What do Huckleberries Mean to You?

by Jul 31, 2019Wild Cooking

It’s huckleberry season, and the woods are filled with hopeful eyes and various buckets that are being toted around.  The smell of huckleberry pies flow in the imagination, and the thoughts of a freezer-filled stash that will give summer treats in the winter months is a goal of most who are on the hunt.  However, for me, there is another reason for gathering huckleberries, and that is the peace that being in the woods at this time of year brings me.

My personal story for this peace really comes from a situation that arose in my daily life that left me feeling regretful and heart-heavy.  During this time, my husband, Mark, suggested that we go to the mountains and pick huckleberries, a task that I had always enjoyed from a practical, food-gathering point of view. 

On this occasion, the huckleberries were so abundant that, for as far as I could see, the bushes were absurdly covered with rich, fat berries.  I didn’t have to search for them or walk far to pick them, and this allowed my mind to focus on gratitude.  I completely zoned into this gratitude and with each berry, gratitude began to enter my heart and soul.  The gratitude of the abundance of the berries, of the beauty of the mountains as I looked up, the gorgeous weather, the quiet sounds of nature, …essentially the peace of it all. 

This meditative gratitude also helped me to discover the wonder of nature in a way that I hadn’t experienced before.  The wonder which included how these tiny bushes could produce such succulent and sought-after fruit in such abundance, how they could survive the harshness of the winter and the elements of the other seasons, how the fruit could support such a diversity of wildlife from macro to micro (and of course, I had my bear spray readily available for the macro!), how the colours of the leaves varied in such beautiful schemes that it looked like a kaleidoscope of reds, rusts and golds in a field of sunbeams.  

The peace and beauty that surrounded me began to lift my soul and heart, and as I picked more berries, I found the release of my burdens wash down the mountain slope.

In the abundance of these bushes, I also found the hilarity of how much dogs love huckleberries.  We had our three labs, Razzie, Coco and Bob, with us and they dove right into the smorgasbord that surrounded them.  I couldn’t help but laugh at their behaviour and marvel at how efficient they were at filling their bellies!!  Sometimes I would start picking berries only to find that a slobbery dog had happened on that particular bush only moments before my arrival.  I imagined how easily a bear could fill its tummy on a patch like the one we were in.  …and you know when you see those big piles of huckleberry bear poop on the road??  Yup, the dogs produce the same thing (only in my yard!!). 

It was a couple of years later that I learned that there was something called Karma yoga:  finding peace and pleasure in the meditation of doing work.  And I know that I had discovered this on my own that day in the huckleberry patch when my soul was low. 

It’s important to stay connected to nature, whether it be a walk in a park among the trees, listening out a window at birds singing or being blessed to retreat to a place where mountains surround.  Nature is a part of us, it soothes us, and it makes us whole again. 

It was through my huckleberry experience that I realized why my husband loved his time hunting.  It’s not about the find or the freezer; it’s about the being-within, and the peace that that being-within brings.  It was a life-altering experience that day in the patch, and I’ve never been able to go huckleberry picking again without feeling that same release of the burdens of life – even if it’s just for a few hours. 

For some, it’s hunting.  For some, it’s fishing.  For some, it’s camping.  For me, it’s huckleberries. 

That’s my place.  That’s my peace.  What’s your “huckleberry?” 

 

Cover Photo © Erin Aasland Hall

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