of berries! I scooped up handsful to rinse in the sink. Even an hour after coming home, the berries in the tray retained their warmth. I felt the warm berries on my hands, knowing that the sun had warmed them, as it had warmed me. I stopped for a moment to be aware of that warmth, to take it into my body through my hands. Now those berries, sun-warmed and sun-ripened, are stashed away against the days getting colder (as they will) and the nights growing long (as they will).
What I have, though, besides berries, is the body memory of picking in the warm sun, feeling the stems and fruit and the occasional squishy one, the smells of soil and overripe berries, and the inner peacefulness of being part of a greater whole. And while my mind is a busy place, monkeying around everywhere, the moments I come back to the present are the ones where I feel most fully alive.

4 thoughts on “Strawberry meditation”

  1. Leslie, this post made me think about my very first summer job…strawberry picking! I remember getting up very very early to be in the field at 6 am (yes 6 am!!!). We were working from 6 am to noon, so we would not have to work in too warm weather. I was doing that 5 days a week. I remember the fresh breeze there was just before the sunrise on certain days. The fields were still a bit wet from being watered. It wet my jeans for a while, but the sun always dried them up. Of course, as it was a job, i was not allowed to eat the strawberries…but i did manage to stuff one or two in my mouth when the boss wasn’t looking! There was no time neither to feel them in my hands like you did. As soon as they were picked, they were put in baskets to be sold. I developped a quick eye to find the hidden ones. I also remember what it was like to pick strawberries under the rain. That wasn’t very fun….I was coming back home soaking wet. For a long time, i had a hard time to see and to eat strawberries. Maybe because i saw thousands and thousands of them everyday. But today, i still enjoy once in a while a cup or two, with a bit of sugar, depending of what type of strawberry it is (some are already sweet enough!).

    I never heard of a “strawberry communion” before. It must have been quite an experience!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Roxanne. Of course picking berries for pay would be a whole different experience! I can imagine that they became less appealing when you had your hands on them six hours a day, five days a week. Picking in the rain would take some stamina, I think…good for you. And good, too that you managed to eat a few.

  2. Your experience….with the strawberries, sounds like something ever so eloquent, out of a romance novel! Love it… Love how this experience “vibrates” from the very fiber of your soul… I almost lost my breath!

    1. Thanks, Sweet Caroline, for those lovely comments. I am trying to bring an attitude of mindful contemplation to all kinds of work in my daily life. Much of the time I am lost somewhere in my thinking, though!!

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