Sometimes Bright and Shiny Isn’t the Best: A Berry Picker’s Guide to Dating (by Ariel Kane)

By Ariel Kane (Article from Watkins’ Mind Body Spirit magazine, issue 31, August (Autumn, 2012)

I started picking berries for money at the age of 6. My aunt Joyce took me with her to the berry fields to “help out” at her summer job and after a full day of picking strawberries (many of which made their way into my mouth) I was proud to bring home three shiny dimes for my labors. My mother put them in a place of honor before dinner and I went to bed that night dreaming of all the penny candy I could buy at the little store in town.

All the local kids I knew picked berries during the summer to make spending money and some worked to pay for clothes and school supplies for the year ahead. There were many growers around and so we worked the seasons: First strawberries, then raspberries, a short crop of boysenberries (by far the easiest to pick), marionberries or blackcaps, then blackberries. In fact, picking berries was so common where I grew up, it never occurred to me until after I moved to New York at age 19 that not everyone spent summers in the berry fields.

Each summer, my mom would make us wonderful deserts featuring local fruit and at the end of the season, one of my favorites was blackberry cobbler. My sisters and I would take large metal bowls and fill them with the wild blackberries that grew by the roadside or down at the edge of the field on our property and Mom would turn them into something delightful.

Shya and I went to visit my parents for their 60th wedding anniversary one August (Congrats to Mom and Dad!), so we were there during the height of the blackberry season. In order to keep fit, given all of my mother’s excellent meals, Shya and I decided to take a walk on the Springwater Corridor, a 40 mile loop that was created for walking or bike riding, following an old trolley right-of-way. This paved walking trail has large cane blackberry bushes that grow in abundance on either side. During our walk I picked a few for Shya and myself and they tasted heavenly. I actually went to bed that night dreaming of taking a large metal bowl and filling it once again for my mom.

A couple days later we went for another walk and we saw that after additional time in the sun, there were even more of these ripened dark beauties hanging in clusters, both high and low. My Aunt Larrita had just brought my folks a whole crate of them so I was relieved of the need to do any serious picking and could simply focus on finding the ripest, juiciest, yummiest ones to savor – staining our tongues a dark purple.

As I was picking with Shya, I realized that his lack of experience had him reaching for those berries that I would never pick. He automatically was drawn to the bright and shiny berries glowing in the sun. They looked perfect. They looked just like the ones you would find in the store: tasty but tart…usually very tart. And so I began to teach him from an old country girl perspective how to spot and pick “black gold.”

First you had to search for those berries that appeared somewhat dull – they were easy to overlook when the bright and shiny ones were hanging nearby. Then you put your thumb and index finger around the one that caught your eye and tested for two things: If it was still really firm, it wasn’t ripe enough. If the berry resisted when you pulled, it wasn’t ripe enough, either. If you wanted a berry that would melt in your mouth, tasting of long summer days, warm from the sun, you had to find one that had lost its sheen; a berry that looked almost dusty and lackluster, one that practically fell apart in your hand. And you couldn’t forget to include those tucked away or hanging down low where people forgot to look. They were everywhere. All you needed was to have the eyes to see.

On our last walk, we ate our way down the corridor and fully sated, strolled hand-in-hand as we headed back to the car. It was there on that sun-kissed stretch, where I realized that picking berries is a lot like dating. Often people forget that the commercialized image of the perfect pick has influenced what they’re looking for and blinds them to seeing what is really and truly sweet fruit. In magazines, on book covers and in advertisements, the person of your dreams never has a receding hairline or an ounce of extra fat. The picture perfect datable person has perfect teeth and is a runway model or someone famous. They never get the flu, have bad breath or have challenges at work. They don’t fart and never have salad stuck in their teeth. He or she is never older or younger, of a different ethnic group or religion, and they certainly aren’t divorced with kids.

When folks are mesmerized by the bright and shiny people, they miss those around them who are sweeter, fully ripened and ready for picking. They look only at eye level in the picked over branches. Time and again, those in the dating game reach for only the sour fruit – for those that are resistant to their advances. But if you look, there are people ripe and ready. They are everywhere. All you need is to have the eyes to see.

An Excerpt from: HOW TO HAVE A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN: A Transformational Approach to Dating, Relating and Marriage by Ariel and Shya Kane, published by ASK Productions, Inc., paperback (320 pages).


Since 1987, award-winning authors Ariel and Shya Kane have taught individuals, couples and organizations across the globe how to live in the moment. Acting as Catalysts for Instantaneous Transformation, they inspire people to unwire the knee-jerk behaviors that get in the way of living life with ease. Together for 30 years and counting, people still ask Ariel and Shya if they are on their honeymoon. Their acclaimed best-seller “How to Create a Magical Relationship” was the gold medal winner of the 2007 Nautilus Book Award in the category of Relationships / Men & Women’s Issues.  To access their radio show, event schedule, join the Premium Excellence Club, or to find out more, visit:

Ariel and Shya will be appearing at Watkins Books on Wednesday, October 10, 2012, discussing A Transformational Approach to Dating, Relating, and Marriage (time: 6pm).


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