Cynthia Staples : Strawberry Pictures
Words & Images
By Cynthia Staples
“Would you like to go strawberry picking?" my friend Steve asked with childlike excitement in his voice. "I haven't done it in years. I'd love to share the experience with you.”
"Sure," I replied. As I packed a bag for the trip, the first thing I did was make sure that I had my camera.
We traveled to a small family farm outside of Boston. As we pulled into the parking area, I could see several people, most with young children at their sides, wading through a sprawling green field with baskets in hand. My mouth began to water. Not for the taste of fruit. In my mind, I was imagining the great pictures that I was about to take and the potential fodder for future articles. Maybe I could write an article about small family farms for a regional magazine.
"These strawberries taste nothing like the ones in stores," Steve said, breaking into my thoughts. "If you find any that are so ripe that they start to fall apart in your hands, eat them on the spot."
We smiled at a young woman sitting in the shade of an old tree, then grabbed a couple of the baskets lined up beside her and set out into the field. Steve strategically picked a spot far away from the families and began gathering berries. I arbitrarily selected an area, bent down, pushed aside some leaves and began snapping photos.
Every now and then I picked a berry and placed it in my basket.
Steve came over to me. "How's it going?" he asked. His basket was half full. He looked at mine. "Need some help figuring out which ones are ripe?"
I shook my head. "Nope. I'm fine." I raised the camera and took his picture. He laughed and returned to his task.
Aimlessly, I wandered among the rows, fiddling with the camera settings. When a bee zipped past my head, I followed it to the edge of the field and found a tiny patch of wildflowers.
"You ready?" Steve shouted behind me.
I sighted the camera on the flowers, snapped a picture and then looked at my basket. "Almost."
In the end, I gathered a handful of berries. I collected dozens of pictures. I couldn't wait to sit down with them. Surely, they were to be my inspiration.
"Did you have a good time?" Steve asked.
But even as we began the return journey to Boston, I felt a little bit of regret about my strawberry picking experience.
Later, at home, I stared at the pictures and I knew the reason for my discomfort. Technically, the pictures were fine. But, while they pictures reminded me of the things that I had done that day, they could not give me or remind me of experiences that I had not paid attention to.
Like the feel of the berries in my hands. Or the scent of warm berries perfuming the air. Or, most sadly, the taste of sun ripened berries melting on my tongue. Vaguely, I remembered that I had eaten a berry or two in the field but I had no recollection of the flavors.
In her book Fruitflesh, Gayle Brandeis writes, "A strawberry changed my life." That strawberry was given to her as part of a high school class assignment. She goes on to write about learning to pay deep attention to life in the way she had learned to pay deep attention to the strawberry. I read those words long ago but now I more fully understand them.
I had stood in a field of strawberries, but I had not been present. I can pick berries again in the future, but that particular moment was wasted.
My Strawberry Pictures are what I call the photos taken that day. When I look at them, I am reminded to live in the moment and to experience the opportunities available in that moment as fully as possible. That is what I will think of whenever I look at these pictures. And when I look at a strawberry. •
© 2008 Cynthia Staples. All rights reserved.
Cynthia Staples is a highly creative writer and photographer living in the Boston area. Her words and images capture moments and memories and weave together inspiring stories for her readers. More »