I Got the Blues


Every year, I swear that I’ll spend the entire month of August picking blueberries, but every year, of course, life intervenes.

I make time for a short drive or hike to a favorite spot and pick with both hands—my friends are impressed with my speed. Still, as soon as I find a good rhythm, I have to pack up and leave because the sun sets or the rain cuts loose or someone with me has to be somewhere. Then I vow that I’ll return the next day (by myself) so I can pick for as many uninterrupted hours as I want. But things come up…

By the end of the season, I’ve got a gallon or two squirreled away in the freezer and a longing for next summer, when I’ll venture forth to check for blueberry blossoms in June or July and worry that there’s not been enough rain or too much sun, and I’ll add possible picking dates to my calendar and start monitoring online chatter about where and when people are seeing blues. I’ll study people’s purposefully cryptic photos, looking for clues that point to locations. We berry pickers guard our favorite patches like anglers do a fishing hole!

This year, Alaska’s wild fruit—blueberries, salmonberries, currants, cloudberries, watermelon berries, crowberries—took many by surprise, ripening early and in abundance. I’ve shared my intel with a few who’ve asked, since there are plenty for all. Soon, the blueberries will soon be past their prime, and I’ll turn my search to lowbush cranberries. But other berries just are not the same.

I’ll eat my harvest in pancakes and muffins, pies and smoothies, quick breads and chutneys, and I’ll relish each unique flavor on its own terms. But when I scoop that last knife-full of sweet, wild, indigo jam from the canning jar sometime in March, I’ll be singing the blues until fall.