Four Native Species to Know

Here are four species of native plants of the Pacific Northwest. If you live in this region, do you recognize any of these? They are common friends to know.

The first, Oregon Grape, is a delicious (albeit rather tart) edible berry. It is most ripe at the time of my writing this in late August. When the berries start to shrivel up just a little bit is when they are most sweet to eat by the handful. It’s okay to eat the little sift stems attached to the berries, too. In springtime, the new leaves of this plant are deliciously edible; they are very soft and light green and taste like a tart apple.

It is said that parts of the Nootka Rose can be edible. I am not certain about this, and beside, we should all do our research to make sure we can absolutely identify any wild edible plant before eating them. Some wild plants have parts that are edible and other parts that are poisonous. Others are completely edible, but only at certain times of the year. It’s not hard to learn these things, but it does take a bit of real-world identification practice.

Salmonberry is one wonderful species that I can say for certain is edible. The berries are totally edible, being ripe in early summer, around early June. The flowers, which come out in springtime before the berries, are also edible right off the stem. They have a very subtle, soft, sweet taste. I don’t think the rest of the plant is edible. Salmonberry is super prolific in this region, so I’m never concerned about over-harvesting. It even competes with Blackberry.

Snowberry, the fourth plant here, is poisonous. Many plants with white berries are poisonous; learn who lives around you, so you are not wrongfully fearful of an edible plant. It’s strange that this fourth picture is the darkest, an uncanny coincidence of an omen.

It was at Wilderness Awareness School that I adopted the practice of using the word “who” to describe plants and nonhuman animals, instead of “what”. This choice of language signifies a different way of thinking about nonhuman species; the sense that they are alive, and that a species need not be human to have a personality or be in meaningful relationship with others.

 

 

 

Plant photos by Gentle J. Pine.

Featured photo by luke flynt on Unsplash.

A Bird, a Frog, and a Patch of Woods

For your inspiration.

 

T and I found this tiny little guy! He’s an adorable, special little creature called a Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla). Location: a patch of woods near our home in Sammamish, WA, July 2018. The Pacific Tree Frog above was surely the guardian of the threshold who greeted us on our way into the woods that evening. It makes me think about how the Japanese word for frog, kaeru, かえる / 蛙 , is a homonym for the word return or come home, かえる / 帰る, and also for transform, かえる / 変える.

We don’t know what creature formerly owned this bone, but it was pretty cool to find.

This beautiful little birdy is a Black Capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus). He flew into my windshield one sunlit evening this summer. After realizing what it was that made that tiny impact without a second’s notice, I pulled over to get out and go back for the poor cutie. He died on impact. I held his still-warm little body in my hands, and thanked his little spirit for the remarkable opportunity to to hold him, examine his remarkable self up close, and learn from his life. I took him home to let my kitties have a sniff: Mawzawoo had no clue what to do with the tiny corpse, but Aiboorah was adorably desperate to eat it (he got to softly gum the wing for a moment, not believing his good fortune). That’s when we took our little Chickadee body out to the woods, laying him to rest in the hollow of a great Big Leaf Maple tree.

The Holding of Water: Poetry Fragments

 

 

Sloshing through puddles

blustery sky overhead–

I’m a troubadour

last time you came

to visit my house

                  it was snowing

where snow rarely falls

                  on my moss

Let me tell you about the quest for fulfillment.

I held out my hand under a dripping ice ball,

and a drop hit me in the wrist.

Expectations.

I moved my hand.

It got me right in the palm

like I wanted.

At the end of the wetland

we travel a trail through a patchwork

of Salmonberry, Indian Plum, Oregon Grape.

Mud of the Salix, willow, is all

that remains of the annual stream,

black and cool in the summer shadow

of cottonwoods, shimmer–heart leaves,

tracks of Raccoon.

The trail breaks

through the fence.

Lapsong suchong

honey tea

has smoke of the tree

where it comes from

on a summer afternoon

barefoot                  cool dirt,

river rock                  naming birds

gift of flight,                  good words,

sun sleep,                  sun skirt.

wander                  in the green.

familiar                  greetings

well dirty,                  real clean.

Where were the records kept

in the days before writing

when we spoke aloud to each other

our dreams in the morning

at the breakfast fire

Building a weir

with a gabion handmade–

                  what is willow

in another tongue?

Black locust has thorns

                  to remind you

of the holding

                  of water.

With you I have walked

                  this trail before;

geomorphology, sinuosity,

                                   Pleistocene.

And you,                  I will miss you

                  most of all

when I go.

 

 

 

 

image source: Creative Commons CC0

The Sign of the World

 

They move in unison across the landscape
separating their bodies but remaining one mind.
Now and again their minds are one.

Paint-blue storms from the sea call down the power,
flicker-snow flower as the sun parts the big arc
of the firmament and you’re surrounded on all sides,
baby eyes seeing, skin breathing, doe ears perked,
the long learning of grace and a large understanding:
love sacrifice and how the spring waters flow from it.

Warm fire, imagination. Cool, white heat.
Vision forever and ever.

True light goes where it wills,
recalls in it’s old smiles the first day
it seeped through the tan canyons,
caressed the green hills.
Now I am sure we are back at that first day for a moment.

I saw the grieving crowned with laurel and cedar,
the scent of sage and your sweet sweat in the mountains.
I heard a melodious sound on both sides of the night gate.
I saw bodies whole, our own bodies at play and at peace
and the stars all wheeled in their way overhead.
I felt the hands of a child bring to me the stag’s antler,
I saw the sign of the world in turtle tracks in the cool mud,
I saw ravens barrel-roll on the blue hem of heaven,
I awakened to the caravan’s laughter and water, fish in deep water,
I saw the sun called up by a father with heart and fire,
I heard a violin in the Juniper thicket.

Everywhere your face is clear to me,
whose lovely name is known by the mountains,
whose generations live in your being
from song into form into life.

I give my hands with yours to make the bread of the world,
cure for the sick, the heart that is restless for home.

Move through the woods and arroyos with beauty and grace
all my people, all one.
All souls are one.

 

Written for Anake Outdoor School of Wilderness Awareness School class of 2012-2013, The Awakening Otter Tribe, at Quail Springs Permaculture Farm, Cuyama, California, February 2013

 

Image © Gentle J. Pine. All rights reserved.