"Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup."
— Wendell Berry
While reading this simple quote this morning, I at first got carried away in the romance of picking berries for breakfast. I imagined myself leaving the backdoor of a ramshackle little cottage and walking a few steps to a bush full of ripe raspberries. I could smell the sweetness of berry brambles at dawn, feel the coolness of the dew wetting my hands. I imagined the pale blue bowl full of fresh yogurt and the pot of hot tea that would accompany the breakfast, the delighted smile of the person I would be sharing it with. I even began to concoct the jam I would make from the leftovers later in the afternoon.
As I leaned back in my chair to further enjoy this prosaic picture, I felt Mr. Berry tugging at my sleeve, asking me to look more closely, to go a little beyond my dew-drenched morning fantasy. So I sat upright again and began to ponder. I began to wonder if the rising at dawn, the dew, the ripeness of the red fruit were also speaking to an immediacy of experience, an intimate involvement in the natural world. Each word began to make sense in a way that I hadn't seen at first.
Better than any argument: better than any abstract concept or eloquently worded phrase is to experience something directly with your whole body, to stitch your life to this particular moment. (so much depends ...)
To rise at dawn and pick: to make a simple effort, to begin your day thus and align it to the rhythms of nature and this ancient, basic task of finding something to eat.
Dew-wet red berries: perfect and ripe now, washed and refreshed by the natural world. Immediate, present, available.
In a cup: to know how much is needed, how much is enough, and take just that.
What do you suppose such an experience could teach us? What difficulties and arguments could it solve? What would it be like to devote your whole life to rising at dawn to pick dew-wet red berries in a cup?
It's a testament to Mr. Berry's wisdom that his words can point to both the ordinary and the sacred, for it is true that in a human life the rumblings of the heart and belly as well as the deeper requests of the spirit are all equally worthy of our care and attention. A cupful of dew-wet red berries is gathered at dawn, chewed and swallowed, and found to be good.
Related: Weekend Meditation: A Quiet Day with Scrambled Eggs
(Image: Dana Velden)