A friend just advised me recently, to be sure not to get the summertime blues. Because apparently, there ain’t no cure. It seemed like summer was here a couple days ago, and now I’m back to squinting, fumbling hurriedly for my sunglasses when I’m outside because of the lack of contrast – gray skies all around. The pollen has been so awful at work I have to wipe down the door handles every day. I’m a bit obsessive about having dry, clean hands, so it’s kind of grossing me out. My blue car has become a sticky green monstrosity (as much of a monstrosity as a cute Jetta can be) of rolling pollen, collecting every stray leaf and bug along its merry way. I feel personally responsible for spreading pollen throughout the Greater Seattle area. When I walk to the mailbox I think it’s sprinkling rain, but it turns out it’s the trees dumping pollen on me directly! Ahhh choo, with a shudder!
Our garden is coming along nicely, though. The strawberries in particular are abundant, shimmying their plump, red shining shoulders at us daily begging to be picked. At first harvest, though, before we had plenty to share, the squirrels were proving to be tough nibbling competitors. I ran after one growling like a she-bear, arms raised to make myself appear bigger and more threatening, and it jammed the strawberry in between its teeth, ran up a tree and sat on an out-of-reach branch turning towards me as it relaxed on its haunches to eat the berry, with attitude. It smoked a little woodsy cigarette afterwards, blowing smoke rings through the branches, legs crossed at the knee and bouncing its little foot in the air. I may have seen a beret on its head.
Picking strawberries was one of my first efforts to make my own money. I was in junior high, and in the early summer in Oak Harbor busloads of kids would be shuttled to the fields in Skagit Valley to pick strawberries. I liked getting up early before anyone else, braiding my waist-long hair back, pulling on my grubbiest clothes and walking the mile or so to the bus through deserted streets in the early morning coolness, the sun trying its best to warm my face. It was all very romantic, on my own, off to conquer the world and fill my pockets with riches. Half an hour later we arrived at the fields to rain, muddy trenches and squatting all day long. We were paid by the flat, and I don’t think I did very well. I tend to get distracted sometimes; busy checking out the competition, maybe a cute boy. I lasted three days, before I remembered I wasn’t a morning person, didn’t like being wet and dirty all day, and the money wasn’t worth it.
Strawberries to this day aren’t my top berry pick, but they are beautiful and taste wonderfully warm, friendly and earthy-sweet when they’re fresh from your own garden. In the next month or so, it will be raspberries. And since I was too short to be hired for picking raspberries in high school (you had to be a certain age, not that I wanted to anyway), my taste and desire for these berries has not been tainted. Can’t wait!