But this state of not knowing the plants is itself a symptom of profound separation from the natural cycles, abundance, and calls to alertness and awareness that have been the evolutionary context in which our species has evolved. It is so important to rebuild the intimacy between people and the more-than-human world, the kind of relationship and relatedness that encompasses knowing the natural medicines and foods, hazards and how to live around them, and something about the lives of all the critters. I suggest that if we don't make the effort to develop these relationships, all of our efforts to become sustainable will lack the foundation they need to succeed.
Yesterday on a shinrin-yoku walk in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park we discovered a cluster of three plum trees I had not previously noticed. After a period of silent walking, one of the participants shared that her eye had been drawn to a patch of red foliage. We backtracked to explore what she was seeing. This led us off the trail to a group of plums---three varieties!--that were growing wild where a forest of mixed Bay and Oak trees edged up against a meadow of dry grasses. We saw how the deer had eaten the low hanging fruit from two of the plums... and by experimenting learned that the ones they had not yet eaten were simply not quite ripe yet.
We gathered a few plums and as we continued along the trail we noticed from time to time other plants that had medicinal or food value. At the end of the walk I pulled out my portable camping stove and brewed up some tea from ingredients we had gathered along the trail:
- leaves from the tips of Douglas Fir branch
- leaves and flowers of Pennyroyal
- leaves and flowers of Coyote Mint
- two whole wild plums, sliced
Knowing that Pennyroyal and Douglas Fir both have strong oils in them, we brewed the tea for a very short time before tasting it. We passed a cup around, with the agreement that nobody would comment until after everyone had tasted it.
Turns out, it was delicious. When describing the flavor, one fellow said, "It tastes exactly like the land we've been walking on!"
What a wonderful, intimate thing... to know not just the way the land looks, or even how its flowers smell and its birds sound, but the actual unique taste of that very place.