Lucas Delahanty, a junior at Cape Elizabeth High School, has been named as one of 13 semifinalists in the Maine Community College System’s “Journey Into Writing” contest. The contest is being judged by Maine authors Stephen King, Tabitha King and Richard Russo. The contest received 420 entries from 103 high schools around the state.

Delahanty, whose status as a semifinalist has earned him $100, wrote a descriptive essay entitled “Blueberry Hill” about his grandfather’s blueberry farm for school last fall. He said he pulled the essay back out when he heard about the contest, polished it up and sent it off to be judged.

The semifinalists, and the three among them who will be selected as “Young Writers of the Year,” will be honored by the judges and Gov. John Baldacci at a luncheon May 26.

Delahanty said he had not yet read Russo’s “Empire Falls,” but is a fan of Stephen King and is looking forward to meeting him. Delahanty said being chosen as a semifinalist had given him some direction and has made him think he might really want to become a creative writer someday.

“Blueberry Hill” is reprinted here with his permission.

“Blueberry Hill”

by Lucas Delahanty

Cape Elizabeth High School

The old woody smell of the tent tickles my nose as I bring my head out of the sleeping bag. It shocks my nose so much I have to go back down into the soft flannel to smother a sneeze before I burst. I pop my head back out and breathe in the crisp fresh air as deep as I can, a natural coffee that makes my eyes open wide. It is still dark out, but the full moon still shines brightly, and its light passes through the blue tent fabric and tints everything with a silvery blue glow. My dad and brother are still sound asleep; I’m always the first one up. In between my dad’s heavy breaths and snorts I can hear the morning dew drip slowly through the ancient oak tree we’re under. I lay in the warmth of my sleeping bag for a minute, busy trying to convince my body that it’s worth getting out of the snug little pouch. I wriggle slowly out of it, like a butterfly trying to sneak out of its cocoon around a dozen sleeping birds. After reaching for the zipper, and opening it with the slow and steady care I’d use to defuse an explosive, I grab some clothes I had laid aside before I went to bed, and step outside slowly and with awe, like a weary explorer discovering a portal to another world.

Blueberry Hill is located near the heart of Maine, miles from the nearest town, and much further from the nearest place anyone has ever heard of. There’s not much by it except for other farms and logging camps. The road leading up to it is an adventure in itself to travel. It’s a steep, badly kept dirt road. Riding a loaded minivan over the huge potholes and loose dirt is always entertaining for me, but a great source of stress for my dad who grunts and grimaces with the noise of every pothole’s ridge scraping the belly of the ponderous car. At the top of the hill there is a huge clearing of acres and acres of blueberries, surrounded by a thick border of forest. The dirt road curves into the center of the field, and ends at a lone rustic cabin. It’s always a spectacular sight to see when coming over the crest of the hill. The day is always bright and golden, with wind blowing gentle waves through the blueberries when we arrive. My grandpa and grandma, who are always expecting us, sit out on the deck in the old wicker chairs and wave.

I totter out of the tent like a zombie stumbling from its grave, my legs slowly regaining their strength from slumber. The wet grass wraps around my toes as I step out of the tent. The watery wake-up startles my senses and makes me alert. I walk a few steps, with my head up and rubbing my eyes, not caring where my legs take me. The stars are still out, and the moon casts a silvery gleam over the land, magnified by the dew. The sun is just below the horizon. I can tell by the way the black western sky fades to a navy blue towards the east. This is the perfect time to rake blueberries. It’s not too hot, or too cold, too humid, or too dry. It’s just the perfect calm and silence of the world before dawn. As I gaze at the sky the ground I’m standing on begins to warm under my soles. I try and curl my cold, soggy toes under my feet. Turning my head, I notice glowing circles staring at me, the color of dead grass, just 50 yards away. I stare back at the four deer, my gaze as still and stony eyed as theirs. After a minute they romp off silently, back into the darkness. I start walking again, towards the outhouse.

Blueberry Hill is old. I don’t know how old, or even when my grandpa got it, but it’s just one of those places you go to and say to yourself quietly, “Wow, now this place has some stories.” My grandpa has shared some of those stories with me. How he won it in a poker game, the bear he shot after it ate his berries for two weeks, the moose that poked its head in the window one day and ate a blueberry pie, how an airplane landed in the fields once, and so many more. The people that work there have stories too. The Kidney Crew is an interesting example. They’re all heavy smokers who are missing an organ. They enjoy telling each other funny stories around their trucks at the end of the day, sipping some beer. When you see the people there, and their faces, you know they’re there for more than just 5 dollars a bucket. I think I’ll look back on Blueberry Hill one day, and remember my visits there and pass on the stories of it, along with my own ones too. I’ll tell them about when it rained minnows, the seventeen-inch leech I grabbed out of the water while I was trout fishing, and the moose fly that ate a hunk of my chin. Hopefully those will be just the beginning.

I exit the outhouse, empty, changed, and with my shoes on. I’m ready. All but the very brightest of the stars in the West have disappeared, and a lavender glow can be seen flowing over the eastern horizon. I snatch a rake and a couple five gallon buckets by the winnower. They’re all worn and stained from years of use. The blue antique winnower stands like a dormant gargoyle in the early misty air. It wouldn’t be long before it roared back to life. It’s a spectacle to watch; leaves belching from its mouth, smoke puffing out its stack, and berries flowing from its gut. I walk to the roped off lane I had been raking yesterday. I shake my legs, stretch my back, and begin at the spot I had left off at. I spread my legs, bend over, and take a long slow swoop with the blueberry rake. A few droplets of dew bounce off the berries and spatter on my face. I dump them into the bucket, and they bounce off the hard plastic bottom with a drum roll.

The sun begins to come over the horizon and through the trees by the time I finish my first bucket. The sky is flushed with reds, pinks, yellows, and oranges that bask the fields in a colorful filter of early morning light. I continue to rake, the rhythmic noise of my metal rake scraping the plants and berries plinking into it are the only sounds I hear. Then I notice birds waking up and chirping their reveille. The sun peaks over the horizon and the wind picks up, and blows the dew out of the trees and rustles the blueberries in the fields. A short while later, when the sun peeks over the trees, mantises begin their buzzing in the grasses. In a few more moments, the sun emerges over the treetops, and I begin to smell the sweetness of pollen again. The day had begun. I finish up my last bucket and leave them both by the winnower to be separated later. My stomach is making noises, so I head back to the cabin. I can hear the sound of coffee percolating as I approach the door. I open the squeaky screen door and head in.

Blueberry Hill is unique in the world. The air has a special sweet mixture of trees, blueberries, and pollen, which grows with the strength of the sun. The lack of plumbing and electricity is not a bother at all; in fact it’s enjoyed most of the time. Everyone is always in a good mood there, and anyone who visits is always in a good mood. There are no mosquitoes either, thanks to it being the world’s largest home of dragonflies. The dragonflies are something you can only watch in awe. They whip about by the thousands, a dancing metallic flurry of all colors possible to imagine. The food tastes fresher there, as if it’s filled with more than just ingredients. At Blueberry Hill the clouds are always whiter and fluffier, never ceasing to take on a familiar shape. The wind is lazier and friendlier, never biting. The rain is livelier and gentler, never cold or depressing. The thunder and lightning are always beautiful, never frightening. At Blueberry Hill the weather is always perfect, no matter what it is.

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