Bold but Senseless

WP_20130802_104-1A few years ago, my first boyfriend came to Vermont and we met for coffee. I hadn’t seen him in maybe 15 years? And I was worried.

There was this nagging feeling I had, not that either of us weren’t mature enough to have a cup of coffee together as adults, but about something I did to him back in the day.

Or didn’t do.

Basically communicate effectively at the end.

As an adult, I think back to the former me, and still shake my head in disbelief. I was such an awful person back then. That I could ever treat anyone with such disrespect.  But when I brought this up over coffee, so many years later, he laughed it off and said something to the effect of:

“We can’t be held responsible for what we did when we were like 20, 21….I mean really…we all did really senseless things back then”.

I was so relieved after all these years, and have thought about that sentiment often since, letting myself off the hook for quite a few dumb choices while repeating these words to myself.

I do however think back to that time in my 20s, and I may not have had much sense but I was fearless.

I moved from location to location following my career. I lived alone.

I explored new cities and towns when I traveled, all by myself.

I had no qualms about going into a restaurant by myself. Drinking wine by myself. Going to the movies by myself.  It wasn’t easy at the time, but when I forced myself, in the end, I was empowered by it.

My last state move, to Vermont, was no different. After the first few weeks of crying, wondering how I could make such a crazy mistake, thinking I could adapt to life in the country, I finally settled on a 3-bedroom house just for me. I need to be happy, right? Nesting is good.

When I was first learning to love the nature-girl life, I embraced it on my own.

I went for hikes in the woods.

Said yes to learning weird hobbies from new friends: foraging, running on river rocks, fishing, cruising around in the evening looking for critter sightings…

Once I learned what people around here did for fun, I went for it. I would run from river rock to river rock without worry, up and down my favorite spot along the Big Branch in Mount Tabor and go out looking for wild mushrooms deep in the woods.

And going solo? Never worried about it.

Last night, I was reminded of the younger, bold but senseless me , when I was on the phone with my husband, who is traveling this week. We were talking about what activities Brett and I had on the agenda for the week. I really want to go mushroom hunting; because there should be a ton of chanterelle mushrooms in the woods, but am not really used to going on my own anymore.

I asked my husband, “do you think it’s safe for us to go up to our favorite spot in the National Forest, alone?”

My husband sounded startled. “of course, it should be”, he said “why wouldn’t it be?”

I hung up the phone and wondered, when did I turn into that person who hesitates?

Who stops, and misses out, because she is scared?

There was one incidence, after I had lived in Manchester for a few years. There was a snowmobile trail from one side road near my house that opened up to the woods, eventually bringing you out over a walking bridge, that came out onto another side road. One day as I was walking from one side of the bridge to the next, I heard voices. Hiding behind a tree, I slowly took a few more steps, and then a few more, until I could see what was up.

Two stringy-haired guys, in their 20s perhaps, were taking tree branches and slamming them down on the windshield of an old beat up muscle car they had dumped there. Crushed beer cans surrounded them.  I turned around immediately and ran all the way home.

I suppose this could have been when I started rethinking solo walks deep in the woods as I never went over the bridge again after that.

Who knows who could be lurking around?

What if I wasn’t able to turn around?

What if they saw me?

What if? What if? What if?

All these thoughts in my head; I never used to worry like this.

I never needed to rely on someone else to do what I wanted to do.

But as a woman, and a mom, 15 years later, I have way too much sense for my own good.

So many years of anxiety about keeping my kid with a life-threatening food allergy safe.

I’m always at-the-ready with a safe snack and a few Wet Ones.

When it snows? Or if there is any inkling of black ice lurking on the roads, I don’t drive. It’s not safe.

Chemicals and insecticides in the environment and on our foods? Ugh. Must stay away from them too.

The news.

Abductions.

Identity Theft.

What else should I worry about?

Be careful on those river rocks, you might slip!

As I think back to that sentiment: We shouldn’t be responsible for what we did way back then, I realize after years of gaining more sense, something I desperately needed, I need to dial it back a notch and throw some of it to the wind…

I don’t want to resurrect the insensitive qualities of my early-adulthood of course, but need to get over the constant worry.

Can I be bold, and have common sense at the same time, can those qualities realisticially live side-by-side?

I’m tired of missing out. Tired of making decisions for my son that will cause him to miss out as well.

WP_20130802_007So today, I made the decision, Brett and I went to the mushroom spot by ourselves.

What if there was a weird psychopath on the trail? I think to myself…

What are the odds?

We’ll be ok…

As we rumbled along the deserted gravel road leading to the chanterelle spot we saw a sign:

Road Closed. Gated

Well, no chanterelles today I guess, but we enjoyed Plan B instead.

Not quite running , but some slow climbing on the river rocks.

And it felt so good to be out there again.

The breeze. The beauty of the rocks. The sound of the water.

I just saw a glimpse of my old-younger self again, and want to push myself back, but forward, just a little bit each day, so I can see this side of me a little more often…

Do you have moments when you don’t recognize yourself today? Without wanting to go back, are there qualities you had then you wish you could get back again? 

Would love to hear your stories and comments.

 

Ramping Up

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There is a great benefit to researching and writing about being fit and healthy.  It’s the fact that if I don’t practice what I preach, then I’m a hypocrite…and since I don’t want to be one of those, it’s great motivation to ensure I make every attempt to follow my own advice. Last week, in my post Sense of Nature, I wrote about the benefits for all of us, children and adults, to be active participants in nature. I’m happy to say, I was able to embrace nature in a big way this weekend, thanks to an early start of the 2013 foraging season.

