Every year, right around Summer Solstice, some friends pay their annual visit to Santa Barbara. They arrive in their van, ready to celebrate summer and enjoy the incredible weather. They sit in our yard, play guitar, and pick the local fruit.

This year, I wondered why more people don’t have the ability to just sit and appreciate the natural beauty around them? They are always in a rush to get to the next appointment, practice, or meeting. There is an art to sitting still without doing anything other than enjoying the company you are with and looking at your surroundings.

Cat Neushul

For one of these friends, a trip around the neighborhood looking for ripe fruit is another staple of her visit. My children love to hear about the interesting locations she has found the fruit. She might pick the plums hanging over a fence near the sidewalk or sample the mulberries on a street a couple of blocks away. This year she went down into a creek near our house and found a blackberry hybrid with large, juicy fruit. She took the blackberries and some apples and made a wonderful pie, using a little bit of sugar and some pancake mix. It was one of the best pies I had ever tasted.

Blackberry bushes
Cathy Neushul

A few days later, I took my children and a friend out to the creek in search of the brambleberries. At first I didn’t see any. All the bushes looked naked. Then, as I looked more closely, I saw the ripe fruit hidden in shadowy corners. It wasn’t at all easy to get to. We had to fight our way through the bush, trying not to get scratched by the thorns. If you’ve dealt with blackberry bushes before, you know that the plant is like an alien life form that wraps around you in a painful embrace. My son has fallen into a bush before and become hopelessly entangled and scratched.

A friendly apple tree
Cathy Neushul

But for those willing to brave the thorns, the results are worth it. After picking for about a half hour, we had enough fruit for a pie. We asked a neighbor for some of the apples off his tree and set to work. A couple of hours later, and after overcoming some difficulties, like forgetting to properly defrost the pie crust, we had a tasty dessert.

Now, I’m not saying that the pie we made could have won a contest or anything like that, but there was something about picking the fruit and engaging in the entire process that made it special. Next time, I think I’ll even make my own pie crust.

This year, I tried to learn a little from my friends about the right way to live. They know how to stop and pick the fruits and how to enjoy the beauty around them. Maybe it would be a good idea to do a little less, sit a little more. It’s inspired me to take a closer look around and appreciate my surroundings.


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