Do any of us really know in advance the best course for our individual evolution of learning and understanding? Working with nature is a commitment to uncertainty. It’s a surrender to the vast mystery of existence, allowing the architects and builders of form to assist in one’s evolution.
Rather than choosing ‘I want’ one learns to accept what comes. Granted, there may be resistance to the new. This is simply a measure of unresolved negativity and fear. Fear of the unknown.
But how can there be growth without letting go of the known and allowing in the new? The salmon spawns upstream and its young flow with the current down watercourses they’ve never navigated before. To resist that flow would be to resist completely their reason for being.
The human desire for security is valid only if it doesn’t prevent our going with the flow of the stream of growth and evolution.
In a sense, my willingness to reconnect with nature represented my soul’s yearning to grow and fully utilize the human experience.
The fourth spring at Rainbow Buffalo I could get no spinach or lettuce to germinate, let alone grow. I can’t explain for certain the mechanics of this. Perhaps the seed was old and hence had a reduced rate of germination. The ‘why’ of the situation is less important than our response to it.
In the wild areas I’d mulched with hay on the fringes of the garden grew a profusion of edible weeds and it was to these weeds we turned for our spring and early summer salads in 1993. I like to think the denizens of nature had something to do with this because ever since that time a significant portion of Lucia’s and my daily salads have come from wild and semi-wild greens.
That spring, for the first time, we feasted on Fat Hen (Chenopodium album), which in my opinion is one of the tastiest lettuces available. This plant had been food for our European ancestors for centuries if not millennia and is one of nature’s richest sources of minerals, better than the spinach and cultivated lettuce it was replacing.. Its other common name is Lamb’s Quarter lettuce. This delicious plant was by no means our only salad green. We augmented it with purslane, another mineral-dense green, dandelions, two kinds of amaranth (which is especially delicious), juvenile Tumbleweed, dock and clover. We supplemented this wild supply with perennial and biennial greens from the garden such as sorrel, nasturtiums, borage,
Salad Burnett and lemon balm. Once the weather warmed sufficiently I planted a bed of buckwheat. Buckwheat is such a delicious plant.
Tumbleweeds are not indigenous to America. They came with the railroads, on burlap bags from Russia. Tumbleweeds won’t grow where other plants are already growing. They’re ‘primary growth,’ meaning they will be one of the first things to grow where the ground has been disturbed, plowed or scraped. It was a revelation for us in the spring of ’93 that baby Tumbleweeds were a nice edible addition to our salads.
It took a little longer to gather enough greens for a salad because most of the leaves were small. But it forced Lucia and me to make a daily connection with diverse areas in and around the garden. I see this as an important role for a gardener—making a conscious connection of love with the diverse species of the garden. And being thankful for everything being harvested.
We also benefited from the intense concentrations of minerals found in the wild and semi-wild plants we ate. It takes some time for the taste buds to adjust to salads made in this way. But once the adjustment has been made ordinary salads seem bland by comparison. Our ‘natural’ bodies sense and crave the goodness in these wild greens just as animals today will choose organic vegetables over commercially grown and genetically modified ones every time.
There’s a part of us that knows what is best. And we give that part an opportunity to speak once we eliminate enough processed and cooked foods from our diets. Our bodies then express natural cravings for natural foods rather than for the adulterated products masquerading as foods on the supermarket shelves today.
I see that fourth and last spring at Rainbow Buffalo as a watermark of sorts. It represented the time when we graduated from the processed and somewhat degraded diet of civilized man to the natural diet of our somewhat nomadic ancestors. It marked a step back to the days of gathering that came before cultivated crops and settlement of tribes.
John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.