Foraging for Meaning

by Adam Lush (the other half of Arete Herbs)


Our brains are wired to seek.

When we actively pursue a goal or set out to explore, our brains are wired to release dopamine to reward our behavior. On a deep emotional level, we are built to seek. 

The neurochemical system makes us feel good when we are seeking. This emotional drive gives us a feeling of excitement when we set out into unexplored territory.
 

"Many men go fishing their entire lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."
~Henry David Thoreau~


The seeking system is key to our survival, whether we are seeking food, intimate relationships, or even knowledge.

It drives us out into the unknown, the unfamiliar, and unexplored. It encourages us to overcome our fears of leaving the comfort of certainty and the familiar. It allows us to discover all of the things that we ultimately come to revere.  
 

"Our current safe boundaries were once unknown frontiers."
~Anonymous~

 

We are foragers at the core. We are built for discovery and seeking expands our world. 

In recent years, Lauren and I have begun learning the art of foraging for wild plants.

Are we seeking plants? Information? Or an entirely new perspective?

As my knowledge grows, the world changes. 

The forest has taken on new life.

Now, an unassuming pile of leaves could be a treasure chest, housing an elusive Morel mushroom (this mushroom is quite the delicacy).

I now step more carefully on untrodden paths and find my gaze fixated on the forest floor. 

Across the path, there is a sea of green covering the ground. First appearing as just another green plant quietly blending in with the rest of the forest, the newly sprouted ramps (a delicious wild leek) begin to stand out from the undergrowth. 

Trees take on different individual personalities. I see the variation in bark and the beautiful diversity that must have taken so many years to develop. 

I can picture their roots, intertwined under the soil, nourishing and being nourished by the mushrooms growing among them. 

Everything is connected. A mosaic of natural beauty, infinitely complex, calls me to explore.

I dive into books, once a dusty stack of pages, now a fountain of collected knowledge from thousands of years of human experience. 

As I study, my sight becomes more refined. 

Rather than being satisfied, my drive to seek grows more intense. I'm invigorated and I find myself wanting more. 

Who knew such a simple concept as learning about and finding wild plants could hold such incredibly profound experiences?

My drive to seek connects me with nature, the unknown, and the world of infinite possibilities that I have only scratched the surface of.

The seeking makes me feel alive. Maybe, the seeking is living expressed in one of its most fundamental forms.

Who am I but an explorer? Questing out to find meaning, understanding, and above all--myself. 

After all, what do I see when I look into the forest but my own understanding reflecting back off of the unknown. 

If my sight is dulled by certainty, I pause, stare deeply and contemplate the miracle of a single leaf. How long and perfect was the dance of life and matter that brought it to this place?
 

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour."
~William Blake~

 


Where will your seeking take you? Keep the conversation going by leaving a comment below!
 



Foraging + Wild Foods Book Recommendations:

If you’re eager to deepen your knowledge on foraging and wild foods, here’s a great place to start:

  1. The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer is the best foraging book that I have come across. I love this guide because it focuses on 32 different wild, edible foods with a detailed chapter on each one. The author tells personal stories of each plant which help you to retain and relate to the information. This is unlike most guides which include hundreds of plants with small /limited images and only a paragraph write-up that doesn’t give the plants’ full story. 
     
  2. Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Dina Falconi might be the one for you if you love beautiful plant illustrations and one-page easy to read write ups with recipes.
     
  3. The New Wildcrafted Cuisine: Exploring the Exotic Gastronomy of Local Terroir by Pascal Baudar is the third book that I recommend. This cookbook takes wild foraging to a gourmet level of creativity. Includes detailed recipes for ferments, infusions, wild beers and sodas, vinegar, and so much more!