“Life is not static,” says author Peter Damm. “Life is like the waves in the ocean. Sometimes, the water is calm and placid. Sometimes, it gently rolls. Other times, it roars and can destroy us. And almost never is it predictable.”

Perhaps it is that unpredictability that teaches us valuable lessons and captures the essence of Damm’s Wild Blueberries (our review), a delightful collection of stories about growing up in rural Michigan. We meet the whole Damm family: young Peter, his four older brothers, one formidable sister, a soldier of a mom and dad, a Tigers fan who, we learn, might drink a little too much.

MEMORY OR HISTORY? DEPENDS ON WHO’S READING

Wild Blueberries is nostalgic and funny for Boomers who remember when there was no internet or cell phones, only four television channels and no video games — and it probably reads like a historical novel for the kids of Generation Z. The book, a breath of fresh air, was recently named as a finalist for a Great Lakes Great Reads Award.

Regarding life’s many twists and turns, Damm says, “The more we can learn and be aware of its predictable unpredictability and accept the truth of it, the more comfortable, balanced, flexible and accepting we can be.”

In a recent interview, Damm described what he regards as “the amazing breadth and narrowness of life. I grew up in small towns in Michigan. I didn’t step on a plane until I was about 20. Then, after college, I traveled to Europe, the Middle East and India. The differences in the cultures, beliefs, foods, religions were remarkable, but the people were humans, just like me. There was so much to learn about them and these places.”

Damm says his father was a good example of “the swings of life, the ups and downs, and life’s utter unpredictability. My dad was a smart, loquacious, tough, determined and flawed person. At one time, four of us six kids were in private Catholic colleges or medical school, and I witnessed how financial pressures were forcing my father down, deeper and deeper, and into the bottle. We had all started working jobs at young ages, but with this big family there were always bills to pay, and tremendous pressure that came from that.”

What were some of the lessons that Damm had the chance to ponder while writing the book?

“Respect people, tell the truth and be kind. In my life I’ve only ever had one bumper sticker on my car: ‘Commit random acts of kindness.’ ”

LEARNING FROM THE NATURAL WORLD

Damm describes what he thinks people can do to remain calm, achieve peace and stay focused in the face of adversity: “I find great solace in the natural world — in its beauty, its power, its unpredictability. I didn’t realize it when I was growing up, but that changeability breeds flexibility into people. Everything is not in our control, so we need to adapt, accept conditions as they arise and change and appreciate beauty and the good times and moments in our lives.”

And why the title Wild Blueberries?

“When I was growing up, Mom would always make a special dinner or dessert on our birthday. I always asked for blueberry pie, but she used farm-grown blueberries. Only later did I encounter wild blueberries: on an island in a lake in Maine; in the north of Sweden in a gorgeous rolling meadow; on a trek high in the Peruvian Andes. I realized, perhaps for the first time, that these wonderful, tough, blue, remarkable berries had been growing on Earth for tens of thousands of years — which made them very special indeed — and deserving of a book title.”

The last 30 pages of Wild Blueberries are aptly titled “Moonrise.” Day is over, the conclusion of so much, yet there is the moon, beautiful and burning and rising in the August sky. There is hope and the promise of another day.

Wild Blueberries is available for purchase in print, ebook and now audiobook format, narrated by industry veteran Joe Barrett (The Bonfire of the Vanities, Puzo’s The Last Don, Dos Passos’s Manhattan Transfer). 

To learn more about the author, visit Damm’s author profile page.

About Peter Damm:

Peter Damm’s life has traveled varied tracks. He was raised in small-town rural Michigan and graduated with honors from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He has lived abroad and traveled widely in Europe, India, Bali, Mexico, parts of the Middle East, Indonesia, Central America, South America and New Zealand. His book of poems, At The Water’s Edge, chronicles a five-month journey in Bali, Indonesia and New Zealand.

Peter lives and works in Berkeley, CA.