What I Came For

Quote

Amazon.com

I stared out over the land in a demolished rapture, too tired to even rise and walk to my tent, watching the sky darken. Above me, the moon rose bright, and below me, far in the distance, the lights in the towns of Inyokern and Ridgecrest twinkled on. The silence was tremendous. The absence felt like a weight. This is what I came for, I thought. This is what I got.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

  • Pacific Crest Trail: Website and Twitter

Book Review: The Family That Forages Together Stays Together

When I picked up this book, I was looking for practical information on foraging for food in an urban environment.

I like to garden and (frankly) would prefer to live in the country on a little hobby farm, but I work in IT Security, so my job keeps me city-bound. Identifying and using wild plants is something I’ve had a long-standing interest in, but was never able to pursue, so I started poking around different blogs and forums, looking for information on plant-identification classes and nature hikes. That was when I stumbled across this book.

The family lives in a suburban environment. Midwestern cities tend to look very suburban, even in the inner city – this is not universal, of course, but as a general rule, we have a lot more green space than people in much more densely populated areas (particularly along the coasts). Therefore, this book describes a living situation that is very close to my own.

If you are living in the inner city (a truly urban environment) you will probably find this book equal parts interesting, entertaining and not-entirely-useful.

The book is filled with hands-on practical advice, but the facts are provided through the medium of the journey of discovery this family experienced during a year of living off of what they could forage. Every family member had been involved in learning these skills – and they clearly had a wonderful time playing outside together as they pursued this interest. So, the decision to attempt living off of their foraging for an entire year was a natural and logical progression of this pursuit.

Personally, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was fascinating and eye-opening from the perspective of what is possible, even within a suburban (or urban) environment. There are several points where they decide to collect apples, berries or rose hips off of public land (e.g.: the decorative bushes planted in the medium in the middle of a road or an apple tree in a public park) and find themselves asking – or being asked – if that was even allowed. Of course, the next question was always – who’s going to stop us? After all, there aren’t any official apple-protecting-police-officers assigned to the park.

There are also a lot of really good tips and commentary on raising a family. The beneficial aspects to simply setting a goal and pursuing it together, as a family and as a team, are beautifully illustrated by this book.

It’s an excellent read. I strongly recommend taking a look.

Quotes from this book can be found HERE.

Browsing Nature’s Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs by Wendy Brown and Eric Brown

Choose Power Over Fear

Quote

Amazon.com

 It was a deal I’d made with myself months before and the only thing that allowed me to hike alone. I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid. I was working too hard to be afraid.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

  • Pacific Crest Trail: Website and Twitter

God Does Not Intervene

Quote

Amazon.com

The following quote marks a turning point in the author’s life story. This is followed by multiple extremely difficult circumstances beyond her control, exacerbated by a litany of her own seriously bad choices. All of this ultimately leads her to the PCT and the beginning of the journey detailed in this book. While this is not a spiritual journey per se. there are moments (here and there) that can only be described as deeply spiritual – most are the good kind, but they begin with this.

 It was the same when I tried to pray. I prayed fervently, rabidly, to God, any god, to a god I could not identify or find. I cursed my mother, who’d not given me any religious education. Resentful of her own repressive Catholic upbringing, she’d avoided church altogether in her adult life, and now she was dying and I didn’t even have God. I prayed to the whole wide universe and hoped that God would be in it, listening to me. I prayed and prayed, and then I faltered. Not because I couldn’t find God, but because suddenly I absolutely did: God was there, I realized, and God had no intention of making things happen or not, of saving my mother’s life. 

God was not a granter of wishes. God was a ruthless bitch.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

  • Pacific Crest Trail (PCT): Website and Twitter

ReBlog: A #NoDAPL Map

Quote

This blog post about the importance of maps and the Standing Rock protests is worth a read.

When I decided to become a cartographer, I didn’t just want to make pretty and useful maps. I became a cartographer to make maps that change the world for the better. Right now, no situation …

Source: A #NoDAPL Map

Remembering The Early Morning Bear

Amazon.com

The following memory was originally posted as an answer to a question on Quora. I’ve decided it is worth displaying here on my blog.

I was camping in the boundary waters of northern MN (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness). I was a Volunteer In Park (VIP) through the Student Conservation Association (The Student Conservation Association), so was living out of a tent, on an island, for the better part of a summer. Our team’s only contact with the outside world was a walkie talkie and transportation between worksites (islands) was a small collection of canoes. In short, I wasn’t just in bear territory, I was camped out in their living room.

The good thing was this: it was so remote and so seldom used by the general public that the bears were appropriately afraid of human beings. Do something stupid, and they will attack. Leave food out in the open, and they will eat it. Conduct yourself in a proper manner and, for the most part, they’ll leave you alone.

One night, I crawled out of the tent to take a pee. I’m one of those people who will try to ignore nature in favor of staying in my sleeping bag for as long as humanly possible (so nice and cozy warm!) so this was a serious need. As soon as I made my rather noisy exit and stood up, the first thing I noticed was a mother bear and two cubs.

They were close. Way to close for comfort. If I’d been less awake or observant, I would have walked right into them on the way to our communal outdoor toilet – so 25 yards, give or take.

They appeared to be passing through, but the noise and movement created by me caught the mother bear’s attention and all three bears stopped while she moved her large head from side to side, looking around. I froze out of sheer instinct.

What little I know about hunting in the Midwest immediately followed instinct and I made sure to NOT look the mother in the eye. The night was reasonably dark and there was no wind, so my groggy half-awake and (therefore) mostly animal-instinct driven brain decided my best chances for survival were silence, no-movement and no eye contact.

The reason for the emphasis on no eye contact is this: whether you are hunting prey (e.g.: a deer) or predator (e.g.: a bear), no amount of camouflage will work if you make the mistake of looking the animal in the eye. Even while using a set of binoculars from the upper branches of a tree, the animal will sense the connection and take off. This was something they taught in the hunter’s safety course I took during elementary school, but I’ve never been hunting (before this moment or since) so this was one of the only opportunities I’ve ever had to test the theory – and there was only one option I was willing to try.

After a few long moments of patient statue-standing and waiting, the mother bear made a soft snorting sound, the bear cubs went back to the happy tumbling walk that bear cubs have and the three continued on their way.

As soon as I was no longer able to either see or hear them, I relaxed, took a much needed pee, and escaped back into my tent. That tent seemed terribly flimsy and felt entirely non-protective. I stared at the ceiling for a long time before I was finally able to go back to sleep.

It was scary.

It was AWESOME!

Yeah, I know – I’m a little weird.

Environmental Empowerment

Quote

Amazon.com

“It is empowering to believe we can stay in good health by making the right choices in lifestyle. It is equally empowering, however, to realize that these choices also extend to the natural world, the environment.”

Animal, Mineral, Radical: Essays on Wildlife, Family, and Food by BK Loren

Burden of Convenience

Quote

Amazon.com

“It’s not that I abhor convenience. It’s that I feel slathered in it. It no longer feels like a privilege, but like a burden…”

Animal, Mineral, Radical: Essays on Wildlife, Family, and Food by BK Loren