Thanks to our celebrity governor, it might seem Alaskans are all about bagging moose and shooting wolves from planes. Truth is, most of us revel in simpler and less controversial pursuits like picking berries.

This hasn’t been an especially good year for berries. They arrived late and are hanging on late. But I spent two glorious days surrounded by mountains, gathering blueberries from leaf-swept bushes and plucking clusters of cranberries hanging low to the ground, marveling at the bounty undeserved and the seemingly limitless supply. Kneeling in lichen and prickly crowberry leaves and spongy moss and minty labrador tea, you see layers of goodness that mostly just get stepped on.

Picking berries requires little. You decide whether this berry is big enough or that berry is ripe enough. You swoop on size and quantity, and you toss aside obsessions with picking them all. There’s a satisfaction to filling your pail, but mostly you love the smell of smoke wafting from the chimney, the rattle of leaves fluttering to the ground, the explosion of colors on the fall tundra, the flutter of little white moths indifferent to the brevity of their lives.

Things you’ve felt in your gut gather in ways that make sense. Picking berries on the wide-sweeping tundra, I realized something bigger than me was in charge of the world, and that was very good. Picking berries in the shadow of mountains, I finally figured out that when who you are and what you want are overshadowed by what someone else wants you to be and what someone else wants you to want, that really is an irreconcilable difference.

When you pick berries, there’s always hope. Antioxidants are a nice plus, but I love berries because I love to pick them.

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