I don’t think I consciously ‘got’ into foraging, it’s always been something I’ve done – as a child it was just what I did, picking apples and blackberries, picking flowers for potions, or searching for fallen branches to make dens – gathering was my child’s play. I loved and still do love the natural world; from the incredible graphic patterns inside a foxglove flower to the smell of a camp fire on a balmy evening; gathering from the wild is just part of what makes me happy and is central to the make up of me as a person.
I went to a rather magical school in the middle of the Bedfordshire countryside, a lost in time girls school; a ramshakled oak filled & mothball smelling beautiful building set in the most bucolic grounds; sweeping Cedar lawns, hockey pitches that disappeared into the horizon, and ‘the wilderness’ my happiest memories of my teenage years were lunch breaks with my friends or by myself in this woodland area hidden at the back of the grounds – It was an ethereal place, wide mowed paths cut into thigh deep swads of grasses & wild flowers; we’d lie in the depths of the grasses, hidden from the day to day routine by curtains of corncockles, vetches, and buttercups gazing through the canopy of leaves above at what I remember as permanently cloudless blue skies. it was the place that provided comfort and peace for many of the girls at school; I don’t know if the Wilderness was consciously created with that aim but I think it was inspired to leave a wild place where we could be alone.
I was always been in awe of the natural world – laying face down on a lawn of grass with the miniature world beneath my eyes, or gazing into a tiny flower head to discover the most beautiful painting would leave me with a euphoric sense of awe about the world & how good it was to be part of it. I have always be conscious of how lucky we are to play a part in the world; and I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve taken a moment in nature for granted.
My life was in no way unblemished however. I suffered the usual rites of passage of a teenage girl and my family went through some extremely difficult and heart-breaking times when I was in my childhood and early teens which left deep scars, but for some reason, I don’t remember the detail or even the feeling of the bad or sad times but like a mother after child birth, I can only really remember the blissful moments; and those memories are vividly accompanied by the feeling of damp grass between my toes in the summer, the smell of growth in spring, gulping in the most delicious air on misty, haw frost coated mornings, the taste of sweet ripe plums eaten straight from the tree.
I am conviced that from a young age turning unconciously to nature grounded me in the world; gave me an outlook that has helped me through the heartbreak, illness and loss that life bestows on all of us & I’ve not escaped without my fair share of heartache – but I have always felt lucky to have the abilility to turn to something that soothes, heals and grounds me; I’ve never lost faith in the wonder of the world & I feel strongly that my attachment to the land has attached me to life. In times of stuggle my urge is to get outside – planting, weeding, gathering, walking; they have all been vitally important elements of my life.
Whether I’m in the garden for 10 minutes or out gathering until the stars are in the sky, there is nothing more soothing, relaxing and mindful for me to do than to gather – it’s not about the food at this point, it’s not about the buisness, it’s not even about the recipes I’m thinking about in my head; it’s about the moment, the drone of nearby bees gathering the same nectar as I am, the evening song of the thrush sharing its folk song just with me, the canada geese gliding over head enroute to its summer home, walking into the pockets of warm air that only people or animals willing to be still and slow for long enough can enjoy. It is also about the child who is still residing in me being allowed to come out & get face to face again with branches that would make a good pole for a den, perfect flowers for fairy hats & the beauty of the world around us that makes me & my inner child know our life is a wonderful gift.