Three humble jars of homemade wild forest blueberry jam sit in the coolness of our apartment thanks to a clash 300km east of here between a bridge construction crew and technology gone wild.
We were staying for the weekend near a lake in a small corner of eastern Germany because an old friend from our Hong Kong days was celebrating his 60th birthday. It was a huge bash. He’d invited his whole extended family and everyone he’d known from those days, so there was a good crowd of more than 120 people. We were all crammed into a discotheque in this tiny town that didn’t seem to have much else going for it aside from being surrounded by wonderful rolling countryside of forests and farms linked by shady roads lined with thick oak trees centuries old.
The party got off well and people danced and sang and talked and drank a bit so that most everyone was well-oiled by the time it was to take our leave.
The next day I had to be at work at 4 in the afternoon, so we tried to time our departure so that we’d be back in Hamburg with not too much time to spare.
We were using our GPS to find our way through the back roads of the former East, but after a half-hour of driving, we’d run into a problem. The GPS gizmo was telling us to take a turnoff to a road that was blocked for construction work a little further on. Unable to take the turnoff, we kept driving straight, but after five minutes of the machine blabbering on about how we really must turn around and plow into that construction crew, we turned the thing off, eased to the side of the road and found crammed in the glove compartment one of those things that in the past always proved useful , even if you could never fold them back up the right way.
TURN HERE! my wife said almost as soon as we got up to speed again, so I turned sharp right onto a narrow, one-lane road leading into a pine forest. It was paved, with wide shoulders, so we were making good time, but after a few minutes we came upon a couple of cars parked off to the side, so we slowed down.
There were people off in the forest bent over and looking at the ground.
“Hey, I know what they’re doing,” said my wife. “They’re picking BLUEBERRIES.”
So we parked the car a bit further along and rummaged around til we found a couple of containers, and got to picking some ourselves. After an hour we’d had enough – about a pound and a half as it turned out – and headed out on our way again.
The whole time I was telling myself I should stop the berry-picking and go back to the car to get the camera, because the scene was so idyllic. A forest thick enough for shade but leaving dappled noonday summer light on the carpet of berries, stillness except for the buzz of the occasional bee… to heck with it, I said. Sometimes you just have to carry on with what you’re doing in the moment you’re doing it.
As we got going again I did take the opportunity to teach my wife a word she’d never heard before. That’s rare, because her English is very good.
Serendipity: the happy accident that happens when you find something good you weren’t even looking for.