Blueberries and gaining perspective
Picking blueberries is a wonderful teacher. Lillian and her husband, Warren, planted several bushes along the back fence line when they built my 1965ish ranch house. Today I pulled another two quarts of dark blue plump berries to split between a family-snack bowl and the freezer.
I can pick and pick and look and look and pick and be sure I got every last ripe berry on that bush.
But then I step a foot or so in one direction or the other, or tilt my head a different way, or bend down to look up from underneath … Sometimes I need to step back and take a distant view; sometimes I need to climb into the middle of the bush (planted in the 1960’s, they’re six to seven feet tall) and pull a branch right up close to my face. And sure enough there’s a beautiful cluster right in my view saying, “Here we are! Now you see us.”
Often (always?), it just takes a change in perspective to see. The explanation. The answer. The new idea. The typo. The cluster of ripe berries.
It happens every time. I don’t think it’s because I’m that slow a learner, but reminders are always welcome.
In the microcosm of my professional world as an editor and proofreader, “picking blueberries” is behind every piece of work I touch.
I read each piece of copy or layout with a straightedge, syl-la-ble (2 l’s, l-e not e-l) by syl-la-ble. I look sideways at punctuation, direction of quote marks and punctuation in relation to quote marks. I tilt my head the other way to check under leaves of grammar and tense. I read as sentences and paragraphs.
I take another step closer, reading “upside down and backwards,” looking again at each mark and each word. I step back to view the big picture, making sure the copy or layout says what it is supposed to say and looks as it is supposed to look.
I work hard to make sure I catch every last berry, knowing each one is important to quality work for our clients. I take one last look, just to make sure. I keep going until I feel confident I’ve cleaned the bush.
Over the years I’ve learned that this “picking berries perspective” is important not only to the minutia of my professional editing / copy editing work, but also when one takes a larger step back in business and in life.
In business — in life — that berry-picking perspective change can come from a colleague’s question or statement, or an article I read somewhere, or a thought on a long dog walk or day on the river, or a different crunching of the data. Or it can come from taking a step to one side or the other to take a look from the view of a stakeholder, a consumer, a larger community.
Gaining so much from Lillian’s blueberries, I’ve added raspberries and strawberries to what was lawn. More great teachers for me, more sweets for my favorite “clients” of all: my kids.