Saturday, July 29, 2006

a lesson on a hillside

It only took a red Ace Hardware bucket, a 45 minute drive, and a plethora of huckleberries for this newest lesson. You know there are lessons out there everywhere, you just have to listen for them. One of my friends saw a bear right next to him in a patch a few days ago and he isn't the outdoorsy type that much yet. He ran and the bear ran, in opposite directions. An older friend kind of chuckled and asked him why he didn't talk to the bear to see if the bear had anything to say to him.

Lessons, lessons everywhere and not a child to teach.

Well, I got into a huge patch of grape-sized huckleberries the other day and my 5 quart bucket got a work out. There are only a couple of times when you get a strange feeling picking berries if you're like me and my buds.

First time is when you start with an empty bucket and any other time is right after you have dumped your bucket into a larger basket and started again.

There's no sound quite so hollow and lonely as the sound of fresh berries falling into an empty bucket.

You get that sound after you accidentally spill an almost full bucket (twice) in one afternoon too. It's the sound of starting over, with nothing, poor. Why would you think "poor" when talking about an empty huckleberry bucket? Well, it's not a "material" poor as much as a spiritual poor. And it's a good poor.

You know that food chain, the one that some European scientist created, the one with man at the top of the chain? It's wrong. Way wrong. It needs to be turned over. Turned upside down and downside up. Man is in the wrong place. We are at the bottom of the food chain.

Everything else could survive without us. And, the small things are the ones with all the power, not the large carnivores. It takes moth larvae to keep grizzlies alive between their awakening and the elk, deer and moose calving season and berry season. It takes plankton to feed whales. It takes an ant to feed an aardvark. It takes industrious gophers replenishing the seed population to keep the grass growing that give nutrients to the grazers. It takes mosquitoes and other larvae to feed the twenty pound salmon as it grows.

It takes a harmony that we are not aware of to keep everything alive and we do it with way too little humility. Take all the animals out of the picture and mankind takes a serious dip in its population. We need them; they don't need us.

We're poor, and dependent on the tiniest things around us to provide us with our ability to thrive. It takes some humility to realize that, and even more humility to act accordingly. That's why going to these berry patches where our ancestors have gone for hundreds of years is so special to me. I know I am poor when I see the empty bucket, hear the sound of more berries falling into it. Do you know how poor you are when you shop for everything in a store?

I have a freezer full of moose, deer and elk. I saw their last breath. I didn't let someone else shoot a poor calf full of steroids so that they could turn it into a canibal by feeding it the bonemeal from other cows, and then package it up nice and pretty in the store for me at $3.67 a pound. By the way, I think there is no better packaging than the hide of a moose or a deer or elk.

I'm poor and I'm aware of it. I have an empty bucket several times a year in my life; so do you. Don't believe me? Divorce, breaking up, bankruptcy, cheating, death of family members, new house, getting fired from a job, alcoholism, drugs, even going shopping when your 'frige is empty all mean you have an empty bucket. When you realize it, relish it. It's a good feeling to know the truth, any truth. And if the truth is that you broke up with your last "snag," fine, own that truth it's yours.

Why is it so cool? Why am I ranting so much? Because it's the absence of abundance that makes each huckleberry sound so loud. You know you're doing good things when you hear those first few huckleberries hit the hollow bottom, 'cause you can hear em!

It's in a time of abundance when you're bucket is half full that you take each berry fall for granted. But when your busket is empty, you hear your progress, you know something's happening in your bucket.

So goes life. Relish those empty bucket moments because each new action is felt with so much more gusto. You have no other distractions to keep you from relating to your progress. So what--they repossessed the car. When you get back on your feet, and buy that cheap little gas saver, you'll find a new appreciation that you can do so much more with so much less. So you cheated on your last "snag," so what--I'll bet you still get butterflies in your stomach when you meet the right one (or the "next" one anyway).

Go out and be poor huckleberry pickers. Empty your bucket when you share with someone else who may need what's in the bucket. Relish the echoes when those first few huckleberries falling in the bucket come from giving to someone else.

You're welcome.