Raspberry Picking and Life

The other day, I was out picking raspberries.

Raspberry Picking 7-23-14
Raspberry Picking 7-23-14

While out there in the hot sun, I had a lot of time to think about how picking them is a lot like life and yep – even running.

Now bear with me, I know this is not what I usually write about, but I had waaaayyyy too much time on my time while picking berries and it caused my thoughts to wander off – at least half a bubble and probably addled things a little :-).

So what did I think about?


You have to be in the right place at the right time, too early and the berries will not be ready and too late they will be all gone or not worth picking.

The right place at the right time, how often have we all heard that one, but it is true. How often have we all missed out on a great opportunity, simply because we were a little ahead or just a little too late to the party. However, you can put the odds in your favor by learning what you are looking for and preparing yourself, so that when the time is right you are ready.

What are you looking for?

Which brings up you need to know what you are looking for and don’t be afraid to look in places you and other people hadn’t thought about before. The raspberry patch I was picking from yesterday is on the side of the road down-back, if you didn’t know, what raspberry brambles look like you could easily drive right by it without even noticing it was there – I have a feeling that many do. They are not expecting a nice raspberry patch to be where it is – hidden right in plain sight.

You have to know what you are looking for, so that when an opportunity presents itself, you recognize it when others might not, especially when it is someplace others would not expect it to be.

Comfort Zone

Picking wild raspberries is done outside not in the air-conditioned comfort of a house or office.

You have to get out of your comfort zone to go get stuff that you really want; it isn’t always convenient, going to be comfortable or done where you want to do it. You have to go where “it” is; “it” is not going to come to you (most of the time).

Think Ahead and Pay Attention

While I was picking raspberries, it was 90 something degrees with the probability of a bad storm coming through later. I had to keep one eye on the sky to see where the storm clouds were and how close. I worked up a hell of a sweat while picking the berries and was glad that I had driven my truck, instead of walking over a mile to get down there, because after climbing around in the raspberry patch I was pretty damn tired and sure as hell would not have felt like walking that mile back uphill to the house, especially if the storm hit sooner than expected.

You need to think about what you are doing, how you are going to get where you are going and if necessary how to get back. If you get so wrapped up in what is going on in front of you and do not pay attention to changing conditions you can get yourself in trouble pretty quickly. Then if things do turn out badly you have a plan about what to do or how to get back. Although sometimes you just have to improvise and do the best you can, if things go bad.

Expect Some Discomfort

Notice that I said brambles not bushes. When you are picking raspberries you know that they have thorns, even if you wear protective clothing that sooner or later you will get scratched, especially when there are blackberry brambles mixed in with the raspberries. You have to watch where you put your feet, be aware that you are outside and will probably encounter things that live out there. However, if you want raspberries you deal with those issues and keep picking.

Life has its thorns, they will get your attention and hurt you from time-to-time, how well you endure, and move past those difficulties to keep thriving in your life versus just living, determines much of your happiness and/or successes.

Stay Focused

I met several nasty-looking spiders, way too many horseflies and mosquitoes, some birds and saw a deer coming towards the patch until she saw me. In spite of these little things, I just keep picking.

Be ready to share where you are with others, some of them might not be too nice, some might initially startle you, annoy the hell out of you or be scared of you, but they are not the problems you think that they are, some might actually be nice to have around and you can keep moving forward towards what you want to accomplish. In spite of the distractions that others around might bring, you need to stay focused on what you are attempting to accomplish.

There are Bigger Things than You Out There

Luckily, yesterday when I was picking the raspberries, I didn’t encounter any snakes, coyotes, bears or other predators. In the past, I have had bears decide to join me or stepped on/near snakes in the brambles (Yes, I jumped like hell – I don’t like snakes, but up heah, there supposedly are not any poisonous ones). It definitely can get the heart pumping when a bear is picking berries 30-40 yards away and you have to make a choice if it is time to leave or do you keep picking, but keep one eye on where the bear is?

You need to be aware of the predators that are in your life whether personal or business, sometimes you can co-exist with them, at other times, they are coming in with the intention of making you move or taking over where you are, or they will hurt you. Be prepared and have an idea of what you can do if one suddenly turns aggressive.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Yes, I stopped to eat more than a few of the raspberries. If I am picking berries, I am also going to take the time to taste test the fruit of my labors – yes they were delicious. Also, I would stop to look at the many cloud formations that were being created by the incoming storm and some of the bugs were pretty cool to look at and watch for a minute or two.

Sometimes, you just have to stop and take a look around you to enjoy the bounty that is in our lives, when you just focus on what you are going to do in the next hour; the next day, the next week, the next month, the next year or in retirement, do you loose the ability to enjoy the moment fully? I have seen too many who believe that tomorrow is all that matters, that they never stop to enjoy the now.

Making Your Own Trail

This was a wild raspberry patch, which meant there were no paths up to some of the better areas and I had to make my own. I had to work a lot harder to get up to those areas, earned a bunch of extra scratches, gave a little blood, but I also got into a couple of nice berry patches that I would not have otherwise.

Sometimes, in life we have to make our own path. Following where others have already been does not mean that you will be successful or that there is anything left on that path for you. The path you are making for yourself is not going to be easy and will required a lot more effort, sweat and probably more than a few tears.

