This evening I participated in a sensual act I’ve never experienced in seventy years and which I may never again. It involved blueberries. And it occurred in the orange light of the sun setting in the west hills, on my condo terrace. a glass of wine at my knee.
When I bought the vaccinium corymbossum a year ago, the nursery woman asked where I’d plant them. I told her in pots on my new condo’s terrace.
How many floors up?
Six, sort of. The lobby counts as two.
Ever see a bee up there/?
Only a terrified hummingbird one morning.
Hoping for berries?
Of course. My dream.
Then you’ve got to do the bees’ job.
When the blossoms come, find a very small paint brush. Think like a bee. Move pollen from one blossom to the other. With just the tip of the brush.
Every blossom? Can’t I just shake the bushes, hope for the best?
Every blossom you successfully pollinate, you get a berry.
By the time I found my paintbrush, spring had moved onto summer and the tiny flowers were gone. Just in case, I waited for a berry or two to appear in August. No luck.
What a waste of potential. I hate wastes of potentials, my own and those of my terrace buddies. Next year, I promised, ruffling still-green leaves.
The tiny white blossoms open in April. These plants aren’t big. I’ll get, at best, enough berries to pour over one bowl of granola. No, not cereal after all that effort. A bowl of vanilla ice cream. I get inspired, find the watercolor brush.
My bushes’ homes are l4-inch pots, side by side. They wave at each other when the wind’s up, like spinster sisters, looking out for each other. Now it’s my turn get neighborly.
I crouch at their doorsteps, say hello, and the white blossoms nod back at me. Until my paintbrush begins poking at them. In a terrible display of floral agony, dozens give up, fall to the deck, blow over the edge to the deck below.
As light and hope dim, I understand that my technique is way too brutal. Think like a bee, I tell myself, a gentle bee, weightless, slow and easy, smiling maybe as she brushes by. I float from blossom to blossom, blueberries on my mind, until it’s dark and my wine is gone.
I’ll find out in August how good I was at the art of pollination. And I’m thinking that next year, I’ll kidnap a couple of experts from the clover in the field in front of the condo, introduce them to the joys of flying high and the pleasures of a sixth floor terrace in the spring.