Serene Karplus, Nederland. I gently pulled the blackberry apart. Marveling at each tiny juice balloon surrounding each seed, each prospective blackberry plant, I set just a few on my tongue, rolled each around to enjoy their texture, and slowly squished out the deep purple nectar. Like miniature grapes, each ball had its own skin, its own mission in life, clustered together into what was their safe community, their own little microcosm, now a single berry on my plate.
Taking the time to be amazed at the wonder of each creation, including and especially what we consume, is part of grace and gratitude. Just as a Native American thanked the spirit of the animal that gave its life to feed a tribe, we can thank all of Nature’s magic for the thousands of flavors that please our tongues, our eyes, our bellies, and the many roots and herbs that can heal us.
The colorful veins of a chard leaf, the stripes in an apple skin, the hairlike roots we strip off the carrot – all are minute details of our universe that we do not wish to take for granted. As a mountain dweller in a challenging agricultural climate, the sheer abundance of foods flown in fresh from around the world is mindboggling.
A friend reminds me that in the 1960’s, his father treasured an exotic pineapple flown in from Hawaii that made a rare appearance in the world of a Missouri farmer. We read stories of European children in days gone by seeking a single orange imported from Seville as a special sweet treat in a holiday stocking.
It is not only Nature’s bounty we appreciate. We can also stop and think about all of the people who made decisions to invest their life energy into making this happen for my luxury. I know some people might harrumph that the whole world is run by megacorporations and that the following is fiction. But corporations are, indeed, a collection or body of people. Maybe the corporation writes paychecks, but think about all of the following individuals who made life decisions with their precious energy and time to be a part of this chain. [Please pardon the use of “he” to save print space in the following story – we intend gender neutrality…]
Someone took a financial risk to invest in the land on which my berry was grown. He reviewed research written by someone else about experiments done by yet another regarding the various characteristics of individual varieties, both natural and cultivated by yet others to breed the most delicious and hardy berries. He ordered the seed, delivered to him by others, and nurtured tiny plants in a greenhouse system designed by someone else. His fertilizer was delivered from another farmer.
Years later, the mature brambles produced fruit and individuals showed up to harvest it. Someone hauled it from the field to the packing line, where someone placed it into tiny containers designed and built by people at multiple other companies. They set it in a truck driven by someone to the shipping congregator. A chain of office personnel organized its journey to its destination – grocery stores ordered it from wholesalers who ordered it from shippers, who filed import/export documents to authorize its passage. A person loaded the palettes into an airplane. Pilots flew the plane to a centralized shipper in another country, where a person unloaded the freight and coordinated its re-direction to my state. Someone else flew it or trucked it here. Someone transferred it again to a truck that reached my local store, from which someone had negotiated pricing, another person designed a weekly advertisement, someone else printed the ad, and another delivered the ad to my mailbox. Someone at the store unloaded the truck and stored it in the cooler. Another person brought it to the produce display area and set out a sign someone else had made.
I bought the berries on sale for 98 cents.
I bear endless gratitude for the many dozens of people who gave up so much of their life energy for this tiny financial transaction and my tremendous luxury.
Thank you to all the people throughout the world who make our lives in this little corner of the planet so rich, abundant, and wonderful.