"It was old Dr. Parr who said or sighed in his last illness, "Oh, if I can only live till strawberries come!" The old scholar imagined that, if he could weather it till then, the berries would carry him through. No doubt he had turned from the drugs and the nostrums, or from the hateful food, to the memory of the pungent, penetrating, and unspeakably fresh quality of the strawberry with the deepest longing. The very thought of these crimson lobes, embodying as it were the first glow and ardor of the young summer, and with their power to unsheathe the taste and spur the nagging appetite, made life seem possible and desirable to him."
In a world that seems to spin like mad, there are few things in life that help to slow it down. One of them is picking fruit. And just as summer begins to ripen in early to mid-June, so do the strawberries.
And while we could stop by Hy-Vee for a nice lot of them right now, sometimes the adventure is more important than the end product. So Monday night, the three of us set out on a picking adventure to Heartland Farms just outside of town. We were there just an hour before closing, and were one of a few families left for the day. We had strawberry shakes and shortcakes on the brain, and I had memories of our last excursion to the fields, in tow with one little strawberry lover too small to pick himself, but just right to sit on the outskirts and taste test our loot.
This year was a different story. As the sun beat down on us, Cruz found himself in his element. He knew exactly what to do, which ones to pick, and how to put them just so in our strawberry box. And although he didn't always understand that he couldn't walk, or sit, directly in the strawberry plant, he did seem to grasp our end goal and liked to help with the process.
Beau grew up picking strawberries in his own backyard, and seemed to step into his past as he immediately got to work to pick as many red berries as he could. I had a different plan in mind, and decided to frolic, play, and pick a few strawberries here and there when we spotted just the right one. We ended up with plenty of berries, and ended our night on our deck with homemade shakes.
And just like the old Dr. Parr in my story above, I'm convinced the strawberry fields put a trance on my boy. Usually busy, wild, and rambunctious, Cruz was a calm soul all night, picking berries, talking to the piggies in the petting zoo, and choosing to lay with his mama on a patchwork quilt and look at the clouds instead of chase the soccer ball around with Dad.
It's not very often he'll lay with me like unless it's close to nap time. There I was, soaking up the perfect night on my favorite quilt when my little came to join me. We watched the clouds, sang some songs, and continued to pop berry after berry into our mouths as we spotted the banana moon in the sky.
These are the vignettes I hope to lock into my memory. The feeling of the green Iowa grass pricking my toes. The angry birds band-aid against Cruz's soft tan skin. The calm, weightless air that danced around us and the maple tree that swayed above us. And those berries.
For more information on Heartland Farms, like their Facebook page here, and visit their website here.
P.S. The nice lady that ushered us to our row said they have the best strawberry crop they've had in years. One benefit of the cold and rainy start to summer!