I love blueberries. I mean I really love blueberries! Ever since my mom took us out as kids to pick, I have looked forward to heading out to local fields to collect the succulent and healthful treats. In turn, I dragged my kids out to pick challenging them to see “how many blueberries can you fit into your mouth?” “How much more do you think you weigh leaving the field than you did when you first came in?” My goal has generally been to gather between 30 and 40 lbs of berries every season allowing us to freeze enough for an entire year of smoothies, snacks and cereal toppings. Over time my picking helpers have dwindled (actually, they quit on me). They just don’t seem to have the staying power it takes to persist... the stamina it takes to harvest my self-imposed quota of fruit. The heat, the bugs, the humidity seems to get the best of them well before the job is complete. You may find it hard to believe (I certainly do) that my family has actually accused me of over-indulging in my picking preferences and that we really don’t need 40 lbs of blueberries. They say I pick that many because I just can’t leave that 20-acre field of plants laden with all those perfectly plump bundles of deliciousness. Naturally, I disagree! We want those berries... we need those berries!

While exploring a destination for a kayak adventure I came across the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore located on Lake Superior in northern Michigan. The pictures I saw of the area were amazing and the reviews inspiring enough for me to plan a visit that I have just returned from. In spite of a lack-luster football team, Michigan offers vast opportunities for outdoor activities. Lake Superior is awe-inspiring in its beauty, its scale and grandeur. Seeing the Pictured Rocks is a challenge in that the accessibility is limited with the most featured sites a 2+ hour kayak trip from shore access. The waters of Lake Superior can be very rough and the day we had planned to paddle had 3-4’ waves that were just beginning to whitecap in 10-15 MPH gusts... not a perfect day to be on the lake with our 12’ boats. The weather report did not show any improvement in the days ahead, so we geared up and set out on our Pictured Rocks adventure. Plying through the waves we were able to stay mostly dry as we made our way along the beach. The fine white sand soon turned to vertical rock cliffs with no room for landing... the point of no return. Mary Lynn is much more comfortable on the water than I so it took me some time to settle in, but once the colorful mineral deposits appeared on the cliff face, my tension subsided and the rhythmic movement of the waves became not just comfortable but relaxing, allowing me to appreciate the beauty I was surrounded by. The waves crash off the 200’ cliff face causing the creation of caves, arches and other formations. Ground water seeping through minerals in the stone forms vivid streaks of blue, green, white, red, orange and purple. Looking down you can see rocks so clearly it is hard to tell whether they are 10’ or 100’ below the surface. Before we set out we figured paddling out for 2 hours then heading back, but when Mary Lynn informed me it was time to turn around... well, all I wanted to do was to see what was around the next corner. “C’mon, just a little farther!” Her smile said it all; “that’s what you do Jeff... you always want just a little extra and it ends up being a whole lot more!”

That’s when it kinda hit me... I am very inclined to extend myself; I tend to “reach out” in many things I do. Sometimes it can be a good thing... at other times a bad thing but it certainly seems to be... my thing. When I find myself with others they may choose to come along on my adventures but, as in the case of my family picking blueberries, sometimes... not so much.

During these turbulent times there seem to be a lot of people “reaching out” with the intent of taking others along on their (mis)adventures. Some may be well intentioned and others not so much, but it seems more difficult now than ever to differentiate between the two. We all carry the bias of our experience as well as the ignorance of circumstances foreign to us. I am determined not to make quick judgement before I have gathered adequate information needed to fashion an informed opinion. Unfortunately, I feel as though too few extend the effort necessary to expand their base of knowledge, even when doing so may simply fortify an existing opinion.

I promise not to drag you into a hot and buggy field or to set you upon turbulent waters, but encourage you to reach out to find your truth and the truth of others. I challenge you to join me in the adventure of listening to those who have life experiences different from ours.... those who may be able to present a different side of the story than we have heard before. In the end, I expect you will find that what you’ve gained by going the extra mile will be more than worth the effort.


Now go outside and have fun in the dirt!