Thursday, August 4, 2011

Seaweed mania sweeps the island!

These young people visiting from Newark, NJ tried my seaweed salad and roasted seaweed at the Farmer's Market last Wednesday. It was the first time for all of them. Some of them were fans, some were not, and some couldn't quite make up their mind, but they were all brave enough to try!

In other seaweed news, I am thrilled and so grateful to The Block Island Times for featuring me in the August summer issues. The photos by Robin Langsdorf are stunning and 15 year old Brooke Ortel wrote an incredible article. Both Robin and Brooke trailed me to Black Rock to forage in the tidepools and Brooke donned mask and snorkel to dive for sea lettuce and laver off the Ballard's jetty. The issue is not available on-line, but if you're on the island it's available all over town.

Seaweed, or sea vegetables, are growing in popularity, as is the desire for locally grown food. I have noticed a huge shift in interest since I first began at the Market four years ago. The Atlantic Inn continues to serve my roasted rockweed, and Glen Pence, aka Mr. Sister, of Three Sisters serves the rockweed and my locally foraged seaweed salad at his fish grill. Thanks to all my supporters! See you around The Block!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Unafraid to be Known

I am learning to speak the secret language. I can't tell you what it is, because then it wouldn't be a secret. But I can give you some hints about it's vocabulary, a bit of the way it feels under the tongue, whirling around the mouth. For example, this:

When you speak the secret language, she doesn't run away when you meet head-on, she walks toward you. You put your camera down when she does this, when you speak the secret language. It's not that she's afraid of it, it's just that both of you know in that moment as she steps toward you over a patch of snow that there may be some truth in the old fear of indigenous people that photographs steal the soul. When you speak the secret language, you don't need to steal what is freely given. When you speak the secret language your heart slows. You see with the eyes of the other. You are unafraid to be known.

The secret language isn't exactly silent, but it's close. It's the only language I know of that has a smell. Wet earth, decaying leaves, lost feathers, salt spray from the far off ocean. It is a language of gifts. A language of the chosen. I have waited years for the gift of these antlers. I found them on the greenway behind my current home on one of the coldest days of the winter. Something told me to go outside and take a walk even though I wanted to stay inside and be warm. I listened to the voice. Climbed over the stonewall and slip-slided my way downhill along a very old footpath, maybe even ancient. This part of the island was rumored to be where the slaves all lived back when there were slaves on Block Island in the 17th century. Africans and Indians forced to work for the white settlers. I hear them all over the island.

As I walked back up their path, returning home, I glanced to the right and there it was in the underbrush. Not just another branch, but the antlers I'd been waiting for a buck to drop just for me to find when I was ready. I won't presume to speculate on the significance of their size, but they are without a doubt the largest antlers I have ever seen on a deer. Or antler, I should say. The buck that dropped this one could still be walking around with the other. I scan the brush from the corners of my eyes on my morning commute now, but I know it won't be my eyes that find the other antler. If it's meant to be, my ears will guide me. The voice, if it comes, will be as self-contained as the sound of the sea inside a moonsnail. I trust this voice. And I think it might trust me, too. What an honor. I will keep your secrets. You need have no fear of me as our hearts become known.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Under the Ice

Winter is extraordinarily beautiful this year on the island. It always is, but this year I am feeling it more, probably because--well, because I am able to feel more! For many years I was as numb as the frozen ground, although I had an incredible experience this past week where I was shown that there is life below the ice!

Paul and I were burning brush at the edge of a pond on the West Side. I walked out on to the ice, mesmerized by the swirling white waves sweeping over its surface, wondering why some parts of the ice were opaque, some transparent. In other words, I was lost in my head instead of noticing what was right beneath my feet, when what to my astonished eyes did appear--right beneath my feet a bass with its mouth wide open looking up at me through one of the clear patches! Our eyes met for a couple of seconds before it swirled away down into the deeper water where I couldn't see it any more. It was such a thrill I am still high from it a few days later.

As for foraging, there is still plenty to be gathered, although I have not been gathering it. There is seaweed on the rocks of course, bark from various branches that can be used for medicine. Paul saved some spruce needles from a tree we cut this week for tea which he says is good for the joints, and there is even some chickweed still around, insulated by the snow. I ate a couple of  sprigs the other day and was instantly invigorated by its wild green. Here's a picture. It often grows in cracks between buildings and sidewalks or up against stonewalls.

One of the things I've realized is how much pressure I put on myself to do. This may seem funny to those of you who lead much more active mainland lives than I do, but I'm not so good at relaxing. When I try, I feel guilty. I feel like I should be out there on the ice-covered rocks collecting seaweed. Maybe this week. Maybe not. We'll see where my dreams lead me. 

This week they led me deep into The Maze after the snowstorm where I was the first human to enter. The deer, many birds, mice, and some cats which I assumed were feral, although you never know with cats, left tracks for me to follow. And that's what it's all about for me this winter: tracking my thoughts and feelings back to their source in order to unravel the webs in which I am tangled now so that I can weave new ones in a conscious state. Of course, I consciously leave space for magic and mystery. I wonder where the spiders are for the winter? I haven't noticed any in the corners of basements. I wonder what they dream? My mind leaps. I can't help it. It's one of the things I like about myself. So, this winter is about tracking: inside and out, following shapes and lines, making sense of patterns, but not too much sense, allowing them to disappear and reappear as they want to, like the fish who swam away from me into the deep.