By Steve Krout
June 12, 2020
Here, at Koinonia, we have begun to harvest blueberries. In a couple months, we’ll begin harvesting muscadines and scuppernongs, too. There’s something meditative and joyful about picking fruit, listening to the birds sing, talking to friends, and occasionally throwing popped blueberries at each other. There’s a deep sense of love for one another and for the Earth. And then there’s the silence that falls upon the field. Silence, whether observed in solitude or in community, is a majestic thing. Poets and mystics like St. John of the Cross and Rumi have said that silence is the language of God. We listen for God.
Few poets have written more beautifully about our place in the natural world than Mary Oliver. Her poetry quietly whispers: “observe, pay attention, be connected.” And, if we follow these instructions, whether we are harvesting berries, sitting under a tree with loved ones, or hiking in the woods – we begin to realize our connection to all living things. We belong to each other. In her book, Native: Identity, Belonging, And Rediscovering God, Kaitlin B. Curtice writes, “We have to remember that physical places are spiritual places. We cannot disconnect the physical from the spiritual, because the spiritual is all around us, often moving like a light wind, without us even noticing.” When we attempt to disconnect the spiritual and the physical we begin to see the Earth as something to be conquered and plundered. However, when we live into the oneness of the physical and the spiritual, we see all the Earth and its inhabitants as being worthy of love and care. This care is an expression of gratitude to the Creator, an act of honoring the Indigenous people of the land, and an investment into the well-being of future generations.
Blueberries by Mary Oliver
I’m living in a warm place now, where
you can purchase fresh blueberries all
year long. Labor free. From various
countries in South America. They’re
as sweet as any, and compared with the
berries I used to pick in the fields
outside Provincetown, they’re
enormous. But berries are berries. They
don’t speak any language I can’t
understand. Neither do I find ticks or
small spiders crawling among them. So,
generally speaking, I’m very satisfied.
There are limits, however. What they
don’t have is the field. The field they
belonged to and through the years I
began to feel I belonged to. Well,
there’s life, and then there’s later.
Maybe it’s myself that I miss. The
field, and the sparrow singing at the
edge of the woods. And the doe that one
morning came upon me unaware, all
tense and gorgeous. She stamped her hoof
as you would to any intruder. Then gave
me a long look, as if to say, Okay, you
stay in your patch, I’ll stay in mine.
Which is what we did. Try packing that
up, South America.
“Blueberries” by Mary Oliver from her 2014 collection Blue Horses.
Mary Oliver was an American poet that lived from September 10, 1935 – August 17, 2019. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984 and the National Book Award for Poetry in 1992. Notable works include American Primitive (1983), Evidence (2009), and Blue Horses (2015). She is this author’s favorite poet.