Stopping to See the Berries

As much as I like to claim a love for change, I’m a creature of habit. The change of seasons makes me giddy. A friend once pointed out that those aren’t really changes because they happen every year. Consistently.

Since 2010, I’ve done Pilates once or twice a week. Stretching my wings keeps the on-going shrinking effect of radiation from affecting my range of motion on the left side. At the end of class, we do a “mermaid” which is an arm-overhead side stretch while seated on the floor. Then we add “thread-the-needle” taking that arm from overhead and weaving it through the hole under the other armThat's firmly planted in place with a hand on the floor. Then, the finale and my favorite: we bring the arm back overhead and then twist back and reach in the opposite direction of thread the needle. It’s my quiet way of cursing cancer, sticking out my tongue while proving I have full range of motion on the left side. Actually, there’s no cursing, only thankfulness for that movement that I can so easily do.

There are sixteen to twenty people in each Pilates class, and quite a few of us are regulars who have been with our instructor for a long time. Pilates is about strengthening the core, moving small muscles, and stretching the body. Small, mindful moves with a bit of fierceness unseen to casual observers. You need to be on the mat to see and feel the intensity of the sport. Hmmm. It’s not a sport per se… but that’s what fell out of my fingers, so I’ll leave it at that.

Last Monday, I left the class standing upright and smiling. People waiting for the class after ours often comment about how happy people look as they walk out of our Pilates class. I left the building with a friend, and we walked to the intersection where we always end our five minute in-transit chats. From there, I turned and headed down the sidewalk toward where my van was parked on the street.

It was a wet day. Rain from earlier puddled on the sidewalk. Sticks were on the sidewalk. Mud was on the edges of the sidewalk. These visual observations were in my peripheral thoughts. Commanding my attention were wandering thoughts – cranking back up was the what-next-in-the-day pattern. My head was down and my shoulders were beginning to lean forward with it. I caught myself. “For crying out loud, stand up straight, and look up!”

When my self-talk starts with “For crying out loud…” I listen. I elongated from the waist up, looked to the left, and saw light red berries right at eye level.

I grabbed my phone and took a photo, thinking how nice it would be if they were a more brilliant red. I looked closer, pulled my glasses down, and saw they had raindrops hanging from them.

Like a dog onto a scent and needing to take a million sniffs, I leaned into the bush, making sure not to touch it. “Holy cow, that’s amazing!”

“Yeah, there’s dew on them! Cool!” said a man passing by.

Each berry looked like it had been glazed by hand in a thick, glossy syrup.

And with an even tighter look, the bottom of the berry melted into the drop of water. The clinging water was nearly as large as the berry. Looking through the drop, the green leaves showed through crystals.

In a bit of euphoria over this tiny, magnificent discovery, I didn’t want to break my gaze. Surely, I was seeing a moment that wasn’t easily repeatable. And one that would be gone with a strong gust of wind or a bump from a passing shoulder. Six inches from my face, this was as close to “now” as I could ever imagine. Right now.

I didn’t stand there for an hour or even ten minutes. The moment from seeing the branch of berries to the discovery of green crystals shining through a drop of water on the bottom of two berries was tight. The linger over the discovery of the latter was longer. And I was thoroughly there. Right there.

Like a bee that’s collected as much pollen as possible in it baskets on its hind legs, I only moved away when I was full. Fully consumed in “now.”

And, it hadn’t taken hours from my day. Just a few minutes.