Monday, August 22, 2011

Whoa, Nature!

Yesterday was a complete day off. It was a fantastic break from the routine of scrabbling to survive as an independent artist in a flailing economy. It wasn't enough. I want one of those every week or two, especially while the weather is so fantastic. Now that there are more of us to do the work, that just might be possible.

Here's what I consider to be pure heaven for a day...

First, we went to the top of Mt. Sexton looking for a plant that the native people used for food. They moved it here from the other side of the cascades and propagated it throughout the areas where they travelled every year. They didn't form permanent settlements, till the soil and plant monocrops, so it's hard to recognize that they engaged in agriculture. But they did, and they depended on sensitivity to the natural world for their food plants to thrive. There was a time that the valleys were so full of these blue flowers that the first explorers to see them thought that they were inland seas.

Nowadays, they're not nearly so prolific. That's why a growing number of us who want to see a more nature-based lifestyle are spreading the seeds again. People who don't know what to look for would never even notice that we're doing it. It's just one more wildflower among the rest. But it means a lot to those of us who eat from the forest already and want to do even more of it and see "harmony with nature" become a way of life again.

Next on our relaxing agenda was a trip to the local watering hole. This is a sacred place where the water has carved into the serpentine bedrock over many more years than there have been people to see it. The result is a series of basin and pools that pour from one into the next through a series of tiny waterfalls. They culminate in one large, very cold pool.

I stayed in the water so long that my core temperature dropped and I had to lay in the sun to warm back up. I've always just paid a quick visit and went back to work. It was (as usual for me) an extreme way to enjoy the place, but I loved it.

This spot is really only known to the locals here. It's far from the highway, off the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, and then a sometimes treacherous hike down through a forest and cliffs with rattlesnakes and poison oak. This place, and others like it, is one of the reasons that I'm so attached to this strange little rural community. The wilderness here is amazing.

And finally, after a relaxing day off I meandered down the driveway to eat my fill of blackberries. Harlan and Arcana reminded me that you can do that. I haven't eaten them that way since I was a kid, supposed to be picking them for the family. As an adult, I always bring a bucket and collect them to share with others, as a jam, a syrup for pancakes, or a sauce for ice cream. I guess that childhood training really stuck! It was an eye-opening experience that I could just walk down and eat all of the berries that I collected.

Instant gratification? Selfish endeavor? Not my natural way of thinking, but really fun once in a while. Especially when my friends have banded together to grant me a day off.

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