Thursday, December 02, 2004

Gifts and Treasures

In the spirit of the holidays, allow me to share with you some unique folks, and some unique ideas for holiday gifts.

Yesterday we received the first official holiday card of the season! Seemed appropriate now that there is a bit of snow on the ground. The card was from a former teacher, Linda Runyon of Wild Foods Company. Linda is a treasure.

It made me smile to see her distinctive handwriting again! The card had a peace dove on it with the words, “Peace on Earth”. Speaking of Peace on Earth, check this out in reference to Linda:

Here are some of Linda’s creations for sale. Please support her. She’s a GREAT person and wonderful teacher with SO much information and wisdom to share! See the links below and believe me when I say…her books are comprehensive and her wild cards, a deck of cards that help ID wild plants, is a great gift for kids and adults alike.

I met Linda probably more than a decade and a half ago, and where else, but in a natural foods store?! I had heard about her, and was thrilled to meet her in person and find out that she is “just folks”, like me!

Linda has spent many years living in the woods, homesteading, raising her children, gathering wild food and information, learning, and then teaching others about safely and wisely incorporating wild plant food sources into a healthy diet. Yes, these are just WEEDS…but many weeds are actually herbs that can offer some help medicinally, while others are sources of important nutrients and delicious to boot.

I spent some great times doing what would be called work/study with Linda over a few years. She used to live about 10 miles or so as the crow flies, away from me in a neighboring hamlet. Linda taught weekly classes on wild plant identification by conducting “weed walks”, and still probably does so. She also taught about processing and cooking with wild plant foods.

I remember after beginning to take her classes that I couldn’t go down a road anywhere without recognizing plants and just clicking them off on a mental checklist. Being pretty dirt poor at the time, I took the learning very seriously and practiced incorporating such as red clover blossoms and other plants into tossed salads, and other dishes both because they are pretty and appealing, and also because they are full of good nutrition. For me, as a mom of 3 kids, any good way to enhance nutrition, and get more bang for the buck out of a meal, was worth my time to learn.

But there was more to my time with Linda. We got to be friends, and my kids just loved to go see her. Well…okay, they LOVED the rose tea pops with a single drop of honey and a rose petal in them. They love the pine tea pops too. Those pops were yummy and cool for a hot day. But really, my kids remember Linda with much respect and warmth, and still talk about those pops today, years and years later.

One memory from my work with Linda Runyon, is the time that I reverted to hunter/gatherer woman:

It was a warm day in July, mid-day to early afternoon. It was the day of the week, when Linda processed roots that she had harvested. As her work/student, I was helping her process them this time. I think they were evening primrose roots, if I remember correctly.

I was cleaning them to be strung up together to dry fully. Linda stored her harvest by drying some and freezing some to be used later in cooking simple nutritious meals including other whole foods like tofu, brown rice and so on, to create a varied and adequate and possibly superior diet.

There I squatted in the sun before a bucket of river water, scrubbing dirt from roots with the sounds of summer bugs buzzing and the river lapping and slapping the rocks along its’ shore, within earshot, just across the road from her place. The heat felt good, the sounds were nearly mesmerizing.

There was no traffic, and suddenly it got very quiet in my head. I think I entered an altered state, because suddenly, the here/now time/space faded and I felt and found myself in another more ancient mind and time and space. It was as if, the spiraling of time forward had suddenly caught some kind of backspin with all the sensory inputs of what I was doing.

I felt plugged into some source of information that dwarfed all others. I can only describe it as an intuitive feeling that more of my DNA was suddenly activating and I was connected to some really ancient knowing place DEEP within myself.

I could feel it happening on even a cellular level, I would say. It really blew my mind and it made me cry. It was like recognizing a part of myself that was so basic, that it was connected to everything. No mind-altering drugs involved either!

There was no doubt in my mind that by learning, and practicing such things that bring one closer to nature as this art of foraging and gathering, anyone could be in touch with that ancient mind and feel connected in the unbroken line back to the First Ones and in so doing, could find themselves even more whole. This was a major event for me and it gave an added depth and dimension to my work with Linda.

I have met some wonderful people through Linda’s classes. I even have albums that Linda gave me, full of pictures of folks and groups both more locally and across the country, whom she has taught. The one, who comes to mind immediately, is a guy who has become a good and long-time family friend. I met him when he was about the age that my oldest son is now, early-to-mid twenties or so, at that time.

This fellow is very intelligent, and is a kind and good person. He’s nearly a neighbor, lives a bit more than about halfway up a nearby mountain across the valley from us in a small cabin, which has transformed and refined over the years.

Back then as today, he hunted and processed game, grew and processed his homegrown veggies some when the critters didn’t get them, and supplemented his diet with wild plant foods.

A few times a year my husband and I hike up the mountain to visit him. He’s not exactly a hermit, though there are times when visiting is hard. A couple winters back, we even snow shoed up the mountain to see him. That adventure is another story. We do see him out and about from time to time also, sometimes at the post office picking up mail, or at the supermarket getting supplies.

I admire his general know-how. He’s very well read, and has boxes and piles of books. A master at recycling, he can find lots of uses for stuff many folks just toss away.

It’s really comforting to know that he is there, living his way, and living a good life.

I have met such a variety of people through my participation in Linda’s work when she lived locally: there were Reiki Masters digging on plant vibes, Survivalists who didn’t like people (but that’s another story), Back-to-the-land types, Healthy living enthusiasts, Vegetarians, Single parents, and more.

Then there’s another really neat fellow, we knew initially through Linda, and met in person later on visiting with another teacher. He’s a very ordinary and normal looking person, with many talents. Among those talents, he can open his mouth, appearing about to say a thing and instead, the sound of a Canadian goose’s loud “honk-honk” comes out and VERY authentic-sounding, I must say! It’s truly something to behold. He’s now retired, but worked for a long time as a teacher in the prison system. I can remember first hearing that sound come out of his mouth- a very funny, jaw-dropping moment!

So this blog entry is my tribute to Linda Runyon, and all the gifts she gave so generously to me and to my family whether things, understandings, knowledge, tools, or people. Her friendship and gifts are still shiny treasures to us. Take a look at her creations as linked, and please support her work and wisdom.

May her kindness and generosity come back to her thousand-fold.


At 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another wonderful essay, good reading for this cold December morning. Thanks, Joyce. I wasn't familiar with Linda Runyon, but people who guide us to knowledge of the world around us are invaluable teachers on the path.

But my very favorite part of this entry? Your description of connecting that one day with some ancient part of yourself...when it got really quiet inside your head. I've had a similar experience and it felt almost like the hum/thrum of the planet inside me, and I felt a strong connection to all the other women before me in time, I felt myself in the chain of women...something about matrilineal DNA at work. So your mention of DNA was interesting - it IS a cellular feeling.
- cassandra/calico

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