As much as I love all local foods, there’s something truly special about wild, totally uncultivated food growing right at my feet, and in the case of the Wild Grapes, dangling right above my head. There’s a vitality to be had in wild river-grown Watercress that the best cultivated varieties can’t even compete with. The sharp bite of Mustard, the sweet crunch of Wild Lima flowers and the fine flavor of fresh Cottontail brings me back to my body, and closer to this particular stretch of enlivened land.
Late afternoon often finds me waiting out the heat down by the river. After floating on my back down the cool current I usually gather greens for dinner in the shade of the Cottonwoods and Alders. Come summer, I’ll be able to curl up in the shadow of Red Currants, Gooseberries and Wild Mulberry trees to gather the juicy, tart fruits at my leisure.
Foraging draws me into the woods, gets me up close and personal with my source of energy, with my personal connection to vitality and life. In the eye of the deer in the heat of the hunt, or in the spiny folds of the Cholla bud, I see the gifting cycle spinning full circle. To eat and be eaten, to live and to die, only to become yet more life.
These plants and animals here are tough and willful. While the mountains of the Gila are usually fertile and rich in diversity, they’re also dry and nearly barren for months at a time. The strongly cyclical nature of the Southwestern seasons makes for especially resilient and insistent creatures. Every life I take, every morsel I eat, I honor it with prayers and a deep respect for its primal desire to live. Whether animal or plant, I give thanks for the magic that grew it, the breath that animated it, the land that sustained it. This is the sacrament of the ordinary, of the exrtra-ordinary, of the daily transformation of food to flesh, life to life.
Connection to what is wild spirals me deeper into my own wildness. The thorns and hard edges inspire me to grow stronger. The soft underbelly of the running Elk and the sensual curves of the Rose open me up to my own vulnerable side. We are what eat: physically, energetically, completely.
May what we eat always be beautiful, wild and full of the vital mystery of life.
I also just did an essay vignette on immersion in the natural world over at the Anima blog, you herb blog readers will likely enjoy it as well, so go on over there and check it out.