I couldn't help myself this morning as I picked blueberries. Their beautiful range of color and size, ripeness and tinges of not-quite-ripeness kept reminding me of the stages that human teenagers go through. I could feel the attraction and intensity of the darkest ripest ones, and the repeating superficial trick of those that seem ripe but on closer inspection are tinged with red and still not ready. The eye goes to the larger riper looking ones, and yet the tiny ones are delicious and sweet. Usually in a clump of translucent green berries there is one totally ripe one and occasionally one is so ready that it falls off the bush. All of this seems to represent to me the way of our own growth in the years between childhood and adulthood.
In any group of teens one often will ripen first. And there is an opalescent beauty and seductive potential in the clumps of not-quite-ripe ones, just as there is in the teens who are still half in childhood. The ones that seem ripe, but are not, are so like the teens who want to seem more mature than they actually are, and the adult tendency to pay attention to taller mature looking teens seems just like the magnetism of those larger ripe berries, yet the flavor in the ripe small ones may be even more succulent. I also love the way they grow in clumps of various sizes, with a few that are attached separately to their own twigs. So it seems with teenagers, some seem to grow and travel in small groups, while others find a more solitary way or have one or two companions on the path.
It doesn't bother me when the birds or the bugs or even the chipmunks manage to get a few of the berries. We throw netting over a brace to help keep a few for ourselves. With berries there is enough to go around. But it does bother me that the developing ripeness of teens is so often picked off before they are ready for the fullness of the forces that fall on adults. Berries can take a lot of sun and wind, though they can shrivel without enough water; and teens can take a lot of outside influence and roller coaster like ups and downs, with enough support and love. But it is much harder for teens to tolerate the the range of their own development as a shifting set of conditions while it is happening. They often don't have the equanimity of the berries to be true to their nature no matter what happens to them, and sometimes adults cannot offer the support to fill in that space either.
Perhaps it is the tenderness of picking each berry, one at a time, gently plucking from under leaves or from among the bunch of not-quite-ripe ones, that seems so consonant with contemplating the handling of young humans. How they may appear riper in the shadows of the branches, or stand out in the way the blue blush deepens to that perfect point of ripeness. How to support and nurture the young humans as they, too, slowly swell and develop into the lusciousness and fullness of being who they already are. Blueberries have a tendency to tartness mixed with the sweet. Peelings are resilient and the seeds are embedded in a soft inner core. The green of the inner flesh turns purple when cooked. So, too, do human children mix the tough with the soft, the ever-hopeful with the desperately undone. Able to imagine almost anything, and yet unable to think their way out of an emotional situation, human teens could use encouragement to allow themselves to accept their own stages as they actually experience them. Let them ripen in their own time, among their peers, but still attached firmly to the branches that bring them support and nourishment. And I wish for them all over the world to have enough of what they need to celebrate each stage without falling off the bush too soon.