Back in the late 1980s, while working in the boundary waters for the SCA as a teenaged volunteer worker, there was a weekend when the team took a canoe trip to an island, just for fun. Given we were living on an island and every trip to a work site required a canoe made the fact that we were canoeing to an island rather mundane – which is odd to think about, so many years later.
The ‘boundary waters’ is a term applied (by locals) to a very large area of water and land lying between the United States and Canada. It is used to refer to areas of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin (on the USA side). Yet, the landscape has many similarities, across hundreds of miles. This novel is located in Minnesota, which is where I was located while working the ‘boundary waters,’ and some of the descriptions of the landscape and life in the outdoors reminded me of that summer in Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Which brings me back to the island. To get to a specific hillside, we had to canoe to the island itself, tie up the canoes, hike in, tie our shoes and supplies in bags held onto our heads and swim across this amazingly beautiful still-water (and extremely deep) lake. It was a short swim and the water felt wonderful. On the other side was a hillside covered in blueberry bushes and we spent most of the afternoon just relaxing and collecting blueberries.
When I read the following quote, I immediately remembered the island, the swim and the blueberries. Everything described below made me think ‘yeah, I know that.’
“He picked a handful for both of them to see. Blueberries. Small ones. These were like the green berries she had seen on the Big Island, except they were blue. A whole hillside of blue. Nika put one in her mouth. The taste was sharp and sweet, better than the fat puffy blueberries from the store. Ian laughed as he watched her face. The three of them went to work. For a long time there was no sound except the drumming of blueberries onto the bottoms of aluminum pots. Nika moved to a new patch of little bushes heavy with berries, eating most of what she picked. Ian looked her way as she stuffed another handful in her mouth, as though she were unwrapping a gift he’d given her. He smiled, then returned to picking. She was blown away that the blueberries just grew here. Nobody planted them. Maybe they had been growing here for a thousand years. Or more. Eagerly she began filling her own pot.”