I went out early Saturday morning. The sun was shining, such a rare treat in this exceptionally wet NW spring we are having. I have been wanting to fill my bottles from the spring, it’s been weeks since I made it out there. Sometimes the 60 miles feels like a long trek, life being busy as it is, I can choose to put it off for a while… and then I can’t anymore. Nothing is quite as sweet as fresh spring water!
I loaded up all my empties, about 28 glass gallon jugs and assorted growlers. I have the system down, cardboard dividers to prevent breakage, towels to dry bottles, gloves for fingers that become numb as the frigid water rushes out. I made sure I had my garden gloves with me too, and a knife, scissors and gathering bags. It is spring and the forage is on!
It takes a little over an hour to get out of Portland and to the spring. Enough time for my mind to start to calm down a bit. As soon as I leave Hillsborough I can feel the shift happen. More green, less pavement, more space, less hectic. My body begins to feel its breath again. Why do I live in the city?? I seem to ask this question with greater frequency of late.
I love going out early. Missing the rush of folks driving down to the coast for the day, even at 7 am I see a lot of surfboards. I arrive at the spring by 8 am, its still only 37 degrees out and I can see my breath come in puffs. I am glad I brought the gloves and that I have dry boots to put on for my drive home. Filling up can be cold wet work.
I always stop in wonder, to see this perfect clean water pouring in a constant stream, free and plentiful. How blessed we are to receive this gift. Doing nothing to be worthy of it, save simply being. A gift freely given, the love of our mother the earth. I am breathless, in awe of this. I pray first. Thanking the water and the earth, I drink deeply and bless myself. Anointing my head and heart with sacred water. A ritual older than religion. Holy water was not invented by Christians after all. The practice of blessing with water is ancient as we are and just as primal.
The water flows quickly into the bottles, so cold they instantly fog up. I wipe each down as I cap it an place it back in the car. It only takes a few minutes to fill them all. The water keeps on flowing, so strong and steady. As I make ready to leave I pause again in gratitude and reverence. I bow and drink deeply one more time. So thankful for the gift of clean water. Driving off, I look back fondly…until next time my dear spring!!
Leaving the spring I drive a short way to a trail head. In the winter I make this trip just to forage water, but it is spring and greens are coming on strong and bountiful. Gloves, scissors and a gathering bag in my hand, I head into the woods. Following the path of stream over fallen logs and under low hanging branches. My eyes begin to adjust to the variation in color and texture of the foliage. Moving from the “wall of green” we city dwellers see, to the keen eyes of a gatherer. I see the nettles, small and tender. The tell tale leaf shape, the fine looking fuzziness that will sting my skin and stay burning for hours if I am not careful. At first I see only a few and then its as if they all suddenly appear. Really they were there all along but my eyes adapt. Carefully I harvest, listening to where the forest guides me. Thanking each plant. I leave behind any that tell me no, please don’t choose me. I listen with my heart not my mind. So easily I could disbelieve my hearing, so easily talk myself out of knowing. I am learning to hear with my hearts ears, learning to speak the plant language.
The gathering is so peaceful. I alone, in the forest. There is some sort of magic that over takes me. A heightening of my senses, acuity of smell, taste, hearing, seeing. I become more alive! I love to sing as I gather, blessing songs, lullabies, simple crooning’s to let the plants know I love them . I can feel the ancient power of this practice, how long have we gathered food in such a way? Seeking nourishment and giving thanks. It is so familiar to my soul.
To have survived so long, my ancestors must have been good at gathering, no small wonder it feels so natural to me. I have read the theory that our cultural addiction to shopping is a stand in for our deep need to gather. We seek out sale bargains instead of seeking the choice greens or ripest fruits. This makes sense to me, our powerful skill built over eons of seeking the best we can find, misplaced in the malls and outlet stores. A sad remnant of what we once knew, what we once held as our own.
I gather for my own nourishment but also for the nourishment of my people and my heritage. I Gather to remember how to be a human woman, providing from the land. I gather for the plants, yes, I eat them out of love. I want them to know we have not forgotten, we need them still and honor all they do for us. I gather to know who I am, the forest sings it back to me, again and again, reminding me of my place in the circle of living.
Driving home, my car filled with water and greens. My heart filled with moss and glory. I am at peace, no wait, I AM peace. Now the cleaning and storing begins. The real work. Now it is time to get back to city life, yet I am still hungry…ready to head to the woods again.