Matriarchs

I know there's been a blue jay blueberrying  in my heirlooms this morning--yes, I know this isn't a verb but language evolves.  I head out the back door, to harvest enough for my coveted blueberry pie, a recipe from my mother-in-law that I found delicately stenciled in the back of her ragged Pope cookbook.  My rescues Eddie and Hammer chase the jay out of the bushes and up into the gum tree, where several crows cast watchful eyes for a chance to blueberry too.  

The cocky bird chatters away at us, but the much more fragile butterfly is tenacious and ignores us while gathering blueberry nectar.  I guess this  butterfly is clearly living in the present moment, the now.

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I hope these heirloom blueberry blushes keep living. They're about 60 years old, well past their typical life cycle, per the blueberry bush experts. The berries do more than compliment oatmeal and yogurt, provide a handy snack food on the way to long walk to the mailbox, and battle free radicals in my aging cells. The bushes are more than a seasonal fruitful attraction that hibernates their thin, grey arms during winter and then green in the spring and call beasts and fowl in the sweltering southern summer.

I have been friends with these blueberry bushes for more than 40 years, bonding with them under my grandmother's green thumb tutelage. As I child, I believed she had a stronger fondness for plants than she did people. Her nursery skills were certainly more loving to her array of plants, her vegetable and flower gardens, and to her pecan, walnut, apple and peach trees that fed us year round. Maybe this kind of love is better than the grandmother who might have taken us to Dollywood, to the local public swimming pool, to the magical Belk department store.

After my grandmother died, her 60 acres were parceled out, and some sold to a development company. Before her estate's land sale was finalized, my husband and I dug up her blueberry bushes, making sure to capture a huge root ball for their trip to my backyard, where they now have thrived for some twenty years.  I am glad I harvested them before they were forgotten behind the "No Trespassing" sign at her old drive way entrance, where a thick wall of struggling pine saplings, saw briars, and grasses make it seem as if her home place never existed, that life was never lived there. 

Now, the blueberry bushes are mine, under my stewardship now. But there's more value than just the berries--they're a talisman, an energy source to never lose my inheritance: my grandmother's dogged, persistent "presence," her passion for the earth, the dirt, of green living things, and her resilience to cycle on.

And, once again,  grandchildren--my grandchildren this time, her great grandchildren--will stumble and toddle to their lower branches. Their small, inquisitive hands will pick blueberries and eat them well before their pails return to the kitchen.