Our lives have been so here-and-there lately I worried we wouldn't get a chance to pick any berries this year. Going on our fifth autumn, berry picking is a late-summer ritual I am not willing to give up no matter how busy life appears. Yukon is off to Washington for a week, and in a burst of inspiration this morning, I took Bear.
Weather has affected our berry timeline, too. Officially the rainiest, gloomies, dreariest Anchorage summer on record, nobody has felt much like picking berries in drippy conditions. But yesterday dawned without rain and with a tiny bit of sun, so Bear and I hurredly dropped off Dad at the airport, came home to grab the berry picker and buckets, filled up the backpack with lunch, and drove off.
Arctic Valley is our favorite spot, still. I always enjoy the alpine feel of things that high, where autumn comes quickly and views are endless. We pick crowberries, mostly. Their juice is dark, dense, and extremely yummy in syrup form. So that is what Bear and I were after yesterday as we climbed up the hill to our secret berry place.
It was kind of nice, just the two of us. I'd pick, Bear would create hiding places for his two-headed dragon, and we talked. Kindergarten begins next week, and while he is excited, there is apprehension, too, and as I found out with his older brother, talking to boys is easier when at least one of us is doing something else. I want to establish a rapport for serious discussions now, before he decides I am totally uncool, and the side of a mountain seemed a good place to begin.
Bear has become a good help, too. No longer just a spectator, he applies the berry picker with occasional vigor and is also a good scout for the best patches. Two hours later, we had a full bucket. Bear led the way back, across a little stream he had discovered during his free-range roaming (another advantage of Arctic Valley; I can let him explore safely), up a hill and through some brush. By the time we reached the car the parking lot was exploding with would-be pickers anxious to get started.
I'm glad we began early. All of it.