How childhood summers of picking blueberries translate into pottery with a wholesome, happy feeling.
Those plump little berries that pop in your mouth seem to indicate wholesome and healthy feelings. The blueberry branch, with its simple lobed leaf alternating on the meandering branch, seem to resonate with farmhouse fresh ,plain and simple, and authentic. The Blueberry pattern is a natural complement to pottery cereal bowls and stoneware pitchers. The steady repeating stroke dancing and dabbing around the pot trims the shoulders of the vessel like decorative epaulettes ready to serve in a serviceable creamer, a dutiful plate, a welcoming bowl.
Historically, blueberries have been a frequent symbol of the simple life, when one could grab a handful of fresh berries and decorate a bowl of breakfast cereal with them. My first memories of handfuls of blueberries started with hopping into the canoe and paddling out across the glasslike pond, bow of the boat slicing the surface and sending ripples backward in anticipation of berries. Dip of the paddle, stroke and wait, dip, stroke and wait. The morning still chilly before breakfast, till reaching the other side of the lake, we’d shimmy the canoe up close to the overhanging branches of wild blueberry bushes. The canoe would wobble and we’d grab the branches for stability, one hand picking berries, one hand holding on, berry bowl balanced on knees. When the bowl was full or the tummy grumbled too loudly for breakfast, we’d paddle fast and noisily back to our dock, clatter of paddles hardly stowed and race into the house to add berries to the pancake batter or muffins being mixed.
Blueberries always feel fresh to me; these days, we know that they have all kinds of good stuff in them, like antioxidants and Vitamin C. They are the one of the few really blueberries. The little crown on each berry tells you it is a blueberry and not a dogberry or a huckleberry. I have read that you can tell the difference by counting the number of seeds inside, since they all come from the same botanical family, vaccinium. The huckleberry has ten seeds, but the seeds are so infinitely small, it seemed easier, as kids, to distinguish the difference after it was popped in the mouth and chewed. If the seeds were a little crunchy, then it was a huckleberry.
When decorating blueberry branches on pottery, first a pitcher, then a wide bowl, then a tall lamp, then a diminutive salt or pepper shaker, I can’t help but think of one botanical reference book explanation of the varieties of blueberries. It went something like this: There are high bush blueberries and low bush blueberries. There are also low highbush blueberries and high lowbush blueberries. As well, there are high highbush berries and low lowbush berries. Hmmm. It went on to describe the varieties of low high and high low until it seemed that there were 17 different possibilities. I have since confined my taste testing of wild blueberries to the ones I can reach.
One summer comes to mind as the famous Summer of the Seven Wild Blueberry Pies. Now, if you have ever picked wild blueberries you will know, from painful,backbreaking, calf crunching, tick bite itching, chigger scratching experience that it can sometimes take a toll. First locating a patch that no one else has claimed by getter there first is a must. And wild berry bushes, at least in New England, tend to be spread out across the forest floor, requiring lots of stooping and walking. Or in small overgrown meadow patches requiring battling brambles and briers. Or in burnt over forest spots way, way down abandoned logging roads. The year of the seven wild blueberry pies, we traveled to new and previously unknown locations in search of enough of the tiny tart berries for a pie. It only takes about 3 cups to make the pie filling, but that is after picking enough to fill your stomach before picking, during picking and on the long ride home. Nevertheless, that summer we accomplished the goal during the blueberry picking season and treated ourselves and friends and neighbors to real homemade wild blueberry pie, complete with my-Nana-showed-me-how-to piecrust from scratch seven times.