Aint No Berry Like an Oregon Berry
For $6.99 I can hit the big box store and get three pounds of oversized strawberries. Shiny and red on the outside, their deception lies in the first bite when the red skin gives way to a white flesh and the profound taste of nothingness. The local grocery story will pile pints of strawberries next to strawberry flavored gel and air puffed shortcakes with yellow signs declaring 2/$4 and buy one get one free. Even in the company of promising condiments, these strawberries offer the tough texture and watery flavor that could only be grown in California (or Mexico on a good day). Sure they look good on a platter or dipped in chocolate, but they lack the juicy sweetness of a good Oregon strawberry.
For two weeks in June, when the sun comes out for the first time since the previous September, the strawberry fields of Oregon teem with red jewels. Every year I drag my kids to the nearest farm promising a fun family outing. Really, they are just cheap labor; two hours of serious picking in exchange for (what else) a bowl full of strawberries.
This year the thermostat hit 85 degrees as my family pulled into Green Gable Farms. I acted as task master (and photographer) as my family toiled in the blazing sun. My husband bent over from his back. I tried to correct his form encouraging him to squat from his legs and keep his knees over his ankles. He didn’t listen, but the swelling went down after a couple of days. My son taste tested his way through the field. But I am pretty sure that eating pesticide free strawberries rolling around in naturally (as in poo) fertilized dirt will only build his immune system. And about an hour into picking my daughter asked for a bathroom break. I pointed to a patch of trees. My husband took her to the farmhouse to use the lady’s room.
In the end, we picked 36 pounds of berries. They were dark and juicy — red to the core. It was a beautiful sight. Until I got home. The thing about these sweet treasures is that they are small and they are so ripe that within 24 hours they will start to spoil. I refused to ruin them by coating them in sugar or boiling them down. Instead, I hulled and individually froze every one, seeking to capture their goodness.
As my fingers handled the fruit, trying to preserve each one as though it were gold, I thought about the fruit God says ought to be present in my life. My Christian faith should bring forth character: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As the strawberries, those characters are often the sweetest when they are found in the small things. Those little moments when I have the opportunity to show love, share joy, grant kindness. Moments that come and go quickly, and must be seized lest they are spoiled.
There is a woman in my life, who knows me only as her aerobics instructor. She has no obligation to me, no direct tie. Yet, she sees me every day, and often sees my need before I even do. One day I had three classes back to back and forgot my breakfast. I told no one, but she sensed I looked tired and left to get me a pastry. Two weeks ago I struggled with rotten circumstances and she made me a backpack with the phrase “don’t worry, it’s not over” across the back (I am notorious for saying that in class). Her deeds are small, but are sweet blessings in my life that make a big difference.
She has the kind of fruit that God wants to produce in each of us. The fruit that takes every opportunity to bring the flavor of goodness and peace into the lives around us.