08 July 2016

Queen Anne's Lace

We three took off, packed, if it could’ve been called that, each, bike-boom early ‘70’s, Peugeot UO 8, 10-speed, racing-style touring bikes in homemade bags, so to classify them as baggage per Greyhound’s helpful requirement, bused to Bangor, ME, cycled down to Bar Harbor, and ferried across the Gulf of Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, for three weeks touring through the Annapolis Valley to then turn right on down to Halifax.
Our food sources were unknown except what we bought or scrounged along the way. I knew of the return-to-nature guru Euell Gibbons and I packed Stalking the Wild Asparagus as guide if I needed to shift into desperation mode.
I seized my test opportunity after I read about Queen Anne’s Lace; I read it to be wild carrot and it was everywhere. I liked the blossom, I was confident and hopeful, and skeptical, naturally being so, but I was also accustomed to eating in Manhattan where all food is abundant and prepared, and if not already so, then prepared on demand, 24/7. It was a fantastic multi cultural food capital and crossroads. Queen Anne’s Lace had never been on my menu.
We boil it and boil it and boil it, and then some more. It was tough, maybe never boiled enough, bitter, and completely, utterly, inedible. No, it was disgusting.
“Well, so much for Queen Anne’s Lace and Euell Gibbons, I said.
“Bill, this is our first try. We’ve never done this before. I want to try again,” said Penelope.
I looked at John, her beloved, this really big tall dusky blonde longhaired hippie sort of guy. He was alpha and he was so big, and nice to me, older, and looked like he had more knowledge and experience, and in fact really did have more, being an architect for the City of New York.
“Well, Penelope, tomorrow I buy from a road side stand. You pick another plant and try. I gotta have backup. I’m sorry. I gotta eat, I’m hungry.”

John stayed out of it. Penelope was short, long black haired and wore thick coke-bottle lens eyeglasses. She was 10-speeding through Nova Scotia, in all weathers, at times rain pelting her eyeglasses, beading up and running off, and kept on pedaling. Penelope was determined. John stayed out of it. We bought fresh produce and fruit from roadside stands and my nose unfailingly sought local bakeries’ fresh doughnuts and pastries and restaurants’ fresh seafood and chowders. I gave my Stalking the Wild Asparagus to Penelope and John.

04 July 2016


In England some priests were associated with a blessing of the fields at planting. The vicar “beat the bounds” of the parish, on rogation days, processing ‘round fields’ edges reciting psalms and the Ascension litany as a prayers of intercession. In the United States rogation days were associated with rural life and with agriculture and fishing. Today they’re remnants of rituals in some church parishes enshrined as scheduled and required check-ins with postulants and bishop or a priest who walk the boundaries of their parish accompanied with the parish vestry.
From time to time, when I’d visit my mother, usually in the summer, we’d walk ‘round the edges her property in West Hartford, CT., maybe an old familial remnant of ritual from her birth family’s days living on and with and from the land in East Berlin, CT. Since the climate was fair and accommodating her shrubs and bushes and greenery and trees, and any cultivated flowers or garden she still had were verdant; I never recall a drought in Connecticut. Inevitably we’d come to the area she habitually left untended,
“I like to leave something wild.”
Well, she said wild but her wild on her suburban corner lot was really permanently untended. My Mother styled herself a fashionable, cosmopolitan New England, Connecticut cultured and comfortable, woman accustomed to all abundances of her post World War II and pre Millennial eras, so her exclamation seemed fundamentally out of character to her youngest child. I filed it away.
It didn’t occur to me until later her declaration was the perfect metaphor for her being. There was something a wild and impulsive within her. But at bottom she was a farm girl and still knew more than I could imagine of the little that remained of her birth family’s living, moving, and being close to land and property from which their sustenance and nurturing was derived. At one time her father Willis Savage delivered fresh eggs to customers’ doors.
Less than, that is how I feel after reading, Janisse Ray’s, On the Bosom of this Grave and Wasted Land I will Lay me Head. https://orionmagazine.org/article/on-the-bosom-of-this-grave-and-wasted-land-i-will-lay-my-head, a lovely and grounded tale of returning to her birth family roots in Georgia. Less than and thus am reminded of my emptiness I carry within, very much like emptiness on the land from fresh clear-cut forest’s mountain terrain.
This despite I think and therefore I am. I know this, I know it well, by now, and in boarding school and college I learned to depend upon it, to be enthralled in it, in my mind, for being, despite feeling bored from time to time with my thoughts.
Now I feel I need new thoughts and new behaviors and new tools to become disenthralled with my dependencies.
If I believe that what I read is feeling, as if I’m, at least, reading new thought, so then, what…
I am renewed and I am refreshed and feel I am once again so I read therefore I am.
And I put aside, maybe, forget about my emptiness just for a time.
But this time I experience Janisse Ray’s work as fresh and vibrant, so vivid, so verdant and so woven w/ observed, recorded, tabulated, factual data I do not feel, I sense and feel,
Nothing like Thoureau, I’m not enraptured
Instead, captured, ensnared by passion & data! Now I am in my moment my reality I live and move and have my being. What a powerful combination. This was not so in boarding school. But at college when I was 19 with my long long hair praying and affirming and celebrating Earth Day on April 22, 1970 on Manhattan on the closed University Place, a bright sunny blue sky first joyous day filled with rainbows and colors, and people, building side to building side people just north of Washington Square Park, a stone’s throw from Washington Square College of New York University, flowing uptown, out onto 14th Street and into Union Square, where we were all united to celebrate Earth, our island home.
I’m reminded of my past actions and my consequences from my actions. They are all I have and so too what I am. All my own…
Fallibility in the face of our Great Appalachian biofield chain, well, what’s left of wilderness.
We nibble at the edges, encroach, push in, lean in, degrade, evaluate, assess, monetize, trade, hedge, and rip and tear and crush and extract and sell for as much but replace for as little as nothing as we can. It’s mine. I see it and I buy it and I consume it and I shit it.
But I do not forget about it and I am my great inward digesting of my diminishing resources.
Well, that is how my farm born mother reared us in our post World War II pre millennial eras