I have admired The Living Wild Project for sometime now. This labor of love was started by Alicia Funk with the goal of preserving local Native wisdom and inspiring locals to use the plants that grow, well locally, for their food and medicine.
I was delighted to have the chance to work with Alicia on this project. As it is Fall, a fun gathering project came up on the to do list- harvest madrone berries to make beautiful madrone malas, or prayer beads. Instantly, I thought of a huge madrone tree I had come upon while walking an NID trail years ago when my son was very young. I thought what better time to re-walk the footsteps of my early days as a mother with my now mobile son, and gather berries from this majestic madrone.
We set out on an optimal fall day. The sun was shining with a warm breeze stirring through the leaves. The trail had not changed one bit since my son’s first fall when he walked this trail with me countless times, nestled against my chest in the teal ergo. Now six years later we walk the trail together side by side.
We pass our first few madrones- no berries. We walk further with hopes that the madrones were holding out for only those that ventured far enough into nature. We enjoyed our walk- watching the leaves drift down the stream or a grey squirrel scramble down the hill side- but still no berries. Our walk soon takes a turn for the worst when my son, who played in the park for hours the day before, can now no longer walk another step since there is no playground equipment involved. By his internal pedometer we have walked at least 20 miles and need to turn back. Having experienced this before, I know better then to argue with this mindset, so we turn back. No berries.
It is no big deal for us, but I imagine how it would be a big deal if this was our source of food. I have been thinking about this a lot since I began working with Alicia on this project. What about the years where there are few acorns, or the manzanita berries sour before you get to harvest them. It was so easy growing up to take food for granted. Becoming more educated on the current food situation and diving into the beauty of eating locally grown, and now locally foraged, has given me an immense appreciation for everything that comes to my table.
We make it back to the car with our empty basket. Our next stop was a visit with a friend, whose house I frequent. I add this because upon arriving, I realize that her yard is filled with the berries that I just trekked (by six year old standards) in search of. Here they are lying on the ground in plentiful supply. I laugh, and ask her most humbly if I can forage in her yard.
My basket is no longer empty after I spend a short time gathering. The wind in the trees rain more berries down on me and I laugh a few times about how far I had to go to get what was waiting for me on the next stop.
My son and I head home. I notice as we are driving home the previously invisible madrone trees here and there. I get another good laugh when we pull up to the house we moved into over the summer. There in our drive way is a small madrone tree with many beautiful berries hanging from its branches.
“Wow, it just goes to show that you don’t have to venture far for what you really need.” I say in my wisest tone. To which my son, in a voice well beyond his years, replies “Whatever”.
TayaTaya Malakian is a poet, an artist, a yogini, a mother, and a minister/spiritual advisor. She strives to bring deep wisdom, ceremony and soulfulness into every aspect of daily life. She lives in Nevada City, Ca.View all posts by Taya →