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Wild blueberries
This morning I went outside and picked wild blueberries before breakfast. Here's one thing I love about my house - berry bushes so close that I can pick a handful while the kettle is boiling! I came indoors in time to make a cup of tea, and had the berries on my bowl of cereal.

berries closeup

Wild blueberries are smaller than cultivated ones, but have a stronger, sharper flavor. I prefer them, but I rarely have the time or energy to pick enough for a pie (four cups). I have picked a cup-full or so, to make really delicious muffins or scones, but I'm more likely to take a smaller amount, and eat them right away.

I have been picking blueberries every summer at this time - early July - since we moved here in 1984. In fact one of my memories of the first summer, when Jim and I stayed in this house over the July Fourth weekend,  is of waking up to find ripe berries outside. This year they began to ripen at the end of June, but today is the Fourth of July again, and we have plenty of blueberries.

As today also happens to be Sunday, we went to our usual Quaker Meeting, and I found myself thinking about our house. It was built on a land trust, which means we own the house but not the land, which is shared with other families. We bought it cheaply because only the first of three floors was finished, and although we now live on two floors, the house still needs a lot of work. After twenty-six years, it may still be called "a work in progress".

Recently we asked a contractor for estimates on house repairs; replacing windows and fixing the porch. He gave us prices, but also advised us against either project, because it would "not add to the value of the house". Jim and I realized that he was coming from the normal view of property as an investment, but to us our house is just a place to live. I had a conversation with the contractor which left me depressed, as he seemed to be saying that my home was not worth fixing, perhaps not worth anything.

Today, sitting in the silence at Meeting, I remembered Stanley, the carpenter we hired many years ago to work on the 2nd floor. It was not an easy time, it took longer than we expected, and he complained a good deal. But at the end, when we made the final payment, he said "well, it's definitely a non-standard building. It's part frame, and part post and beam, the spacing between joists and studs is irregular, and everything is different sizes. But underneath it's a good, sound house."

I remember taking his words to heart, and applying them, from time to time, to my family, my town and my Meeting community. Yes, all have been through various kinds of trouble over the years - bankruptcies, failures, divorces and deaths; but they did not fall apart. I think one reason is this, that somewhere underneath the basic structure was sound.

As I sat in the quiet this morning, I thought that my belief in this basic structure connects to, and perhaps flows from the Quaker tenet: "there is that of God in everyone". All of us have the potential to help or hurt, to do good or evil. Plenty of bad things happen because we make the wrong choice. But the idea that there is a light, a spark - however small - of goodness in every single person, helps us to treat others as we would like to be treated. And without this ideal, this Golden Rule, I don't see that we could live through a single dark night.

After Meeting for Worship we all shook hands, and shared the good coffee made by Jim, and really delicious scones from Eleanor. (She said they are huckleberries, where does she find them?)

So then home to my old house, where I have spent more years of my life than any other place, and whose value really cannot be put into dollars. Home to the tired-looking porch and windows of all different sizes, and the berry patch. This afternoon I  will take the time to pick some more, and then dig out my recipe for blueberry muffins.

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Eat a handful of blueberries for me! I miss those tiny, tasty berries.

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