arriving at a’s place after a winding drive of watching spring trees bloom, ready for a promised nettle harvest and whatever else we might come across, i find her in the woods looking for the perfect tree to set up her newly built
wood duck nesting
after finding the perfect tree (a standing dead elm just at the edge of the pond) we weave and crash our way through the phragmites to balance the wood duck box against the tree trunk to
screw it in place.
i am covered in wood shavings (that we put inside the box as a nest filler) and it becomes apparent that the screws we have are just a little too small to hold up the (wood duck size) box high up on the tree. it (only sort of) falls on my head as i let go of it, and so we stop our endeavors to wait for
more appropriate hardware.
following a’s instructions on holding the edge of the nettle leaf while cutting the stem, my fingers don’t get stung for the first time when nettle collecting. see! she says smiling with a told-you-so inflection in her voice if we’re gentle with the nettle she’ll be gentle with us.
on the way to my car, hands full of said nettles (and some raspberry leaf forages) (and a couple of horseradish leaves) i run into r in the driveway. you went shopping? i ask to his hands full of grocery bags. yeah, post farm day shopping. he is wearing end of the day dirty clothes.
sheepishly, he holds up a bag so i can have a better look. i had to buy kale he says and we both laugh acknowledging the criminality of that act. as far as i’m concerned, he says spring could last forever, but we just need summer so that we don’t have to buy kale.
when n (eleven years old) unexpectedly starts in about going to his therapist on thursdays, (just as a side note to me) in the middle of when I was teaching him and the others about wild edibles. it’s dark out, and we’re all huddled around close, every kid with a matching green mug
the white pine needle brew we just made,
and his language is
calculated- retelling some of the things he and his therapist talk about. i can’t help but smile listening to his concerted effort to be in the here and now.
he then inserts a line about how his body responds well to the tea
and I am not entirely sure what he means by this, except that he is drinking all of the contents of his mug, tilting his head as far back as he can to finish the (weakly brewed) concoction.
before the interruption I had been telling them about how
white pine needles are great for colds and chest congestion
with lots of vitamin
the short amount of research I did about red maple buds (the only blooming flower within walking distance for me to grab a few twigs, in this colder microclimate of the hills) to show my students, when I read the evidence on the internet that suggests the plant to be “polygamomonoecious,” in the words of Harvard professor P. Barry Tomlinson, which means, in words I can understand, that a red maple tree could be entirely male, entirely female, or ambiguous in gender by producing both male and female flowers. and that a single tree could change this pattern from year to year.
i decide to just stick to the basics of
in my lesson, while also affirming that things aren’t always what they seem to be. how especially in this case, gender presentation isn’t always
evident at the
nursing the beginnings of blisters on the ball of my left foot and the
bottom of the big right toe, after dancing barefoot on a wooden floor in a
hall with a high ceiling, feeling tender towards my not yet calloused winter feet
now primed for
the way the peepers sound so loud as I drive by what must be a vernal pool on hamilton road with my windows down, and i can smell spring.
the moment in the Passover seder meal,
hosted two days early
for logistical convenience
in the house where I now
live, (and work) (in the woods with kids)
(the guests are sitting on cushions and couch arms and in armchairs)
in which I have a burning question,
and then allow myself to ask the room for a go-around,
if we’re all willing?
what if the story of slavery was actually ours to hold right here, right now?
then there’s the moment when we finish going around the circle of guests,
a word or two sharing our dreams/aims/aspirations for freedom.
breaking down our own kinds of personal slavery.
when i feel new warmth rising glowing surrounding my body
because there is a certain radiance to vulnerability
especially with a roomful of strangers.
the mental picture I take of all eight 5th grade boys muddy and smiling, sitting on the fallen log just when the sun bursts out from behind the clouds, when for the moment all of them are miraculously not complaining or picking on each other, or getting their socks unnecessarily soaked in all of the small mountains of melting snow. I hoot and holler for a minute and they look at me funny. i frame my fingers in front of my eyes click i tell them its for #mentalinstagram.
when the fire only lasts for a minute or two at a time in the sodden fire pit, with soaking logs and crumpled birch bark but I let them blow on the coals and keep on trying anyway. they are all working together and taking turns feeding small twigs into the flame /not flame anymore. j, the smallest of all of them, is laughing and talking at the same time with a mouth full of a burnt marshmallow and caramelized sugar all around his lips and stuck in his braces.
how the teacher of the Wilderness First Aid course i am taking over the weekend points out that an airplane is a wilderness setting, and I imagine a 747 with old growth oaks growing between the seats. but I want to ask seriously what if we box up and label all of the earth’s wilderness as resource, and then the only time we can practice wilderness medicine is in the sky.