Why Forage?   Leave a comment

I forage because we live in a very harsh, assaultive culture.  All the modern conveniences not withstanding, maintaining the status quo requires fitting in, stepping to the music, keeping your head down, nose to the grindstone, and always pushing forward.  I’ve never fit in anywhere; (except Nature) try as I did, several times, I always manage to stick out like a sore thumb.  All my life, folks have told me I’m weird.  Noticing my dismay, they often correct themselves with, “But, in a good way.”   I see and hear things others refuse to acknowledge.  Some call it a gift, others call it psychosis, those who know me, call it right-on, uncanny, I call it the way it is.  In my core, I know my brand of weird is good; accepting no limitation, bull snot or bullying.  I love to dance; yet, stepping to the music, of corporate amerika, throws me off kilter.  I’ve never been able to keep my head down; I’m a stargazer.  Nose to the grindstone has never been a problem; my stick-to-it-tivity shines, as long as I am challenged.  As for pushing forward, well, there’s where I fall far short.  I’m a Cancer, water sign, with 5 planets in Cancer.  Water, water, water, water, water, equals go with the flow or drown.  Every time I push forward I drown!  Somehow, through it all I always find myself returning to the woods.  I’ve always preferred a lean-to, over luxury accommodations.  I fit, just as I am, in the woods.  Regardless of Mother Nature’s pitfalls, dangers and tirades; I’ve yet to find a reason not to return. Our modern society is toxic, over burdened and quickly fizzling; making it ugly, stifling and uncomfortable for me.  Foraging in Nature helps me navigate the refuse of our culture.

The first 1/3 (25 years-ish) of my life was spent rebelling.  The second 1/3 of my life was spent desperately trying to fit in; somewhere, anywhere.  The remainder of my life will be spent recovering from the rest of it, so I can go home; “turned ’round right”.  Recovery, for me, resides in foraging.

Foraging feels like home to me.

The old Shaker folk tune actually gave me exact instructions on just how to “turn ’round right”.

‘Tis a gift to be simple

‘Tis a gift to be free

‘Tis a gift to come down

Where we ought to be

And when we are in the place just right

We’ll be in the valley of love and delight

When true simplicity is gained

To bow and to bend we will not be ashamed

To turn, to turn will be a delight

Till by turning, turning, we come ’round right

Walt Whitman wrote to me, also, telling how, in Leaves of Grass.  Come to think of it, my Grandma Contesse had a lot to do with it, too.  She had two green thumbs; and could bring a dead plant back to life with one look from her most demanding gaze; willing it to live, vivaciously, prolifically and more colorful than ever before.  Grandma took me into her garden, placed a seed in my grubby mitt and taught me magic.  Giving life to a plant, nurturing its potential and enjoying its gifts, is an experience everyone should have and share with others.  We are told, “The kingdom of God is in the mustard seed.”  Does that, perhaps, mean that when we behold a seed (creation) we wield the power of God? 

And the healing began.

I took it all to heart; hanging on to my mentors, through the darkness; yet, only gleaning their depth.

Who I am, have always been, combined with who they are and who you are, and all the experiences I’ve had, witnessed or read about, along with all of our dreams, has led me to foraging.

Sitting with plants, noticing their characteristics of fragrance, color and design, begins a “Magical Mystery Tour”.  When we pay attention, the plants begin to speak to us; not only through their particular characteristics, but also by their constitution, location, neighbors, predators, and preferences. A great many essential elements of our survival come from plants. Even the invasive, alien species have much to teach us. Before long we learn that seeing Stinking John means Fiddleheads and Ramps are nearby.  We discover that Bears love those blackberries as much as we do, and note that Bears are hopefully napping in the afternoon.  And, that snails enjoy Autumn-olive in fruit, making harvesting both, simultaneously, a bonus!

We gain confidence and the healing continues.

Foraging has taught me to lower my expectations; to nothing!  At one time, I went out in search of specific plants.  Mostly, I didn’t find them.  However, I always find a plethora of equal or better options.  I only foraged when I was foraging.  These days, when ever I step out the door my purpose is to see what’s happening, right now, and I’m always foraging! (which is NOT to say harvesting).  Every trip has greater purpose.  I always carry my camera, a field guide (or guides), a notebook and pen, gloves, and a couple of folded, cloth bags.  Even if I can’t or don’t gather plant material I can gather info; photos of plants I know and don’t, identification guidance, notes on locations and conditions, sketches and possibly a small sample. Gloves are important, here, especially when handling unfamiliar plants; to reduce the possibility of injury from insects, as well as, plant reactions.

In the face of adversity, foraging gives me something to look forward to.  And, the healing continues.  Every walk offers discovery and brings rewards.  Writing this blog, about foraging, is rewarding, also, because you read it.  It’s not just my notebook, anymore; it’s yours, also.  Thank you.

Oh, and there’s all the free stuff!  Free fruit may be my favorite aspect of foraging; although I’m pretty fond of my extensive, exotic array of gourmet, self-wild-crafted teas!.  I’m a fruit-aholic; and fruit is stupidly expensive.  Last year I picked six gallons of Autumn-berries.  If you figure fruit at $30 a gallon (most fruit is more), that’s $180, cha-ching!  My family picked about 10 pounds of Fiddleheads, at $8 a pound, that’s another $80.  And we picked a pile of Morel mushrooms, which go for $18 an ounce, dried.  Unsure how much that equals, I am, pretty sure, you get the picture!  Right now, there’s Japanese knotweed, Wisteria, Autumn-berries, and Milkweed in my freezer, there’s Wood sorrel, Sassafras, Garlic mustard, Bay leaves, Coltsfoot and more, on my spice rack, and several dozen dried herbs, for tea and medicinal purposes, including Goldenrod, Yarrow, Agrimony, Cleavers, St. Johnswort, Wild Carrot Seed, Clover, Dandelion, Self-heal, Calendula, Wild Lettuce, Sassafras, Roses and many others.  And there are trays of drying goodies, all over the house.  All this bounty, at a cost of, only, time and effort, with the added dividends of sunshine, birdsong, a fragrant breeze and exercise; and, the healing continues.

Foraging is simultaneously elevating and grounding.  At once I am touched by the Earth Mother and surrounded by Father Sky. It teaches me ecology, patience, the importance of attention to detail and my connection to all there is, and urges me to reverence. Foraging reminds me to watch my step and always remain grateful; even if all I come home with is a rash!  Foraging urges me to see the world through fresh eye, all the way down to the cellular level.

Does it matter if I forage because I’m weird?  Or is it that I’m weird, because I forage?  I believe it’s the most natural thing I’ve ever done!  And, that’s why I forage.  In my thinking it’s weird that everyone doesn’t forage.  If you knew how much was out there, it would blow your mind!

Just click on any photo to enlarge.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you soon.


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