The other morning I was dragging, feeling sleepy and low energy, unfocused, sad and alone. No particular reason, but I was out of sync. Fortunately my job working for a local land trust required me to pull on my muck boots and head out into the woods for a few hours.
At first I begrudged the humidity, deer flies, and poorly marked boundary line, but soon I started to settle and see. One step toward Shakti and she comes rushing at you like a golden retriever. First in the form of a tiny little wood frog the size of my thumbnail clinging to a cattail where I paused to take a photo. Then an unexpected spring bubbling up from the soft pine forest. Then the rich smell of sphagnum moss and hay scented fern. Oooo, and there a giant pile of bear shit – almost entirely blackberries, shiny and fresh. And right above, a whole mess of (uneaten) blackberries hanging in plump bunches surrounded by pant-ripping thorns.
I made myself at home, picturing the bear, thick fur and soft paws reaching-in, mouthful after mouthful. Berry-stained and moving on up a hot hillside and over a hundred downed fir trees, a tangled mess of match sticks, some hold my weight, some don’t – it’s a game that takes me to the edge of a white cedar swamp where a red-eyed vireo is singing his endless summer song. Through sucking mud and back to the stonewall that lines the open field where I’d parked my car. Transformed. Back in sync with the hum of trees, moss, damp earth, and water, I am lighter, smiling and filled with gratitude.
When I spend time in the forest, I sync up with a bigger rhythm, each cell, each part and particle of me is restructured the way the crystals in an iron bar line up when they are magnetized. The sandpaper-on-brain feeling lifts and I feel this alignment as an ease, a sweetness, a smile. With all the parts dancing together, I am no longer working alone. This is the gift of nature.
Now it’s your turn. Stand up, walk outside, and see what comes leaping at you. I promise you won’t regret it.
Local, seasonal, fresh and beautiful
Nasturtiums, violets, rose petals, sorrel, dandelion, plantain leaves and seeds, lanvs quarters, fresh lettuce, raw corn kernels and cherry tomatoes. Dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sea salt. Served in a bowl made by my dear friend Heather Stearns of Muddy Creek Pottery.
This is mid-summer perfection.
Beautiful, wild and nutritious
Use flowers and wild greens from your front yard to add color and vitamin A and C, iron and many trace elements, to your families diet. Our lawn is more of an open patch in the forest, it has never been sprayed with chemicals and the soil is shallow but rich in nutrients from glacial-era clay. The mix of sun and shade supports a variety of wild plants and a few raised beds where I plant the sweeter greens such as lettuce, spinach, chard and bok choi. Lambs quarters flourish there too.
I have my girls pick the greens and flowers for their own salads and I truly believe that they pick exactly what their bodies and spirits need to be optimally nourished in that moment. The other morning my playful 3 1/2 year old tried to make an “all flower salad” only to discover that it is more bitter than she hoped. So she added corn, and snap peas and left most of the beautiful petals sticking to the sides of her bowl. Later her kitten came along and licked the violet petals up, and she told Mouse “that’s purple, it’ll make your fur fluffy”. And she’s probably right.
We are lucky to live where there are very few native poisonous plants, and I taught my children early on to identify the ones they can’t eat (deadly night shade, poison ivy, fox glove . . .)
Walking Forest Salads are fun too
When we go on hikes the girls happily pick their way through the woods: bunchberry (aka crackleberry or Canada Dogwood), huckle and blueberries, wintergreen berries and leaves, wood sorrel (my five year old’s favorite) nettle (carefully picked and put into a backpack pocket for green smoothies later), blackberries, raspberries, strawberries . . . and if we are on the shore, seaside plantain and all kinds of seaweeds get nibbled too. Wild, abundant and beautiful, these plants have just what it takes to grow up on the wild rocky coast of Maine!
Why I eat greens for breakfast, lunch and dinner
It’s hot and dry, I’ve just finished a 26 mile bike ride before teaching my Saturday morning yoga class and I’ve got twenty minutes to refuel and refresh – what to do? A green juice of course! Now that the spinach and lettuce is bolting it is perfect fodder for my Breville juicer. And in goes an entire head of bok choy (I love that no matter how much I chop it back, it just keeps growing). Add a lemon and a few stalks of celery and I’ve got an instant deep-cell refresher that will get me through my class feeling as crisp and vibrant as the greens I just drank!
Greens for lunch?
By mid day I’m feeling peckish. Actually, to be honest, I’m ravenous. I love visiting the Blue Hill Farmer’s market after I teach, and though I am magnetically attracted to Millbrook Company’s gluten free (but not sugar free) brownies, I try to eat greens first. I like to mix it up, maybe a half pound of Horse Power Farm’s snap peas, a bag of Noah and Robyn’s mesclun lettuce from Living Branch Farm, a cucumber from Blue Zee Farm . . . All these fresh local organic green vegetables were grown in spectacularly mineral-rich soil, and I know they are well worth the price. When I eat greens like these, I’m getting exactly what my body needs to stay cool, calm and hydrated for the rest of the day. By filling up on these much needed alkalizing vitamins and minerals I’m counter-acting the natural acidity and depletion that comes with my typical summer excess of exercise and, yes, gluten-free brownies.
Eat greens for dinner too
Because really, you can’t over do it. My favorite way to make greenery into a filling dinner meal is to spend a few minutes foraging around the yard and garden with my girls until we have a mess of lettuce, sprouts, tender kale, dandelion greens, lambs quarter and sorrel. We bring it inside and wrap it up tightly into a few of Maine Sea Coast Vegetable’s raw nori sheets with a simple salad dressing like tahini and lemon juice, or even just a little salt and olive oil. Yum.
Nature says eat greens
Nature is giving us exactly what we need, right when we need it. These long, hot summer days can leave us feeling withered and depleted if we don’t refill with the natural nutrition and hydration of fresh, dark, leafy greens. And according to Ayurveda, the bitter taste that is prevalent in dark greens is perfect for neutralizing excess Pitta – the dominant dosha of summer.
Try it for yourself. Eat greens for three days, and report back. I’ve never met a human or animal that didn’t enjoy chewing the tender ends of grass . . . and feel better for it.
Agni is the power that creates form from the formless. It is the light of life and the fire of transformation. It is the intelligent spark that illuminates every part and particle of our being, and indeed of the entire universe. Currently Agni is the heat of summer that is burning my garden to a crisp and making me want to melt into my kid’s kiddie pool – even though it is filled with all kinds of weird floaty things. Agni is powerful stuff. It is the stuff of creation and dissolution. It is the beginning and the end. It is to be honored and not to be messed with – too much. The bright side of Agni – literally – is the illuminative, refined quality known as Tejas. Tejas is the light of Agni that clarifies our vision, that both reveals the intricacies, individuality and beauty of the parts as well as the unity and cohesion of the whole. It is the ability of each cell to know its own job and to recognize that it is part of one body. It is our own ability to discern one thing from another and to choose in the highest. The peril of Agni gone wild is that by the burning light of a raging bonfire we only see differences. Discernment turns to judgement and separation. In the heat of transformation we feel alone and uncertain, we forget our true identity – the one that is made of star dust, and the light of the stars. The one that dances for the sheer delight of it, leaping like the flames that turn form back into the formless. So the next time you feel hot, hot tempered or hot headed, the next time you feel certain that you are not that,that that is not you, soften your eyes, let them fuzz over a bit until the bright light of separation begins to blur. See how the spark of life unites every part and particle and every form of creation. Then sit back in the kiddie pool and recognize that the spark is in all those floaties too. If you have a beer, go ahead and drink it.