The Sun crested the horizon and it quickly became apparent that it was going to be one of the last warm days of the year. My husband and I whispered, keeping the children unaware, and chugged coffee and tea, respectfully, in preparation for our hurriedly thrown together plan.
We loaded up the truck with baskets, hiking gear, pellet guns, multiple cans of bug spray, and the small army that is our family. The forest beckoned: today was a day of harvest and hunting, today was Epic Root Harvest Day.
The trail stretched out in front of us, and my eyes scanned the edges of the trail as we walked, looking for a handful of various plants, but mostly being distracted by how beautiful the forest was. Oh, the colors of Autumn...
The mosquitoes were thick, and eventually my husband and stepson wandered off deeper into the forest, while the children and I stayed on the trail, only stepping a few yards from it on either side. The baby is just 17 months, so raw forest hiking isn't exactly her specialty, and as this was a new section of the forest for me, I didn't trust the Land spirits to be appeased by the offering I made enough to risk getting lost with five kids.
The Bloodroots I most saught proved elusive -their leaves having already yellowed and most having withered (bottom left.) I made do with Blue Cohosh berries (above center) and with the always needed Dandelion, Plantain, Yarrow, and Red Clover.
My basket half filled with Wild Geranium roots, my bag brimming with Northern Maidenhair Fern, Yarrow, Dandelion, Plantain, and Burdock it was time to venture back toward home and try a more familiar bit of the forest, where I knew where the Bloodroots hid and the squirrels were a little more plentiful.
The children contented with yummy treats and the chance to lounge about after hours of hiking, I wandered out behind the house, bare feet padding down the trail while I sang to the forest. Wild Geraniums dotted the sides of the trail, and I dug a few, finding a few large roots and one that bore a rather humanish shape (or cat, if you turn it on its side.)
Venturing further into the forest, and still not finding any Bloodroots, my song changed: I sang to the Bloodroots, calling them out from the underbrush and fallen leaves. The trail split, forming a three way crossroads and the idea of asking for help in find the plants crossed my mind. I quickly dismissed it, though, as I had nothing to give in exchange, and the need wasn't that great. On I sang, calling the Bloodroots.
Turning back down the trail, I followed an internal suggestion to turn slightly off trail and search there. The suggestion proved true and I spotted a bright yellow leaf. Setting down my basket, a thought not my own said, "don't set down your basket, or the faeries will take it." I picked up my basket again, but having no way to hold it and dig the root, I set it down once more, closer to me, though, this time.
Brushing the dirt from the beautiful Bloodroot root, I made an offering of saliva and energy, and placed it in my basket. Walking back to the trail, my husband met me, handing me the baby (who was not content with yummy treats and lounging.) Again, I set down my basket to get her better situated on my hip, and then continued back down the trail. We stopped maybe twenty feet further down to examine some deer tracks, again I set down my basket. Upon picking up my basket again, I found all of the Northern Maidenhair Fern and Liverleaf I had picked gone. I looked about, thinking the baby had taken them out when I wasn't looking, but they were no where to be seen. Grabbing the baby and my basket, I retraced our steps but found only three of the Maidenhair Ferns. Somehow, in that short span of trail, I had lost half a basket full of herbs. Gone. Just like that.
Remembering everything the forest had "told" me today, I laughed. I had been warned and chose not to heed the advice. "Fair enough," I said out loud, while spotting a patch of yellowed Solomon's Seal, "you can keep the ferns, but I'm taking one of those Solomon Seal roots." Meeting no objections, though perhaps a smug smile (I truly do believe it is possible for a forest to smile, the Land expresses itself in numerous ways that most people never encounter,) I set down the baby, placed my basket on the ground between us, and quickly set to work. The gorgeous root dug, I again gave offerings of saliva and energy, scooped up the baby and my basket, and made my way out of the forest, singing as I went. Epic Root Harvest Day, for all it's surprises, was a success.
Throwing the Bones