A few weeks ago I went on a community nature walk through the Vancouver Renfrew Ravine Park led by Lori Snyder, a Métis herbalist and educator. The walk was a project organized by Fellows from the Muslim Community Fellowship, and was a wonderful afternoon, filled with learning, reflection and good company. I love gardens and nature, but I struggle to identify plants and trees, and I often don’t notice the details of what’s in front of me when I walk. Walking with Lori was an opportunity to zoom in, to notice details, and to not just see the greenness of a park or ravine, but to actually better understand what is around us. Lori’s advice to us was to just try and understand one plant and get to know it better, and over time to try and get to know other plants too. Her wisdom and the wisdom of the group was an invitation and an opening to be in better relationship with nature, to cultivate a friendship with the natural world, to eat differently and decolonize our diets and to strive for internal peace. I madly tried to take notes throughout, but this is only a small portion of what was shared during the hours we spent together. Jumbled as they are, I thought I would share my notes from our conversations with Lori here:
- It’s at the edges we find the most diversity. Before we enter the park we see the most diversity. We see dandelions. Food is one way of decolonizing our world. Sugar is a colonized food. We think of dandelions as weeds, but they have deep roots that help us to pull out the minerals of our food. You can have dandelions with apple cider, dandelions with egg and goat cheese – there are so many different ways to eat dandelions and so many benefits.
- When we travel, we eat the local foods of the places we visit. Like if you visited South America, you would eat the dishes of the places you are visiting. What about here? Where are the cultural foods of this land in our diet? And if we eat here in local ways how does it, how could this connect us deeply to this place?
- Traditionally we ate differently during the seasons. We ate carbs during winter months. Now we eat carbs every day.
- Sword fern is an excellent plant for inflammation.
- There is never bad weather only bad gear. Invest in good gear.
- Calendula flowers have anti fungal properties.
- The journey from mind to heart is the longest journey. It’s our decision that our hearts get broken. Our hearts are ours. You decide how you respond to things. You can’t control what happens to you, but you decide how you respond. When my daughter tells me, “I’m so mad at my sister”, I say, “Wow, your sister is so powerful that she was able to make you mad!”
- Blackberries have the highest iron content of all the berries.
- We don’t get rid of plants but we tend the garden. Meaning that you don’t have to destroy what is in your garden, but you do need to look at your garden and see what is going on, what is in danger of taking over?
- Douglas fir – the pitch is anti microbial. You can make a healing skin salve by putting the pitch in sunflower and beeswax.
- Need a rainbow of foods on our plates, especially the reds and purples for antioxidants
- When I see plants, I ask the following questions: Who are you? Can I eat you? Are you a medicine? What are you offering? I want to know: How can I be in relationship with this plant?
- Questions to ask ourselves: What is being given to us by nature versus what are we taking?
- Cottonwood branches are anti microbial, can offer us pain relief. Make sure leaves aren’t black though so that they are safe for you.
- The forest helps us with immune system. Being in the forest helps us with our immune system.
- Need practices to remember daily: why we are here? What is our purpose and how are we are in service?
From our discussion:
- Autumn is cold and dry so don’t eat food that is cold and dry. We change our food with the seasons.
- Book recommendation: Braiding Sweet grass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
- The Boreal Herbal by Beverley Gray
- Plants of Coastal British Columbia by Jim Pojar.