Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Seasons and insanity as a forager

© 2011 Joshua Stark

Foraging, hunting and fishing are markedly different from gardening, no more so than during harvest.  Gardeners (especially the ones outside California) get antsy during late Winter.  They pore over arcane tomes of knowledge - planting tips, seed catalogs - in the futile hope that the pages of texts and online fora will fill that hole in their hearts.  But, that hole can only be filled by dirt, and besides, that hole is one of anticipation.  It's a tough one, to be sure, but there is the knowledge in gardening that with patience, perseverance, and worms, you will garden.  Unless you live in the Central Valley of California, in which case you are gardening all year, and don't have to suffer.

But In the wild pursuits, ya got to pick 'em when their ready, which is why my wife hates me during seasons that are particularly relevant to me. 

Scene:  driving down a country road, listening to "Marketplace", heading towards Mamaw's and Papaw's house:

Me, in a quiet, yet forceful voice:  Let's see if we can get a government run by people with even LESS understanding of economics next ti...  ooh, look at all the fennel pollen!  Craap!

My loving wife (LW), lowering her head slightly and half-closing her eyes:  ...

Me:  There it goes.  You know, it sells at the Co-op for, like, thirty bucks a pound.  And here we are, driving right by it.

LW, taking a long, slow breath, slightly pursing her lips:  ...

Me:  It'll be gone in no time.  Man!  I bet those gooseberries up the hill are ripe now, too - and we know the elderberries and blackberries are just about to rot on the vine.  We never have enough time.

LW, a knowing smile playing across her lips:  ...

Phoebe, four-year-old daughter in the back seat:  I want to move closer to Mamaw and Papaw.

Me:  Me, too, honey... ah!  I bet the stripers are hitting at Watt Avenue right now, and next week is deer season!  It'll all be gone for another year, and we won't even get a chance.  Man, we never have enough time.

Ruben, 10-month-old in the back seat, in a quiet, thoughtful tone:  Gah.

I get a tad wild, myself, when things are in season in the wild.  The word in Spanish is "desesperado" (not to be confused with that wonderful hit by the Eagles), and it drives my wife bonkers.  Finally, she will say, "just go!  Get out!", and send me packing to pick.  Or hunt, or fish. 

But my madness isn't completely irrational.  In the wild pursuits, you have to be out at the right time, or it truly is gone until next year.  There is no anticipation, no nurturing in the same sense as gardening, and there is nothing in the wild approaching the fence that surrounds your plants from everybody else's.  Oh, sure, you think about the wonderful things you will make with particular plants or fish or game, but you don't nurture the plant, you don't water it or drive away bugs or anything like that.  It isn't your plant... although you certainly do feel a sense of proprietorship when you come back to a ripe fig tree and find that it's been stripped clean by somebody else.  It is ripe in its own time, on its own effort, and you just have to make sure and show up, or it goes to somebody else.

The wild pursuits are ephemeral, and so aesthetically and philosophically, they provide much nourishment.  But, when it comes to eating, an ephemeral nature can drive a person kinda coo-coo.


Bpaul said...

I hear ya. It's so hard to "get out enough" to feel... I don't know, sated. Or complete. Or like I've done enough.

I strongly suspect that I can't ever reach that point however. Not living in the city, and holding down a job.



Josh said...

So true. And quite optimistic! You know what you have to do...
: )

Hey, I remember you saying you'd made a bowstring out of nettles. I want to do this, too; can you send me directions?