Cold water throws us into briskness and clarity. Plus, it's fun. The writing here is about finding flavor in nature, foraging, jumping into surprising arenas. Living brightly but slowly. Feeling cold water in dark weather, living in hills and dales, among leaves and trunks, with each plant and fruit and berry, each marrow and mallow.
**Photo of bee balm dried seed pods, by John Lodder, Flickr Creative Commons.
Having just returned from the woods, I’m
being still, letting the natural remain about my shoulders. I'm in a dim,
November-dusk room--sitting near a clear bag of
bright-green garlic mustard, an invasive plant that raises havoc nationwide, but tastes succulent. It has round, rippled leaves, a bit like those of an English violet.
Not having seen it before, I held onto the bag until I reached home, wondering if I had simply
harvested violet leaves past flowering time. Even so, I was pretty sure it was the right thing, and I felt proud of my weighty zip-lock.
**Photo of Garlic Mustard, by Jacob Enos, Flickr Creative Commons.
Now -- having checked several photos and descriptions online -- I'm sure it is garlic mustard, which
is good news. It’s energy-full stuff, despite being bad for
soil here in North America. But harvesting it (and not adding it to any
compost or yard waste) is a good way to clear the woods, while gaining vitamins. Hurrah. That’ll help, because my energy is
low. I'm congested, and have been for days. Dust and indoor allergens
that flare once the heat is turned on each fall have caused the problem. Mold causes it, in particular. There are other indoor factors: In other apartments, I've noticed the effect of chemical fragrances in winter – laundry detergents, harsh cleansers.
Pre-chemical use, we all cleaned with Bon Ami and maybe lye, or rosemary and other
That said, perhaps mold wouldn't trouble me if
I lived in a yurt and moved it from place to place, or if I knew all the herbs
to boost my immunity each winter. Meanwhile, I’m planning how to cook the
garlic mustard--and having nettle tea, which contains Vitamin C. It seems to be
**Photo of a log in fall woods, by Yo La Tengo, Flickr Creative Commons.
The forest has leaf molds too, but I
love walking its paths—and they don’t bother me because of the open air. Other than the green garlic mustard
scattered in small patches, the woods were all shades of brown and tan. There were beds of brown leaves, bare branches, and many walnut-colored
seed pods on long, bent stems.
After seven years in the Northwest, seeing
deciduous woods in winter -- not the damp, moss- and fern-thick woods of the Cascades -- is striking but invigorating. In the garden outside of my house
are dark brown pods, a bit like I imagine dried husks of bees would
look. These, the gardener told me, are what is left of our spring/summer bee
balm—a pink and sprightly flower and herb that is used in teas and other concoctions. It’s exciting to see this cycle, to know that the bee balm isn’t
gone, just different.
**Photo of seed pods by Lindy, Flickr Creative Commons.
Walking along the rock wall that lifts
the sidewalk on my street, one passes under trees, past rows of sere
and brown varieties of seed pods. All of those are changed now from the bright young plants
they were in late spring--but they're still beautiful, if a bit melancholy. It’s only
melancholy, though, because I want them to last
forever, in my human way. Eventually, hopefully, I’ll know how
each pod appeared in its past, and be able to contrast that with its current look.
Walking the brown paths was calming. I
thought about my need for nature, and reflected that maybe we aren’t meant to see
crowds of people, humans all the time, our faces rarely interrupted by tree
branches, sedge seed pods, tall grasses, clear streams.
I thought about how to
be in nature more often—it's an age-old question. How can we do that while still being
among like-minded, like-aged people and well-employed? There’s a graduate
program that focuses on nature and creativity. I wondered if that would be a
For now, I’ll give myself an assignment: Cover nature weekly.
Peace, happy late-November--it’s time to cook garlic mustard!
**Photo of garlic mustard and orange cup fungus, by Mightyjoepye, Flickr Creative Commons.