Tuesday, March 25, 2008

You Have to Start Somewhere

I guess you could say my grazing career began shortly after we moved to California. It was a rough start, but luckily didn't do permanent damage. I was nine years old and felt sort of like Dorothy scratching her head and saying to Toto, "I guess we aren't in Kansas anymore." We most definitely weren't in Michigan anymore. Our post war, brick bungalow neighborhood with one inch diameter crabapple trees was a thing of the past. Our new house had an old weathered shed with spiders and biting insects hiding in the corners. We looked up at pine trees so tall they blocked out the sunlight.
BoldMy grazing started innocently enough one summer day in the woods behind my house where Monterey pines, live oaks and tick bushes created a child's paradise.

That summer, before I had found kids to play with, I wandered in the woods pretending I was a wild animal, or an Indian warrior, or person who lived outdoors. While sneaking behind trees and outrunning imaginary enemies, I spied a wild iris in a shrubby copse under the pines. It was divine. It shone with an inner light. It erased all memory of the game I had just been playing. Never had I seen that color...indigo, before. Time stood still as the color seeped into me. Indigo. Hell, I wouldn't even hear the word indigo for another decade or so.
In that moment, under the damp mist that blanketed the Monterey Peninsula for two thirds of the year, I was transfixed by a beauty I had never imagined to exist. Of course I had to eat it. I had to have it inside me. So I picked the flower and chewed it up, noticing that it didn't taste that good. That was the first shock. That color should have tasted like heaven. The second shock was the pain. Almost immediately my throat began to burn. It was a fire that kept getting hotter, but not a normal hot like burning your mouth, and the pain was loud like a noise.

I stomped away from the house, heading purposefully toward relief, I hoped. I clutched my throat and moaned, so focused on the pain like you do when you're a kid, that I was too tied up in it to be scared. The thought briefly crossed my mind, "Go in the house. Tell Mom."

However, that scenario was instantly discarded as too risky. Kid logic has it that death might be preferable to letting your Mom see what an idiot you are. So I didn't have much perspective on my viable options. I was dizzy, disoriented and at certain points couldn't have told you where I was.

Hours later I went in the house and said hi to Mom. The pain had eased down enough that I could pretend like I dreamed the whole thing. In my family, we pretty much handled all our problems like that and it seemed to work pretty well when I was little. Not so great later, but that's another story!

I never ate another flower until was 30- something and I saw it in a cookbook. Now, I eat calendulas, violas and of course my favorite, dandelions, just the leaves, though.

I learned my lesson that day. It certainly didn't cure me of roaming the woods, alleys, city streets or country lanes where I've lived or from appreciating the treasures I found there. That lesson all us wild kids have to learn eventually, is what goes in which hole. No food in the ears. No jelly beans or peas in the nose. And keep those irises away from your lips!

Happy Hunting Out There
Alley Grazers, Forest Foragers
and all you Country Mice
Trapped in
Town Mouse Bodies!


Angela said...

What a great story, Grazer! I want to grow some nasturtiams (sp?) this year for my summer salads.

Claudia said...

This is such a beautiful story, Jul! And about those beans in the nose: my favorite story my mom tells is of when she was about 3 years old and found one of those buttons from her mom's shoes on the floor. She said, she looked it over and thought, "I know where that will fit just perfectly," and shoved it straight up her nose. Kids!

funforager said...

Don't you love nasturtiums. They grow anywhere and are so peppery and yummy.

I remember more than one story of surgical extractions of pennies, peas and I'm sure, buttons!! What parents have to go through while their kids do all that adventuring.

musemother said...

Dear forager,
lovely story. I so vividly remember being Pocahontas in the woods behind my house, an Ontario forest, where I imagined eating the dry wood from a dead tree. I love irises, and peonies, and finding trilliums amongst the snow,
jenn (found your site through Bella's, isn't she wonderful)

funforager said...

Yes, Jenn, she is wonderful. I am so grateful that I discovered both of you, or you discovered me, however that works. I feel my tiny world widening with kindred spirits who live by nature's rythyms as I one did. Bless you.