Friday, December 22, 2017

A Walk in the Woods and a Bit of Foraging

Holly Tree in Massachusetts.

A walk in the woods is good for you, it is known as Forest bathing, in Japan it is called 'Shinrin-Yoku'. It helps to keep your heart strong and your mind fresh and alert. Whether you are 5 minutes away from a patch of woods or an hours drive, it is worth taking the time to slow down and enjoy the nature around you for your health, for you spirit. This Holiday Season it's a good reminder to slow down and enjoy everything around you, especially what Mother Nature has to offer us, still.

In search of Teaberries in a New England Forest.

“Let our law-givers then make haste before it is too late to set apart this surpassingly glorious region for the recreation and well-being of humanity, and all the world will rise up and call them blessed.”  (excerpt from “A Rival of the Yosemite” John Muir 1891)

Toadstools growing along a stump in the forest.

While on a recent trip back to Massachusetts to visit family & friends, one of my cousins reminded me of the Sally Milligan woods where we would go to gather wild Blueberries. The berries were small and delicious, it took great effort of time and caution to not get caught in the brambles all around. Back then the park seemed enormous, with every tree and rock bigger than the next. I loved to climb up into the trees there and sway in the breeze of the forest around me, way up high with the birds and squirrels. One of my favorite berries to gather in the forest were Teaberries, they taste like Teaberry or Beaman's Gum and are probably part of the recipe for making that illustrious gum immortalized in the film "The Right Stuff". 'Loan me a stick of Beaman's' still to this day floods my memory bank with moments of finding those berries growing on the forest floor hidden under delicate leaves.

Harvesting Teaberries.

The old Girl Scout Pond frozen in Winter.

Nearby to this patch of woods was what we knew as the "Girl Scout Pond" a place to find pollywogs and tadpoles, to catch frogs and fish for sunfish. We'd recovered a sunken raft cobbled together with big rusty nails which I had an unfortunate altercation with. Stepping on a nail, led to the discovery of the raft, meanwhile for days on end I drained the hole in my foot from the puss that gathered from the infection. Never telling anyone about this, and miraculously enough not contracting gangrene or worse. Now the pond includes a restored lodge where once lived the Estes family. Kim Estes was the daughter of Edie, one of the best people I knew at Beverly High School. My visit to the pond and the woods brought back wonderful memories of fireflies and tree peepers at night. I am thankful to have lived an extraordinary rich life.

Sally Milligan Park Placard.

Estes Lodge Placard, the pond is now known as Camp Paradise.

"Winter comes suddenly, arrayed in storms, though to mountaineers silky streamers on the peaks and the tones of the wind give sufficient warning. You hear strange whisperings among the treetops, as if the giants were taking counsel together. One after another, nodding and swaying, calling and replying, spreads the news, until all with one accord break forth into glorious song, welcoming the first grand snowstorm of the year, and looming up in the dim clouds and snowdrifts like lighthouse towers in flying scud and spray.

Classic New England Stone Wall, my grandfather Antonio built many of this type of wall along the Northeast railroad tracks.

Studying the behavior of the giants from some friendly shelter, you will see that even in the glow of their wildest enthusiasm, when the storm roars loudest, they never lose their God-like composure, never toss their arms or bow or wave like the pines, but only slowly, solemnly nod and sway, standing erect, making no sign of strife, none of the rest, neither in alliance nor at war with the winds, too calmly, unconsciously noble and strong to strive with or bid defiance to anything.

Rich Green Moss growing on the trunk of a tree in the woods.

Owing to the density of the leafy branchlets and great breadth of head the Big Tree carries a much heavier load of snow than any of its neighbors, and after a storm, when the sky clears, the laden trees are a glorious spectacle, worth any amount of cold camping to see. Every bossy limb and crown is solid white, and the immense height of the giants becomes visible as the eye travels the white steps of the colossal tower, each relieved by a mass of blue shadow.

Leaves lie above and below the frozen icy surface of the pond.

In midwinter the forest depths are fresh and pure as the crevasses and caves of glaciers. Grouse, nuthatches, a few woodpeckers, and the other hardy birds dwell in the groves all winter, and the squirrels may be seen every clear day frisking about, lively as ever, tunneling to their stores, never coming up empty-mouthed, diving in the loose snow about as quickly as ducks in water, while storms and sunshine sing to each other. 

A nestled bundle of branches in the forest.

One of the noblest and beautiful of the late winter sights is the blossoming of the Big Tree like gigantic goldenrods and the sowing of their pollen over all the forest and the snow-covered ground - a most glorious view of Nature’s immortal virility and flower love."
(Excerpt from “Our National Parks, Forest Depths” John Muir 1901)

A Walk in the forest.

'I Remember Trees'
I remember where the Sycamore trees grow in a meadow, Chopping a dead
tree down with a hatchet as blisters rose on my hands, a Crabapple
tree full of Cedar Waxwings, the simple chair made of Aspen tree
poles, where Birch trees shed their bark to the ground as lovers shed
their clothes to the bedroom floor, a Pinon Tree hosting a swarm of
bees, the driftwood we found on the beach I carved into little
creatures, standing in the top of a Pine tree feeling the slightest
breeze cause it to sway, carving our initials into the bark of a tree
on an island in the middle of a Blue Lake, I remember You.

Peace to one and all, enjoy each moment, R.

The Sally Milligan Park Monument. 
I am thankful that this park was there for me to explore 50 years ago, and again last week.

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