Stop and Taste the Blueberries

By Lara Keough

Stop and Taste the Blueberries

Before this summer, I had memory of only three times in my life when I felt absolutely at peace. I mean that complete warming of the soul, a calming of every nerve, like the body and the mind are so connected to the moment that you just feel right as rain. Thinking back, I realize that at none of those times had I been free of burdens. In fact, it seemed that the contrary was true – it was always at a time of extraordinary stress that those moments occurred. And this summer was no different. So, I am left wondering, still wondering, what put me there in that place and in that purely tranquil frame of mind at such a time in my life.

The summer began with my son, Shaw, being shipped off to my in-laws in New England, and my husband, Michael, leaving for his new job three hours away. I was left with my textbooks and a home improvement list a mile long. We were putting our house on the market, planning to move away from our family, and we were not sure it would all work out for the best. It felt like a powerful tornado had picked us up and was violently throwing us in different directions and, when it finally stopped, we would be searching through the rubble for each other.

The weeks flew by. School would start in a couple of weeks, and the time had come to bring Shaw home. I had promised him I would drive up to get him and spend a few days letting him show me what he had been doing that summer. Time and money were tight, but disappointing him over this didn’t seem fair after he had been such a trooper about everything. I made the executive decision to drive up and spend a couple of days in Massachusetts where Shaw had spent the majority of the summer. Then, I would take Shaw, and a niece and nephew, to spend a couple of days in New Hampshire with my husband’s mother and stepfather, Grammy and Kracker. I could have devised a much simpler plan. But, I had selfish motives. I knew I needed to clear my head, get away from the house and actually put my face in the sun before the summer was over.

The weather was warm and sunny as I headed to Pleasant Pond in Francestown, New Hampshire, with Shaw, a niece and nephew and layers of snorkeling gear, life jackets and overnight gear. Shaw was beyond excited to be the tour guide on a trip that neither I nor these two cousins had ever made. The sunshine, the sights, the newness of it all was sparking some deep inner happiness in me, like an old friend you haven’t seen in a while and forgot to miss.

Almost there and surrounded by wilderness, Shaw pointed out the hand-painted wooden signs nailed to tall hemlocks, marking the entrances to various “camps.” The term (perhaps synonymous with “arrogantly shabby”) was used by New Englanders to identify their summer/ vacation houses.

“This is it! Turn here!” Shaw shouted. The kids hung out the windows and hooted and cheered all the way down the hill where Grammy and Kracker stood, waving and cheering back.

Their camp was an old school-house that I later learned had been pulled to the waterside 104 years ago by a team of oxen. It stood large and welcoming in the bright sunshine that dappled the most amazing backdrop of water, forest and mountainside. A small dock behind the house held three one-man kayaks. I could not wait to get in one and row, row, row.

Though I live less than a mile from the most perfect place for kayaking, it had been more than a decade since I had been in one. Still, I had this image, an ideal really, of my body navigating the little boat with smooth, effortless precision, dipping and pulling the double-paddled oar through the water like an Olympian.

Boy, oh boy, I do think the sixty pounds I have on the old me helped keep the thing steady as I climbed in. Rather, it grounded the bottom of the boat in the sand until I was settled in and Kracker gave me a good heave-ho, accompanied by a rather emphatic grunt.

Shaw had glided out like a pro and sat cradling his oar above his lap, looking proud of himself and triumphant that his mom hadn’t tipped over. (That would come later.)

“Do you want to row over there?” He pointed to some overhanging bushes behind some large rocks about a quarter of a mile away. “We can sit in our kayaks and eat blueberries right off the bushes,” he urged.

Shaw was looking at me, waiting for an answer, and I saw a little bit of worry, mingled with a pinch of impatience, there in his big brown eyes. I realized then that I was still a little distracted by all the stuff in my head, keeping me from really connecting with my son on this glorious day in this amazing place.

“Absolutely! I’ll race you, big guy.”

We rowed as hard as we could, and I slid my kayak between the rocks just as Shaw pulled a handful of berries off a low limb. He put them in his mouth as fast as he picked them so I did the same. They were the best things I had ever tasted. I turned to say so to Shaw and saw he was watching me and beaming.

“I love you, Momma.”

“Bud, do you know how much I missed you? I love you, big guy.” I said.

He started paddling back out, content and confident. I stayed there for another moment, watching our son and feeling like my whole body, mind and heart had just been healed by the water and the mountains and the air.

About this writer

  • Lara Keough Lara Keough lives in Pawleys Island with her husband, her son and presumed to be half-human golden retriever, Daisy. Her article, “This Old Head of Mine,” can be found in the Spring 2009 edition of Tempo Magazine.

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4 Responses to “Stop and Taste the Blueberries”

  1. Sue Starrett says:

    Lara……love it! You are an amazing writer. Keep it up!! I love it a Pleasant Pond, which is one reason I’m trying to rent the camp next to “Grammy and Kracker”!! You captured the essence of it so well. Maybe I’ll see you there this summer?
    Love you,
    Sue

  2. Sylvie Giard says:

    What a refreshing and touching text. I had a surge of emotions at the end of this text bringing me to tears. Simple but true moments are the only really important things and when we have one, everything in our body lets us know we’re into something good.
    Beautiful again. Thank you for sharing the moment.

  3. Summer says:

    Love it Lara! I’m so proud of you…that’s just what I needed to ready today! Hope to see you soon!

  4. Susie Burnett says:

    Lara, what beautiful article written with such style. I am proud of you! I think of you often and miss you! Hugs from Arizona! Susie

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