Will it be too hot? What are we going to do there exactly? What are the kids going to do? What are the eating arrangements? More importantly, What time are we going to come back home? These are thoughts filling my mind throughout the hour and a half journey.
I glance at my watch. I don’t think I’m wearing the right shoes for this.
The dirt chases our mini van as we pull into the parking lot. The van is filled with three whining children and two sets of parents running low on patience. I stumble out of the back seat and hold onto my hijab, fighting the grip of the warm breeze. It is the tail end of summer, and the blueberries are perfectly ripe on this Long Island berry farm.
In almost an instant, the children are lost. My four-year-old daughter and her two cousins have found their ultimate escape. “Let them run,” my husband squints at me in the merciless sunlight. He senses my panic. He then hands me empty wicker baskets to fill up with berries to take home. I walk towards my brother-in-law and his wife who are quietly chatting near tall white buckets filled with vibrant sunflowers. We stroll down the hill and are facing rows upon rows of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. I am slightly embarrassed and surprised to realise that berries are not in fact grown on trees but on bushes ranging from what looked like three to eight feet tall depending on the type of berry. The raspberries, like tiny rubies of nature, hold on to their bushes swaying in the sun. They are followed by neat tight rows of blueberries, which are followed by blackberries, and finally strawberries that are closest to the brown shimmering earth. The smell of fresh cut grass with scents of sweet lavender and white hyacinths fills my lungs. It is a sight I will never forget. I grip my empty basket and head straight for the blueberries, my favourite of them all.
I resist looking at my watch and thinking of the traffic we will hit on our way back home. The sky is clear, blue and brighter than I remember it in the city. Before I know it, I am standing alone in the middle of tall hovering bushes packed with what I would later find out to be three types of blueberries; ripened sweet, tart and daringly sour. I pick and place and pick and eat. Pick, place, pick, eat. I find tranquility in this rhythmic pattern. My feet take me along from one neat row of drifting bushels to the next. Although I hear the faint screaming of our children running in the fields, discovering tasty fruits with their small and now dirty fingertips, there is a calm I have never felt before. The air is still and it hugs me with its dense summer warmth.
Suddenly, I am listening to the afternoon murmur of occupied bees harvesting pollen from nearby sunflowers. It gets uncomfortably quiet. The kind of quiet I am not used to. I could hear myself breathe. For the very first time in my life, I forget where I am, who I am and lose all sense of responsibility. The questions I have trained to habitually ask myself have evaporated somewhere between the rows of these delicious gems. I slowly roam the bushels and fill up my basket. I don’t remember how long this goes on for, but I do remember the new feeling of simultaneously being free yet captivated. I don’t belong to time, but to the moment – this experience.
I grew up in a household with five younger siblings and one best friend – planning. Between classes at school, after school activities, and Qur’an classes after the after school activities, meticulous planning was a practical way to keep my mum (and everyone else) sane. There was a time and a set schedule to follow to attain that sort of organisation. One misstep and everything was out of order. At least that’s what I was taught.
As a working mother with a very energetic toddler and lots of family who keep me busy, I follow firm schedule planning and organising. This eye-opening trip to a berry farm brought forth to my attention a routine I had never practised before – tranquility before organising. It had triggered a spiritual awakening, bringing to a halt my excessive planning. I soaked up that day, and every moment of it was as delicious as the pops of blueberries in my mouth. The sweet smell of summer was exhilarating and the quietness was like nothing I had ever experienced in my entire life. It was both refreshing and enlightening to just live in that second instead of rushing, ceaselessly trying to beat the ever-ticking clock of my life.
Weeks later, in an attempt to capture the summer’s last traces, I would follow Jannah on her tricycle, watching her oversized helmet secured to her head. On our last trip to the park, she stopped to look at a worm writhing on the sidewalk and then got off her bike to pick me a dandelion she mistook for a daisy because she knows those are my favourite. Then she stopped and asked for help counting the cars that drive by. Ordinarily, I would have got impatient and rushed her to the park where she was supposed to be having fun. But I didn’t mind. I thought to myself, this is the moment. Her curiosity brings out the best in her, and her interpretation of a good time kicks my planning book to the curb.
And yes I have one of those. Post-it’s sticking out of it to mark important dates and the to-do lists on them will testify to my obsessive nature of over-organising.
Undeniably, plans are a big part of life. Without them, there truly would be chaos. Production, innovation and order exist in the process of planning and preparing. But the biggest plan of all that we forget to consider at times is in the hands of our Creator. We are so programmed to be at a specific place at a specific time, we forget the valuable moments that matter. A sweltering day at a berry farm jolted me to see the quality of my time rather than the quantity. I had programmed my life in strict increments: an hour max must be spent here, two hours set aside for there. As a result of this awakening, I now calculate moments in the genuine experience of them rather than in time. A dinner with friends is about enjoying good food with even better company rather than a couple hours of required visiting on a Friday night. A walk with my husband is spending quality time together instead of a predetermined scribbling of “30 minute walk with the hubby” as directed by my post-it. I can laugh it off now when I am late because I know I am only human and I can only control so many aspects of my life. Most importantly, I have given myself at least one day out of the week to do things that make me truly happy, and to my surprise, planning isn’t one of them.
Habibeh Syed is a freelance writer and lives in Delaware US with her beautiful energetic daughter and loving husband. She loves to sew, paint, and write in her free time. She enjoys writing on environmental and social justice issues.