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How to Beat Anger with Berries

I took the puppy with me and went berry picking. For those of you who have never berry-picked, there is something very Zen about it.

I had a rough day. Everything, literally, I tried to do was impossible for reasons beyond my comprehension and I ended up stranded in some frustrating, helpless corporate mess of disconnected stupidity.

I have to say I really tried. I stopped, recentered, started again, breathed, remained calm. I may have persevered too long. In the end, frustrated, I lost my temper. That’s not good. Rare, but still not good. I needed to stop and offload some frustration.

I thought about taking the puppy to the dog park, then going to a café and sitting outside with a glass of something. Of course, it started to rain. Not a hard, stormy rain, but a light mist, enough so that the park would be muddy and outdoor dining closed.

At that point, if corporate crap wasn’t enough, even my dogs decided this would be a great day to poop inside. Now, when I think about it, I get it. It was raining. One is 13 years old, the other is a puppy, so it's understandable. And you never want to lose your temper at all, much less at a dog.

So instead, I did something that had brought me a strange joy the week before.

I took the puppy with me—the older dog thinks rain is scary—and simply went berry picking. For those of you who have never berry picked, there is something very Zen about it, for me anyway. Evidently, some people find the thorns and squishy berries uncomfortable. And it’s a slow process. Too slow for some. You can just buy them in the store, right?

But that wasn’t the point right then. The point was to slow down, to do something physical, release tension and let my mind drift and sort. Besides, when your body is pumping adrenalin, your shoulders are in knots and your brain feels like a bomb in a mosh pit, well, I was a far cry from walking it off.

There's a certain amount of attention to detail in picking berries. For instance, the best berries are underneath the branches. And each berry tastes a little different; they’re all raspberries but depending on soil, water, sun, and age there’s a slight variation, kind of like with people.

So, as I stood there in the misty rain, puppy happily playing and me gathering berries, in that time my mind simply drifted. Back to when I was a child picking wild berries on our farm and my dad’s berry pies. Back to the week before when I brought my city-raised son, thinking that in some abstract way, it would help relax him. He was not impressed. I guess this is my own particular Zen, a strange meditative practice, oddly intuitive and centering.

In the misty Maine air, surrounded by green and thorns, picking my way among the bushes all around me, the dark grayness I’d been carrying drifted away, dissolving into nothing. In that mindset, I was able to come at my problems from another direction.

Sometimes we just need time to drift, recalibrate, and figure out how to get to the good stuff between the thorny branches. On the other hand, if you’re like my older dog and don’t care for the rain, maybe this isn’t the right path for you. The berry patch has sunny days too, though I kind of like the misty, moody ones.

And don’t feel bad because you chose the grocery store. That’s what it’s there for. Other things can create that sort of meditative drift, like building something or cooking or petting the dog.

Today I chose the berry patch, for all its thorns and stickers. I made some new decisions. I've chosen a different path somewhere in between my hardline of stubbornness and the broken line of giving up. The lesson for me was that there's a time to pause. There's a time to choose the small things that have meaning and yet aren't too complex. The things that ground us.

I had a great day today. The beginning was rough, but it pushed me toward something better. Now I can make a berry pie like my dad did, or create something new, or just bring a few on my journey back to where I was headed before.

And remember, there’s a lot of beauty out there, detached from the waves of media and internet corporate politics. We haven’t had enough time to adapt; it can make us a little crazy at times. Press the pause button. Go walk in the mist. Bring a friend, human or otherwise. It’s okay. The world can make it without you for a little while. Because you need you, your most important person.

And if you can get them, you might also need berries, or apples, or any other kind of mindless sorting that helps you coast for a while. Take a moment and link up mentally, to remember all the people before you who did the same thing, something simple that brought a little joy, a berry pie, sustenance for the soul.

Note: Your experience may vary. This advice is intended for in-season only. Dad’s recipe not included.

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