This morning I laid a white sheet below an agarita shrub and shook the berries off with a broom to avoid the sharp holly-like leaves. An assortment of spiders and beetles accompanied the berries in falling. Afterward, I left the sheet out on the patio so the bugs could crawl away. In the before times, I wouldn’t have been able to identify this plant. I was so focused on the indoor world, on what was ready and convenient. But now I understand agarita’s berries, which remind me of granny smith apples, will make a lovely jelly if cooked. In these years of uncertainty and grief, there’s revelatory joy in identifying plants: to recognize what is edible and medicinal feels like a spark of power.
My parents tell me that my grandmother used to confidently forage native plants to make foods like agarita jelly and chile pequin salsa before I was born. She knew how to gather what the land provided because knowledge was passed down from person to person. How strange that now I seek the same knowledge but find it in the glow of the Internet. The Internet which makes many things convenient, especially knowledge, is now helping me reconnect to nature. I can simply take a photo of a plant and Google will find a close match. I can read more about a plant’s medicinal qualities and history on numerous websites. I’ve spent almost three decades on this earth unaware of the wild abundance around me. What a gift to recognize it now when I see it.
More from our “In Praise Of” Series:
The Shadow Everything Casts, Brian Tierney
My VIDA T-shirt in Bright Blue, Julie Halebsky
Mixtapes, Dilruba Ahmed
Fences, Broken, Anthony Cody
The Variable Speed of Time, Ösel Jessica Plante
The Vase, Maw Shein Win