My Tacoma: Blueberry Park

Many years ago, the City of Tacoma somehow ended up with a blueberry farm.  They set it aside to be a park, but somehow, it was overlooked for number of years. The blue berry bushes grew, and those who knew about it descended on it regularly to pick berries. But the Himalayan blackberries invaded it, and the bushes, untended, grew tall and rangy, and homeless people began to camp in the deep brush, along with tweakers.  Blueberry Park was close to being lost.

About ten years ago, prompted by local lady Charlotte Valbert, the city remembered the park.  First her volunteers stepped in to clear and prune the bushes, and then the city itself. My daughter Ruth and I were among those who came with snips and trash bags to help prune and clean.

 There was some talk of clearing the park for ball fields but fortunately wiser heads prevailed.  The bushes nearest to street were, by tacit consent, set aside for the elderly and handicapped, while those deeper in the park still remain for the more adventurous.  Many of the bushes have been pruned, the areas between the bushes mulched and it is much more accessible now than the first time I braved its depths with a couple of ten year olds to pick berries.  But wilder parts of the park remain, and I’m actually glad it’s so.  Some of the 20 acres of the park are wetlands to be preserved.

Yesterday I headed out there with my grandchildren.  There are several varieties of blueberry bushes in the park, so some are ripe now while other bushes are still full of green berries.  We took a big bucket for me, and juice pitchers with lids for the kids.  It is inevitable that kids fall when picking berries. Over the years, we have discovered that if you are picking berries and putting them down the spout of a plastic juice pitcher, when you fall you don’t lose them all. 

It was a good day to pick, not as hot as our recent days.  The bushes are tall enough that telling the kids to stay in sight is not practical. So we use the method of  ‘you have to be in range of my normal speaking voice.’  It works well.  Periodically, I would say their names, and each kid has to respond right away.

There were a lot of families in the park. I’ve noticed that whenever I do any ‘free harvesting’ activity in Tacoma area, such as fishing or clamming or berry picking, I encounter a lot of our newest arrivals joining me.  So as we moved  throughout the berry park, which is quite a large area, we encountered several different languages being spoken. 

At one point in the distance, I heard a woman singing a Russian song.  A short time later, I heard a man’s voice sing out, “A, B,C,D, E, F, G”  and then he paused.  And from a scattered area around him, I heard little voices sing back, “H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P.”   A short time later, I added my call out as I did a role call of my grandkids and they all chimed back.  It reminded me of territorial bird calls as various parents sounded off and kids responded.

We came home with half a bucket of blueberries, enough for 2 pies and three containers of berries in the freezer.  We’ll go back, of course, over the next few weeks. Who could resist free blueberries and a peaceful time out in the sun.

Only tonight I learned that Charlotte died a few days ago.  I did not know her personally, but I personally enjoy the legacy that she saved for all of us.  Thank you, Charlotte Valbert.


7 Responses to My Tacoma: Blueberry Park

  1. Nature, in all it’s humbling beauty, is actually so very close to us.

    A couple of days ago I took a walk at the forest border with a good friend of mine, a biologist. He has shown me one hundred tiny wonders – frogs, spiders, lizards, and a very green alien looking praying mantis. All amazing creatures in a knee-high jungle. I would have not noticed any of them, would I not have been guided.

    … Stop running, start wa(l)king. Sounds like a good plan to me.

  2. Sounds wonderful! There used to be a deep, green, beautiful forest near my house but now its almost all gone. Only a few sad-looking pines left behind after a big deforestation.. I miss the walks in that lush palace..

  3. Please, Hobb, can’t you write a novel about the Fool when he has come home? Tp the country where apricorns grow.

  4. Dear Hanna,

    I know that some writers can create a book or story ‘to order’. Sometimes I get an invitation to submit a story for an anthology: “Can you send us a 2000 word story that features a parrot?” “Can you write a very erotic fantasy story, no more than 4000 words?” And in most cases, the answer is ‘No, I can’t.’ The exceptions have been for some of the anthologies that Gardner Dozois and George RR Martin have edited. They often give me a lot of leeway! Or if I have a story that already fits the requirements.

    But other than those exceptions, my mind just doesn’t work that way. For most of the writers I know, the story idea comes months or even years before the writer says to the agent or editor, “I have a great idea for a story, and this is how it goes.” Trying to reverse that flow is a bit like telling a young woman, “Could you have a baby that grows up to be a great pianist?” 🙂

    Story germs grow in very unpredictable ways. At least, for me they do. So unfortunately I am unable to produce stories to order, for writers, editors or agents. I think my life might be a lot easier if I could!


  5. This my first time to this site, now I have bookmark it. But I want to say that I love your books and you are not writing them fast enough for me. I have read all but the twawny man series, and has not put it out as yet. Can you tell me when that series might be out in audible books?