Finding the Moments

Has it ever occurred to you that there is a opposite version of triggers?

By “triggers” I mean the actual psychological definition of the word, by the way. It’s not a synonym for “offended” or “thing that makes me angry.” Triggers in psychology are the things that cause negative reactions and flashbacks in people who have experienced trauma– not unlike why veterans with PTSD might get uneasy at the sound of gunshots or fireworks. If you insist on using the word with a sneer at people whose politics you don’t like or as a joke, you might want to consider the life-altering magic of growing up and having empathy.

Little things that pop up unexpectedly that cause feelings of safety, warmth, and joy on the other hand are apparently called “glimmers”- and I’ve been doing my best to recognize them in my life. The last few days have been full of them, and I wanna tell you about it.

Spruce tips! A little too small for harvesting yet, but soon…

A Break in Temperature and Temperament

The rain and cold finally broke over Portland a few days ago and it feels like we are finally getting some actual spring. I’ve had to start dressing for chilly mornings but warm walks home in the afternoon. For my personal style, that has meant a kilt, hoodie, knit beanie and shawl with a cap for the afternoon.

Look on our adorable vibes ye Mighty and despair.

An elderly Chinese woman was waiting on the bus at 6am with me and said, “You always dress so interesting! Very unique, but it works. You look like movie character!”
When I smiled and thanked her, she said “You should go down to Hollywood, get discovered. You are tall too, so you stand out! Stand tall!”
Thank you little old lady, I’ve been riding that compliment for the last several days.

This morning, the sun rose bright and warm and I promised myself either a run or a walk through Mount Tabor Park. I’ve been meaning to get back into running for some time now, but something about the weather today said “Walk. Take your time in the sun and enjoy it.” A

As I got dressed, I realized that the evergreen trees in the park might be starting to put their new tips out. Spruce and fir tips are some of my favorite flavoring components. While spruce tips are most often used for brewing (especially pale ales) with their sharp piney flavor, fir tips tend to taste more like really strong rosemary and lemon. The new, bright green tufts of young needles on the ends of their twigs in spring are soft and can be used like any garden herb.

While I’m definitely not well-versed in foraging, I have harvested fir tips before for mead and I recalled learning that early spring is the peak time for dandelions.

Dandelions might be an annoying weed if you’re trying to maintain a lawn, but the plant has a lot of different uses. Dandelion tea can act as a diuretic to help with bloating and digestive issues. The greens are bitter, but rich in vitamins and can be cooked like any other leafy green, and the roots can be roasted and brewed as a coffee substitute.

With this in mind and the knowledge that dandelions tend to grow big just off the trails of Mount Tabor, I had the idea to make my morning walk a foraging expedition. I tied a handkerchief to the loops of my kilt to make a gathering bag and went out for a delicious morning walk.

About an hour later, I descended the mountain with a pouch full of spruce tips and big bunch of dandelions. On the way back home, I stopped at the market and bottle shop side of Coquine. Besides coffee and pastries, I knew that they also sold gourmet chocolate, tinned fish, and some very nice wines and beers. After picking around a bit, I settled on a couple cans of Pilsner and some grilled salmon, resolving that they’d make nice additions to my bed of dandelion greens.

A few people were curious about the bulging pouch of dandelions on my waist, but the cashier asked me how foraging went.

I came home, dumped my leafy acquisitions on the kitchen counter and told my wife what I was planning for lunch. She promptly said “Mmm.. that sounds good. If only we had some grilled salmon or something.” When I held up the can of salmon, we both realized we’d married each other for a reason and she decided to run down to Tabor Bread down the street to get us a nice loaf of crusty bread to have with it.

We ate lunch on the porch and I realized that it’s been a long time since I had so much fun getting and then cooking food for lunch.

The Take Away

As I was walking around the park with my little pouch full of greens to cook later, I reflected on several things.

First, I remembered an idea that Tom Standage had postulated in his book An Edible History of Humanity that, compared to hunter-gatherer societies, agriculture renders the same amount of food with more reliability, but also a LOT more work. Hunter-gatherer groups that survive to the modern day get enough to eat, but they find it while walking through nature and then come back home to spend their time crafting, talking, and creating. Farmers, meanwhile, had to spend the majority of their time tending to their fields. Civilization could not have gotten where it is today without the discovery of agriculture, but farming was disastrous for our physical and cultural development.

Second, I realized that walking around foraging made me notice my surroundings more and enjoy the walk more. It was more enjoyable and relaxing. I never felt more like an old wizard or apothecary going in search of herbs to make potions with.

Last, as I sat with my wife eating the food that I’d gathered, assembled, and cooked, I felt ridiculously proud. More proud than I’d felt in a while, even of recipes I’d created for the pie shop.

It occurred to me then that the last few days had been full of “glimmers” that I’d started to look for and appreciate:

  • Warm sun on my skin
  • Taking a morning walk.
  • Shopping for delicious new ingredients.
  • Learning something new
  • Talking with strangers
  • Feeding people I love

All of it involved taking my time, being present, and appreciating what I was doing. There’s more than enough stuff to make me angry and upset in the world and it needs to be dealt with- but that doesn’t mean the good things just stop existing or stop being good.

You need to remember to look for them and appreciate it when you find them.

Stay Classy,

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