Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fringe Benefits

I was at Andy's Way foraging glasswort this evening. It's one of the ingredients in my seaweed salad. It's a succulent and grows abundantly in the mudflats as can be seen above. It is delicious raw or sauteed in oil or butter. It is quite salty and is also sometimes called sea pickle.
Andy's Way is one of those magical in-between places. I remember loving it when I was a kid. My brother and I used to scavenge the shore for baby horseshoe crab shells. We thought they were the most marvelous thing in all of existence. I found one tonight, and it was just as marvelous as I remembered, maybe even more so since I find myself regaining a great sense of wonder at the beauty of the world that I hadn't even realized I'd lost. That's one of the good things about spending the winter in Providence. I loved Block Island so much more after living somewhere that wasn't quite as beautiful as Peru and Hawaii, where I spent the past two previous winters. It is so easy to lose sight of this beauty, even when it is all around us here on Block Island. We get so busy, caught up in our dramas, some of which are real and worthy of our attention they generally indicate a place where we need to grow. But if we don't grow we run the risk of circling in the same stories instead of entering a new one where we will learn the next set of lessons our soul needs to evolve.

I am in the process of shifting into a new story. It is quite painful. I am doing my best not to intellectualize it. Foraging gets me out of my mind, into the moment, calms my emotions. It is a great gift. Tonight, kneeling on the mudflats picking the most succulent stalks of glasswort, it was easy to imagine myself a Manissean woman doing just the same thousands of years ago. My cousin tells me my Uncle Herman says of me with derision, "she eats weeds."

Of course I eat weeds! What sane person wouldn't? The insanity is buying food from the grocery store. Of course I still do. I spent eight dollars on a carton of coconut water tonight, something I could have foraged if I was still living in Hawaii. I don't regret it, but I do feel a little guilty. If I could never drink it again, I'll admit, I would miss it. I would long for a fresh, green coconut and wish myself back in Hawaii where they fall from the trees. It would be possible to live alone on wild foods, but it would be a mighty task to complete on one's own. The British forager Fergus Drennan who originally inspired me to get out in the fields and on the rocks tried it, (his goal was to live on wild foods only for a year), but found it too difficult to do while still  paying rent, etc., while still living in a money economy.  You can read about his attempt at http://www.wildmanwildfood.com/.

 I remember writing him and telling him how much I admired his attempt, and telling him not to see himself as a failure. Foraging, living off the land, works best as a collective enterprise. It needs a tribe and lots of time. The pressures of modern day life are not conducive to the practice of wildness. I am doing my best to hold the energy of wild Block Island in the midst of the summer mayhem, but it's hard a lot of the time. I, too, live half-in half-out of the money economy, mostly because I have to. I get tired of riding my bike around. It's been quite exhausting in the heat. Tired of hauling thirty pounds of seaweed up cliffs and in my bike basket back into town. However, if I had the choice, if there was a tribe who wanted to do it with me, I think I  would do it. I think I am ready to slip out of the money economy into the tribal world, rather like an otter. We'd have a lot more time to play on the banks of the river. A lot more time to enjoy sunsets like the one I saw at Andy's Way tonight foraging glasswort. What a fringe benefit. What a bonus. Thank you sun. Thank you oystercatchers who flew over me. Thank you gentle, warm waves of the Great Salt Pond. May you be given back a thousandfold all that you give to us.

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