The end of June drowns in a chaotic sea of sweet, sticky red. The beginning of strawberry season means the end of everything else – forget laundry, forget friends, forget sleep. This sensual berry seems to celebrate the end of school, feed the excitement of July 4th, fend away cold days and lure the sun closer to the earth. People flood any open U-Pick fields, terrified of missing the most fleeting but sweetest aspect of the summer months. For strawberry farmers, or more accurately strawberry servants, hours, days and weeks are lost to the berry’s conceited demands. To make matters more stressful, it marks the arrival of half the other harvests. Peas, beans, potatoes, zucchini, squash and cucumber roll in as though seduced by the strawberry’s grace; a grace not lost on humans as they spend hours bent in uncomfortable positions, in the scalding hot sun, laboring for the chance to preserve the strawberry’s romance, its embodiment of summer beauty, for the cold, dark, winter months. It is little wonder that the strawberry is the fruit of choice in Hardy’s foreshadowing of Tess’s sexual experiences in Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
Yet, as with all seasons, the strawberry must dwindle in numbers. As the berry season relaxes so does summer. The heat settles in and the world adjusts to it. July 4th wraps up and the neighbors finally stop setting off fireworks. The buzz attributed to the beginning of summer subsides to a low hum. The chaos of the season in the fields dissipates and the fields become quiet and still. It is a time for reflection and recovery. The berries, once overflowing unbridled in the fields, now instigate a therapeutic game of hide-and-seek with the pickers.
Then, in the calm, hot, dead of summer, they disappear; they recede into memory until the labor they demanded is forgotten and overtaken completely by the tortuous memory of their allure.