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21 February, 2011

Road Warrior/Gatherer

One of the things that stops my shiftless eyes n their tracks is the sight of something useful and free. Ergo my affinity for slash piles yet unburnt, source of rounds (that being firewood length pieces, yet unsplit) and sometimes chunks of wood yearning to be carved. Or plants that would fare better in my yard than in the road cut about to happen.

This deep memory I have is of being a student in an anthro class, being told that 'primitive' as they are ascribed to be, the !Kung (or the "Bushmen," to use the politically incorrect but far more recognized term) had a high degree o fknowledge about their environment, being aware, for instance, that a twenty minute walk up a dry creek bed led to a spot with numerous water-bearing roots. Even at the time, my internal reaction was that the smart humans in any environment know their resources. At the time, that meant that I knew where the best beer sales were, and how to harvest imperishable commodities from the meal hall for later use.

Along those lines, in my alleged adult life traveling the rough rectangle of a western state, spending days in the wilds and nights in hotels near freeway exits, one of the main foraging venues is the hotel itself. I have not bought soap in a couple of years, because they give it away. Likewise, the continental breakfast that does not count as "breakfast included" for purposes of expense reports may yield some fruit for lunch. Some of you will think this is shady, but it is legal, and may help me net a few bucks toward making up the paycut and lessened benefits I must endure as an American forced to make due off of what I earn working, rather than investing.

Then there's the road cuts. Chert for tools, vesicular basalt for the imu I will one day make. On my cross country trek, I spotted the flint hills of Kansas on a map, and made sure to stop and gather some material for my flint-knapping host at the end of the trail. On other occasions, the glimmer of a shiny stone, the allure of a green pebble has been enough to stop me, to set me to gazing and gathering.

Now and then, as I search out some old homestead or make my way through some section long abandoned, I come across flora of yore. The ancient apple tree still bearing, the daffodils straining toward light in succession's closing canopy. Sometimes I get a snack (the apples mostly sate thirst, rarely provide enough to soothe hunger), and others it is a plant to bring home, cutting or mystery bulb. My yard sprouts more heritage each spring.

Other times, it is just the memory. Sometimes it spurs a story, a blog entry. Other times, it is just the feeling of discovery, occasionally epiphany. I bring home nothing more than the fading feeling of having been in the ponderosa scented upland, the mossy lowland, the mud-stanky tide-flat. Tangibless, yet blessed. Valuable beyond stuff. Stashed away in memory (or sub-conscious) to be recalled later when I have need of a tidbit, when an older me needs the spaces of the past to escape elderly immobility.

I take what I can when I can.

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