Every spring, when we see a little green on the trees and in the fields, and a few warm days, my husband and I get obsessed with foraging, or as I keep hearing in the media these days, wild-crafting. This is where we head out into the woods, search for mushrooms or edible plants or berries, or whatever we can collect in the wild with confidence that when cooked, it won’t make us sick.

Foraging was not an activity I was ever familiar with growing up. When I tell friends this is one of my hobbies, sometimes I hear them wax poetic about how so-and-so’s grandmother in France or Italy showed them which mushrooms or plants to hunt for as a child, and they had vivid recollections of amazing ethnic feasts, with these prized edibles taking center stage. This romantic scenario wasn’t the case for me, my parents weren’t the woodsy-type, or the type of people who would take a risk eating something they personally had to identify as safe. Although eventually, thanks to Whole Foods stocking some of the same wild mushrooms we fed them ( but charging zillions of dollars per pound), they learned to trust we were not going to poison them.

When I moved to Vermont as an adult, that’s where my education on wild-edibles began.  Here, in many places, the forest is open and beautiful and you can really meander around comfortably and see the forest floor without getting poked in the eye with twigs or branches or brambles, or assaulted by too many ticks. Black morel mushrooms are the first to come out, and where I live, we see them along old paths in the woods. A few weeks later we see yellow morels, often near white ash trees.

fresh morels from a secret spot in the Vermont woods...

fresh morels from a secret spot in the Vermont woods…

morels...

morels…

What I love most about collecting mushrooms, or berries or wild plants in the woods is that it’s like an unstructured scavenger hunt. You look for clues: a certain tree. the elevation, the slope of the ridge. The sun. Moss. The weather that day. The moisture. And when you get it right, you are sometimes rewarded with the prize.

And probably more often, you get the location right, all the elements for success are there, but you find nothing and you are left scratching your head wondering what the heck you did wrong.

Regardless of mushroom success or failure, we usually come back relatively happy, because what we tend to find in the same locations are big beautiful patches of wild ramps, or as they are sometimes called, wild leeks. My husband used to think of these as kind of a consolation prize when we came home empty-handed on the mushroom front. But since, I have come to love them as much, maybe even more. They are much more abundant, predictable, and come back in the same spots every year. When I have them, I cook with them pretty much every night, adding them on homemade pizza, or on top of a burger, in omelettes or over pasta or grains… They are the best when the bulbs and leaves are slowly sauteed in olive oil until crispy, with a little sea salt.

Yum!20090509-DSC07443

Oh, I’m off topic here, I’m supposed to be talking about exercise and nature, not eating…

So this weekend, I didn’t even have foraging on the radar because it’s so early in the season. But I happened upon a recipe for Wild Ramp Pizza that looked so good.

Hmmm, I wonder if… ??!!  Maybe I’ll go check…

jackpot!

jackpot!

We happen to have a reliable ramp patch near our house. I quickly grabbed my waders and boots, and ran down along the river (it’s easier to do that than run through a tick-infested field), and within a few minutes, realized I hit the jackpot. Sometimes early in the season you will see many ramp leaves, but the bulbs are too small. Not so this time, there were a bunch of them. I didn’t bring a pack basket with me, because I didn’t really expect to find anything, so brought back just enough for dinner that night and surprised my family with my prize. I made my super-slow-cooked crispy saute perfectly and served it over quinoa.

freshly picked!

freshly picked!

The next morning, when the timer rang, signaling to my 8-year-old son Brett that he had reached his Minecraft playing limit, I came over and asked him if he wanted to take a hike down the river and get more ramps for dinner.

Typically?

Whining. Complaining.

“Can’t I just play for 5 more minutes!”

Not this time.

More ramps for dinner? He was on it.

We brought the pack basket this time, so we could collect a little more than just a handful.

It had to be the most beautiful day. A nice breeze. 70 degrees.

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pulling them out with great care…

There were no critters in the backwater ponds for Brett to catch with his net, what he usually focuses on while I do all the work, but once he looked up and saw that field full of ramps, he pulled out his small shovel, and even though they were tough to pull out, he took great care in selecting, cleaning and helping me fill the pack basket.

On the way back, we stopped and made some rock sculptures on the river beach, and later that afternoon came back to the house tired and happy and proud of our catch.

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me and my little partner…

Foraging is such a perfect activity from start to finish.

Fresh air, lots of exercise, mental relief from being in such a beautiful outside environment, and a great time to talk to family and friends.  Let’s not forget too, at the end of the day you get to cook a really special meal reminding you of the time and patience and care it took for you to gather the ingredients.

As for me? I’m psyched because the season has officially started. It’s almost never as easy and hiking down the river to find what I want, like I did this past weekend. It’s more of a puzzle. A hunt, and not always a sure thing. But that’s what makes it fun, engaging and kind of addicting!  Now that I have had that first taste of it, I’ll be more motivated than ever to shift my focus from winter indoor exercise and grocery-store produce, back outside and back to nature, something essential for us on so many levels.

Hiking in the woods. Rambling on paths. Wading in the river.

Ramps. Fiddleheads. Mushrooms, Berries…

Let the hunting season begin!

If you are interested in learning more about foraging and collecting edible plants, there are so many books and field guides and apps to use. I learned through knowledgeable friends though, and think it’s probably the safest bet to have someone show you how to identify the plants or mushrooms in person. If you have a friend who is into it, invite yourself along–and if not, look to see if you have a local nature organization nearby where you can learn with guided instruction.

I’d love to hear your foraging stories too, please do tell!