Fall, Mushrooms and The Cyclical Nature of Seasons: a rambling rant

The last time I posted I was knee deep in winter. The cold had settled into my bones and the familiar feeling of ice in my veins had returned, something I hadn't felt since '06 or '07. My self-care routine of codonopsis-cinnamon-ginger infusions were beginning to fall short in compensating for my lack of sleep, work schedule and general lack of treating my body with respect and consideration (HIIT rountines are not for every day use, B). I felt like I was in an absolute rut. What was my next move? I wasn't growing enough in the job I had - I was waking up way too early for it to be sustainable (4:30am is ungodly). I felt stagnant and stuck.

And then spring came. And somehow I landed my first ~career~ job, and in an interesting and relatively appropriate industry nonetheless. And then the plants came back, poking their heads up from the recently-thawed ground. Skunk Cabbage returned, and, somehow, everything began to change. Not for the better, or the worse, but in the way that it always does.

 reishi mushroom - early summer - new jersey, 2015

reishi mushroom - early summer - new jersey, 2015

 mugwort, sage and shadows - new jersey - summer 2015

mugwort, sage and shadows - new jersey - summer 2015

It was the pungency of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) that first pulled me back to the earth after my first winter. Dispersing, energy-moving garlic mustard. Thrown into my new morning breakfast that now included (gasp!) protein from eggs. I blended fat-heavy (but still lacking, really) pestos with toasted garlic mustard roots and tons of fresh leaves. I discovered that the flowering tops are actually my favorites, that they pair really well with a little bit of olive oil, red chili pepper flakes and pine nuts. Next was the symphony of early spring flowers. The hill at the roundabout on the way to work lit up with yellow blossoms, all turning towards the sun, singing in their earthy delight. The dandelions, the violets - bursts of purple and yellow (ironic, as fall ends with the same color scheme via goldenrod and asters). A royal expression of sun and dirt. Dandelion, teacher of resiliency and that perseverance and existence are an art form in their own right. Violet, teacher of vulnerability and beauty. The harvesting of both provided a creative outlet for me as new-at-the-job jitters began setting in. 

After work hours I began to find myself knee deep in the "field" (aka railroad side parking lot) behind the office. I began harvesting spring's bounty: chickweed, cleavers, violets. Dandelion leaves for stir fries, flowers for brandy and honey elixirs. Violet flowers for vinegar infusions - the beauty of being fragile and delicate. Chickweed - nourishing, demulcent, soothing to the GI tract. Connecting people to place. I shared chickweed that I harvested from behind the office with coworkers. "You really do look like a rabbit!" she exclaimed as I munched on wild greens, learning the delicate dance of how much you are allowed to be yourself in a work space. Pieces of myself began to fall out, I attempted to hold them in. They fell out anyway - it is what it is. I began to put reminders of myself at my desk (thank you, Reishi).

Summer rolled in. The return of warmth, heat. The energy of the South, of red, of light. I relished in feeling the sun penetrate my skin. Warming me from the outside in. Reminders of being in Florida. The tearing down of walls. The melting of boundaries. I began to spend my weekends solo hiking in the woods, for 6-7 hours at a time. Going off the trail to find the most wonderful displays of Reishi mushrooms. Literally hanging off tree roots to gather the perfect specimen for my altar. Surrounded by the beauty and abundance of the forest. Beginning to realize that I was setting up my life here in New Jersey. That this is my life now. That I was 23. I was working full time. I was living in New Jersey, and that I was putting down roots. Somehow I had made it this far, to this place of societal normalcy. There were still pieces of my life I wanted to change, move around, and shed. I wasn't ready yet.

Mid-summer was marked by sticky fingers, and a mouth full of sweet, succulent wine berries. 4:30pm meant only 30 minutes until I could go berry picking again. As wineberry season came to an end, and blackberry season began (full of mostly tart berries, really. Enjoyable nonetheless), I found myself falling down a hill being attacked by wasps. I found myself laughing and yelling at the same time. Mindlessly shoveling berries into my mouth and getting caught in obsessive thinking had led me to walk right into a wasps nest - how could I blame the wasps for stinging me? Plantain (Plantago major) to soothe the welts. Gratitude to soothe the pain. Laughter for acceptance. The potent magic of eating wild foods. Connection to place, to land, to time and season, and to self. Wildfoods as medicine for a fickle and somewhat tumultuous relationship to food and body. Medicine in sharing food with slugs and bugs and creepy crawly things. Medicine in eating the jewels of the forest - expertly designed by the Sun and the Earth, curated by none other than nature herself. Laughter, not annoyance, when you accidentally put a stink bug in your mouth.

August disappeared like dew on a hot morning, and all the sudden it was late summer. A month or so spent crawling over logs and under neath fallen trees to harvest mushrooms. The smell of seafood, apricots and rotting tree-flesh (Pleurotus spp). Walking around nearby parks with a knife in my hand hunting for flecks of orange (Laetiporus spp). Crawling hand and knee up steep hills to sit with these impressive beings that are more closely related to animals than they are to plants. Edible, too. See the above paragraph on the medicine of wild foods. See this sentence for the joy of sharing said food with people. For having abundance and giving it away. Late summer afternoons spent de-bugging Chicken of the Woods, cooking up Oyster mushroom-curries, and finding comfort in meal prep and routine. Near-denial that summer would end, really.

 raccoon skull, new jersey, last weeks of summer 2015.

raccoon skull, new jersey, last weeks of summer 2015.

 sacred datura. nyc. late summer, 2015.

sacred datura. nyc. late summer, 2015.

 

But summer, like all seasons and cycles, does end. And all the sudden it's October, your feet are back to being chronically cold, and the strange comfort of Autumnal nostalgia sets in. A time of undeniable nostalgia. Of anniversaries - both good and bad. 6 years since my last one of those, 10 years since admittance to there, and so forth. Certain temperatures remind you of certain people, and the way the autumn light comes in through my window reminds me of waking up for the first time in New Jersey. For me, Autumn is the true new year. The time I really look inwards and assess where I am in the time frame of my life. Blessed by the abundance of spring and summer, my body is relaxed and nourished from of weekends spent eating cantaloupe, Ethiopian food and walking in the woods. From time spent with new people, new characters in this ridiculous movie that is life. From growing into a new role at work, from realizing that no matter how hard you try, little pieces of who you are will fall out and that, to a certain extent, there is nothing of value in this world besides connection. To place, to people and to self.

Rambled rants as an exercise in connecting to self, in hopes of connecting to others. Hopes for sharing information about myself in hopes that you could find pieces of yourself. And the daunting realization that until I begin to shed the parts of myself that I have been clinging on to for the past 5, 10 years, I will not grow into the person that I want, that I need, to become. That sharing the realities of our human experience is what creates connection. That being vulnerable is the only way to truly connect with others. That this rough facade of someone who doesn't care isn't fooling anyone. That no matter how hard I try, or you try, little pieces of ourselves fall out. We leak out of the armor we have built around ourselves. We are messy, we are constantly changing. We are the warmth of summer, the fragility of violet flowers, and the ice cold air that shakes you to your bones in the winter. We are the energy of change, itself.

I want to apologize for how all over the place this post is, but I'm trying not to apologize for everything I do. Here's my commitment to one post a month. Perhaps the next one will be more clearly guided. But it might not be.