I knew I wanted to try and offer a little nourishment for your hearts as the wheel of the year turns towards fall. I also knew I needed to fill up a little myself before I had anything to offer. Who knew they would end up being one and the same? Happy Equinox dear ones. May reading about my magical day sprinkle some magic your way.
The day started with the call to wander. Some time to ponder the change of seasons, the equinox, some time for adventure, some time to feel the magic.
I decided to visit a trail in Connecticut hill that I’d not been to in at least 15 years. Maybe find some Maitake among the oaks, maybe find some sweet fern in a small patch. Kris and I would be making “offering mixes” for our herbal students as graduation presents and sweet fern is part of the blend. I knew the feel of the trail where I had found it before and figured I’d wander until I found it.
A little chilly and a later start than I had planned I packed my “lucky” foraging bag and my knife into my pack and headed down the road. Once I left the road and started the trail, I began my thanksgiving address aloud. If all I did for the morning was thank creation for my life and wander around the forest for a few hours, I would’ve spent my time well.
My first decision of right or left down the trail had me headed away from the sweet fern I remembered. No worries, I’m wandering today. After half an hour I turned back and continued looking amongst the oaks.
No Maitake yet.
My favorite part of hiking/wandering/foraging is that finding a mushroom is never guaranteed so if/when I do find it, I feel like a kid at christmas. Presents from the forest!
Yes, I’m headed in the right direction. Down and up a little ravine and I’m walking beside acres of severe thinning of the forest (One might call it a clear cut except for the few remaining trees standing.). The temperature here is at least 10 degrees warmer than the forest I just left. My heart feels heavy. I don’t understand these forestry practices. Do the forester “powers that be” know something I don’t about forest health? Why do they do this? I practice remaining curious while I move by this sad area.
The trail heads downhill, the sun shines cathedral light through the forest, and the chickadees chirp around me as I come around a bend and see my friends the sweet fern. Pure joy as I cry out, “There you are!” at the three sweet fern on the trail side. Yay! I kiss them hello with my hands and tell them I’ll be back after I travel down the trail for a bit.
I continue wandering off trail to look at the base of the big oaks. Still no Maitake.
The trail continues to cut downward along the hillside and crosses a few running streams. We’ve finally had rains so the little drybeds are running and I’m still hoping to find Maitake. The oak forest opens up a little and I pause and notice how quiet it is.
I mean quiet.
No wind. No human made sounds. No birdsong.
So I do what one would do when immersed in magic quiet, I sit down at the base of a big grandmother oak and listen. And watch. And wait. Soak in the quiet. This is really what I came to the forest for. This quiet time.
Filled with quiet I headed back towards the direction I had come. Heading towards home more settled, more grounded, more connected to all that is holy.
Enroute back to my car, a red leaf off the trail caught my eye. I walked toward it (I’ve come to understand that when I’m in the quiet place, it’s best to follow things that catch my eye.). Sure enough, all around the leaf were chanterelles! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I followed their trail back up towards the hiking trail, scooping them into my lucky foraging bag giggling as I went. When I returned to the trail I could see them on both sides of the trail. I HAD JUST WALKED BY THIS PLACE ten minutes ago!
Mushrooms are sneaky.
Crying and smiling (crying usually tells me I’m in the “right place”) I carried on up the trail. After a few minutes, I noticed my boot was untied so I bent down to tie it up. With one knee on the ground I looked around and saw Black Trumpets all around me.
I am not making this stuff up.
These little cutey mushrooms are hard to see unless you are looking right down at the trail. (Sometimes I find them by smell, SO delicious, or when they call me ever so quietly.) I had been looking off trail at the base of oaks for Maitake the whole way down and missed them. I literally stomped on a few as I walked by.
More crying, more giggling, more harvesting.
Now with my lucky bag holding the chanterelles and my favorite little basket in my pack holding the black trumpets I head up the hill. Cruising along I realized I forgot to stop and see about harvesting the sweet fern. Oh well, I’ve harvested an unexpected bounty today and can look for sweet fern another day. Up ahead is the clear cut and I decide instead of feeling sad & upset, I’m going to beam big love and gratitude at the land. Turning towards the clearing with my face in the sun I beam, “Thank you tree people for being here. I love you.” As I’m soaking in the sunshine, I smell the familiar scent of sweet fern. I open my eyes and look around to see a bounty of it in the brambles all around me.
In all the years hiking around where we live, I’ve only found one small stand of sweet fern. It was at the very place I forgot to harvest ten minutes before. The stand was so small, I was going to offer prayers and not harvest and now I’m standing in and among the biggest patch I’ve seen where I live. The biggest patch I walked right by 45 minutes before.
I offer prayers and gifts to the grandmother of the patch and ask her permission to harvest from the plants under her protection. When I get the body-felt “yes”, I proceed to harvest, with heartfelt gratitude, a little bit from a few plants, singing and crying as I move.
The final gift of my wander was dipping my hands, face and hat in a sweet little pool of water in the creek next to the sweet fern clearing.
Refreshed, renewed and covered in just a little bit of magic, I headed back to my car.
May you find your own patch of magic quiet.