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I am a Seedling
A reawakening of life in a new place
I feel like a tepary bean.
This desert bean can lie dormant in the sparse soil of Arizona for years, waiting for the right rains to break its slumber. Once those rains come, the bean grows swiftly, releasing a pent-up energy that only a long wait can create.
Within weeks, the beans grow, flower and set pods. They know what they need and waste no time.
Nearly 20 years ago, I lived in Minnesota. Soon, I will be a Minnesotan once again. In these first few weeks back, I feel that part of me had lain dormant in the soil of this place. Wild plants and mushrooms awakened that part, and they have been my path to begin righting myself after six months of turmoil and rootlessness.
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One morning, not long ago, I realized that my chronic sense of unease this year has, at least in part, been because I have been doing a great many things that are either new to me, or that I am not terribly good at. And while I am comfortable being uncomfortable, and eagerly seek out new experiences, even I have limits.
I needed a win.
I’ve been staying with my friend Chris, near Stillwater, while I wait to close on my house in St. Paul. Chris is the guy who got me into hunting all those years ago, and we both love a good walk in the woods. So one day he suggested we go look for mushrooms. Absolutely, man. I’m in!
Within minutes of entering the woods, we started finding golden chanterelles. Lots of them. Moving through a Midwestern deciduous forest felt at once new and old: new because I hadn’t done it in years, old because my first adventures as a kid in New Jersey were through forests like these; the Watchung Reservation, to be exact.
Names bobbed to the surface of my mind: Birch, white oak, buckthorn. Goldenrod, aster. Hog peanut! Chanterelle! Sumac! Old friends came to greet me.
Within hours, we’d found enough mushrooms to make ourselves happy. I cooked some up for a chanterelle sauce later. Another day, we gathered wild plums and chokecherries. Then some more chanterelles, along with a nice haul of birch boletes.
The next day brought chicken of the woods mushrooms, more chokecherries, and the best haul of wild hazel nuts I’ve had in 12 years! Sumac for lemonade, crabapples for apple butter. Minnesota was welcoming me, and I it.
These old friends are helping me right myself. I have a long way to go before I feel truly at home here in the North Star State; the cultural differences between me, a Scots-Irish Easterner, and the Germanic-Scandinavian Midwesterners here are real and not easily navigated. And then there’s a winter worthy of White Walkers…
Step by step.
Until then, it will be Minnesota’s natural world that will salve my soul. Plants, mushrooms, fish, game. I can’t wait to grow, to expand into these spaces fully over the next few years.
Now, where can I go find some wild rice…