image description: berries ripening beside green leaves

All Gift

These glorious summer mornings, I grab my cereal bowl and head out first thing for garden strawberries, blueberries, and, dripping from the brambles, raspberries like red wine. The sun heats my neck, the chilly breeze raises my hairs, the exuberant sparrows greet me, and I snack right there, bursts of pungent sweet obliterating all else. How is it that I’m so lucky?! Whenever my daughter wants some name-brand trinket and wishes we were rich, I reply, “But we are! Look at our berries!”

Gwyn rolls her eyes.

That blissful moment snitching pre-breakfast berries is a better prayer than I ever offer on my knees. In mid-summer, Minnesota’s abundance makes it easy to remember how generously the earth gives of itself, and how I’m a humble recipient of a flood of gifts—air! water! family! breath! being! berries!—more awesome than I can ever fully conceive. Once I launch into my day’s flurry, and certainly once the winter sets in, I’m prone to fixating instead on what’s missing. Equity. Democracy. Climate health. Meaningful community. Like everyone else I’m steeped in a consumer culture that feeds on lack like a cancer. Media bombards me with everything wrong with the world and slyly steers my energy toward anticipated gratifications that imply a present insufficiency. I’m just like Gwyn, scarcity so dominating my sight I’m blind to abundance.

But our world holds both dire lack and rich plenitude, indiscriminately, often simultaneously. To acknowledge one at the exclusion of the other is a grave error.

Which is why I linger in the raspberry patch. Sure, we planted these bushes, pruned the canes, water daily and occasionally fertilize, but the fruit itself is sheer miracle. All gift. Robin Wall Kimmerer, essayist, environmental biologist, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, says that “To name the world as gift is to feel one’s membership in the web of reciprocity. It makes you happy, and it makes you accountable.” The more I practice gratitude, deliberately acknowledging the gifts streaming toward me through and in spite of every moment, the more connected I become—to the berries, to the sun, to the mysterious source of a beautiful morning—and the more I know myself, like the berries, to be part of this web of reciprocity.

Yes, I’m responsible for righting wrongs, at least within my small sphere of influence, but like the berry bushes I can do so within a flow of abundance. I give because I receive. I receive when I give. And the whole of which I’m a part is vast indeed, and trustworthy. –Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

I highly recommend Robin Wall Kimmerer’s essay, “The Serviceberry,” in Emergence Magazine.

Photo by Marina Yalanska.