Connection to land through the eyes of a forager.

Once, I was asked how I formed such a deep connection with the land, and at the time, I struggled to articulate an answer; was it the sensation of running barefoot, feeling the warm, moist earth beneath my feet, or perhaps my morning coffee ritual, sitting by open doors, gazing out into the mystical distance of mid-Wales?

One thing that I’ve only really begun to realize is that foraging off the land played a big part in my connection to it. From the moment I asked the Elder permission to harvest her berries, through the process of separating the berries and boiling them down all the way to making a warm cordial out of it for someone feeling under the weather, every step of the way, I felt this strong sense of belonging, a sense of support and a sense of deep connection not only to the land but to the people who lived there and tended to it long before my. It’s not merely about ingesting a part of the land through careful selection and collection when harvesting and consuming a dandelion or bolete; it’s also about understanding the correlation between healthy, pristine areas and abundance in variety and growth.

Another magical experience is the harvesting of a pignut. There’s no experience like it, from spotting his tiny intricately patterned leaves to digging into the soft damp earth while gently following his stem down as it twists and turns to be eventually rewarded with a tasty little treat at the end. I was introduced to the pignut by a wonderful forager in Ireland and they called it fairy potatoes. I very much like that name, as it matches the magical feeling of digging up one of the wonderful delights. Or perhaps just nibbling on some woods sorrel as you walk through the woods, as a traveler I always feel comforted when I meet plants I know in foreign lands, it’s like bumping into an old friend, you just suddenly feel more at home. 

As I stroll along the coast, rich with thriving limpets and seaweed growing around rusty cans and plastic waste, or when I come across a beautiful patch of cattails near a busy road, strewn with trash discarded from passing cars, my heart sinks at the thought of what should have been a natural food source now nothing but a soiled backdrop. This seemingly selfish relationship I have with the land is, in fact, symbiotic. Foraging has taught me an ancient lesson often overlooked by us urbanites who rely on store-bought produce: we must care for the land around us for it to care for us. If I nurture the land, keep it clean, and, dare I say it, even love it, only then can it reciprocate and support me.

And isn’t that what we’re all missing today? The support of the land? I know I am. It took losing my job and travelling the world to understand that I am happiest, calmest, and most at peace when cradled in the embrace of the land. Whether I’m sitting by the coast, gazing out at the sea, perched on a mossy boulder on a marshy hill, or wandering through the woods listening to the wind rustling through the trees, it is then that I feel a true sense of belonging. It is then that I feel authentic and free to be myself.