Don’t Be An Ass

I knew that other critters out there depend on this berry patch for food; there were many berries that were not quite ripe and will ripen over the next week. I was careful to not pick those berries and when making the new paths I did not destroy or break anymore of the canes than I had to, to get where I wanted to go. I know that I could have just let them be, but at the same time, I couldn’t see letting them go to waste and next time I came back it would be easier to get at those areas. Also by blazing a new trail, it allows others to follow me on that trail and make their journey a little easier. That way if I do not get back there to pick more berries, other people or critters can enjoy them too.

It is okay to leave something behind for others, when it is more than you need or if you don’t think you will be back this way again. You do not need to go into slash and burn mode just to get a few more of whatever and make it so that no one else can be with, use or enjoy what is left after you leave. Don’t be greedy or an ass about things, the world does not revolve around you.

Look at things from different angles

It is funny how you can be in one area and not see any more raspberries, but you move a foot or bend down and suddenly there seems to be ripe raspberries everywhere.

In life sometimes, opportunities are right in front of us, if we just look at things a little differently or from a different angle. We just have to be willing to take the time or make the effort to look at things differently than we have in the past – people and things change and we need to remember that we do also, so what might not have interested us before, might be exactly what we are looking for now.

The reality is that

Picking those raspberries in 90+ degree weather on the side of a hill was not easy and when I got done – I was tired. I came away with a lot of scratches, gave a little blood, sweat my ass off, and got a chance to think about things from a different angle than I usually do. The best part – I didn’t have any freak accidents.

I also came home with a feeling of accomplishment that you get from doing something that really wasn’t all that much fun, but needed to be done.

When I am eating some of these raspberries next winter, they will taste doubly good, because I will also have the memories of that hot summer day, that I went out and picked them.

A much different memory than the one I would forget if I simply went down to the market, bought them and put in the freezer.

It might not seem like a lot, but it is to me.
It might not seem like a lot, but it is to me.

Remember we make the choices of how we live our lives and often have more control over many of the memories we choose to make, than we like or want to admit. Yeah, sometimes shit happens, but even then, once the shit storm is over, how we pick up the pieces defines who we are.

I like to think and believe that the good times in our lives are more a result of our hard work, dealing with the setbacks that do/will happen as positively as possible, by preparing ourselves to be ready for opportunities when they occur and sometimes using little self-made “luck”, where we are ready and able to take advantage of the opportunity that is placed before us – if we have the courage.

Most of this post was put together while I was picking berries and the hard part for me was remembering all the great things and other metaphors I had thought of during that time out in the sun. I know that I forgot quite a few

I know that this wasn’t my normal running related post, but if you think for a minute, each one of these things can be applied to our running – if only you think them from a little different angle. Did you, will you?

Who know maybe as I keep getting older, I will wax more philosophical – naw I take things too literally 🙂

When was the last time you had a raspberry patch moment?





9 responses to “Raspberry Picking and Life”

  1. Imarunner2012 Avatar

    The ones you pick always taste better than the ones you buy.


    1. Harold L. Shaw Avatar

      I really think it is the self-satisfaction of getting out there and getting them. Also the memories that go along with getting something yourself, versus going to a store and just buying it.


  2. laurelleg Avatar

    If you mean literally, that would be today! There are raspberry brambles all over where I live, a bunch in my yard, and some on the roads. I guess I didn’t have enough to eat before my run today and was so thankful when I found some ripe ones! At that point though, I didn’t have the energy to think deep thoughts. It was more like berry, berry, ouch thorn, eat, eat, eat.
    From experience picking raspberries growing up, everything you said is so true (for life and the berries)!
    And that does seem like a lot of berries! Must have taken quite a while!


    1. Harold L. Shaw Avatar

      Hehehehe I know the ouch part and eat part too, they were delicious, about an hour and a half 🙂


  3. txa1265 Avatar

    Reblogged this on Running Around the Bend and commented:
    This is one of my favorite recent posts … Harold does an amazing job of drawing parallels between raspberry picking and all of life. Definitely worth reading and reflecting on its meaning in all of our lives.


  4. Healthy Simple Smart Avatar

    Loved this post and I am so jealous of all those raspberries! Memories of picking raspberries as a kid at my grandma’s house are some of the best memories I have. I just bought a raspberry bush this year because picking raspberries represents so much to me too! You do an amazing job at drawing the connection between raspberry picking and running!


    1. Harold L. Shaw Avatar

      Thank you – It is the memories that we make while doing things that stick with us and I hope that your raspberry bush produces many more.


  5. sarahdudek80 Avatar

    Loved this post and the unexpected comparisons. It made me a bit nostalgic as well. We have a house in northern Michigan and the wild raspberries were growing like crazy along our driveway and road as we left last time. They are probably perfectly ripe just about now and we wont be back up there until Labor Day weekend. I always loved picking them and making jam. It always surprises neighbors and friends from far away when you give them jam from your driveway. Beautiful post. Personally I loved/laughed at “Don’t be an ass.” Ever heard of the races where the first finishers grab all the fuel and bananas and there is nothing left from the rest of the finishers?! Sheesh!


    1. Harold L. Shaw Avatar

      Thank you Sarah – I tried to stay away from the same old, same old that’s just boring. I was stationed in St. Ignace for 3 years back in 79-82 and there were plenty of raspberries up there too, eh ( 🙂 ). The gifts that you make yourself are the best gifts, even though some might not appreciate the work you put into it, the ones that do know that you are giving a bit of yourself to them. Yeah that can be a problem when there is not enough food for the rest of the runners, especially when they bring their non running friends/family who didn’t register to gnosh on the finishers goodies. Then they get all nasty/defensive when a volunteer reminds them it is just for finishers.


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