Eyes and Ears of the Land
Last weekend I went on a wild foods adventure and got to meet one of my foraging heros, Samual Thayer. I had read his books and watched his videos and when I learned he would be an instructor at the Nature Wonder Weekend at North Bend State Park in West Virginia, I signed up right away.
I'm so glad I had this opportunity. Our little group of 'gatherers' hiked the wooded mountaintops for hours, learning about the plants that were there and the ones that were missing. Deer were rampant and had grazed away much of the greenery under the trees. The park was organizing a cull, but we learned that it might be years before the native species returned, if ever, since so much damage had already been done.
There were still many treasures to be found - a multitude of mushrooms, berries and roots.
But what I remember most was Mr. Thayer's discussion of the wider implications of foraging: "Foragers are the eyes and ears of the land". He talked about how foragers spend time outdoors, in relationship with the earth, walking the paths, touching the ground, noticing the patterns of growth, interacting with the multiplicity of life. The forager is the first to notice when something is wrong in a place because the forager has been paying attention to the life of that place.
The weekend kept me busy with workshops and presentations, and a chance to sample many kinds of wild foods, but these words have remained with me - 'the eyes and ears of the land'.
When I wander my own little patch of field, that's how I feel, too. I notice the day to day patterns in the community where each species takes it's turn in the sun. When a disaster happens - mowers coming through or a patch of ground being sprayed with weed killer, I feel the loss, as if these plants are family and I cheer them on when they start to recover.
I'm beginning to find that foraging is not so much about finding things to eat as spending time hanging out with the 'family'.
Mr. Thayer's latest book on Amazon: