By Jesse Wolf Hardin
There’s no greater repository of instruction and inspiration than the natural world. Search and you will find courage and compassion in the acts of animals, contentment in the embrace of shifting clouds or a tourquoise sea.... and enlightenment in the lessons of a single mulberry tree.
Well managed orchards are impressive, but the rareness of wild mulberry trees make them the most special of all:
Seek friends and lovers, causes and careers, places and moments that embody character and meaning— not those that conform best or produce the most.
Hikers that were busy talking, have been known to walk right under a tree’s branches without noticing its berries:
The entire natural world is constantly trying to engage, instruct and nourish us. There are lessons, gifts and miracles all around, if only we’d wake up and open to them.
Turn or duck your head even the slightest bit, and you may spot berries you hadn’t previously seen:
The sweetest berries nest high in the tree, and it can be risky getting to them:
At the same time, we often overextend ourslves in order to pick what looks like a special berry, only to find sweeter ones right under our nose:
We’d likely hurt ourself if we tried to get out to the berries nested on the end of some slender branch. But then again, we may be able to pull the branch closer instead:
When high in the tree, the careful gatherer keeps a firm hold with whichever hand isn’t busy picking:
Test the branch that you take, before putting all your weight into it:
If we don’t want to fall hard, we should carefully consider any forks in the trail of life before fully committing ourselves.
If the tree gets no rain it will die— but if overwatered, its fruits turn out colorless and bland:
A person, whether a child or an adult, needs sustenance and attention. But those who are fussed over and smothered, who never learn to do without, are often the least interesting and effective people.
From a single branch, broken by the snow, two new branches grow:
If our lives are rooted in truth and place, trauma brings about new awareness and growth. We branch out in response to each broken effort, doubling the number of approaches and attempts.
Some wild foods spoil more quickly than others. This is why ground squirrels carry most of the acorns they gather home to their nest, but eat all berries they can find:
In life, there are times to store and save, and times to gorge.
For every season of giving, there are months of preparation:
The mulberry only produces berries for a brief three week period, while the rest of the year it rests, draws sustenance from the Earth, mends its wounds, and replenishes its vital sugars.
Sometimes the smallest mulberries have the most flavor:
In a culture that claims “bigger is better,” it’s good to notice how much character can be found in the small, the near and the accessible.
The softer the berry, the sweeter it usually is:
We don emotional armor and cultivate strength, but hardness brings with it a certain bitterness.
It takes a lot of roots to hold a tree upright through the heady winds of Spring:
Family, community, history, tradition, and relationship to place are what keep us grounded in the face of disruption and change. To keep our balance, requires as many roots as branches.
Thinking about a previous year’s bountiful harvest, makes it harder to appreciate what is found on the tree today:
Dwelling in our minds, in the past or the future, can make it hard to fully taste the fruits of the present.
Mulberry seeds somehow live through the process of being eaten and then passed by birds, and the trees are spread in that way:
We spread the seeds of insight that survive our lengthy digestion. Those that remain viable are the ones we pass on. And as it is with the birds, we may never get to see what sprouts from them.
Birds and squirrels come from far and wide to feast on the berries, and snakes and owls arrive to feast on them:
In the hunt for love, it is wise to stay close to that which love seeks
Some of the tastiest berries can be found lying on the ground:
Along with the sugar, comes a little grit. And while some gifts require we stretch up on tip-toes to receive..... the ripest insist we get down on our knees.
There are only mulberries on a wild tree for a short time, and the conscientious gatherer will make sure they don’t miss it:
We’re each only healthy and savvy for a brief and glorious season. It is thus unwise to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fullest living of life, even for a single day. Nor should we take advantage of its fruitful bounty unless we can give it our complete attention.... honor it with our gratitude, and repay it with our acts.
By Jesse Wolf Hardin
When people write us about their experiences here in the canyon, they may or may not mention the power of our insights or the impact of my counsel.... but they seldom fail to thank us for the food they ate and the attention they got. Understandably, words can’t be expected to make as much of an impression on us as those naked communications and revelations garnered through the five awakened senses. The talks I give suggest the importance of fully tasting the passing moments of our lives, while Loba’s meals fairly demand it: “Pay attention!” cry the sweet n’ sour stir-fry, the home made chili and creamy sweet potato pie. No treatise can compare to the evocative gestures of a juniper limb, to the living text of mountains and rivers, or the murmuring and cooing of the canyon wind. I may wax eloquently about sensuality and bliss, but sometimes more is imparted by a single touch, a warm hug, the embrace of this cool mountain river, or a lover’s tender kiss.
“Entertainment” can distract us from the immediacy of our personal feelings, needs and dramas. On the other hand, indulging in deep conscious pleasure is a kind of entrainment that assists our reinhabitation of our sensate bodies, our communities, and the land we live in and on. Like pain, pleasure can function as a delivery system, catapulting us into the vital present moment and all it contains. Rather than isolating us, it dissolves boundaries, and heightens our sensual, visceral, emotional connection to the whole.
We have to accept that we are worthy, in a sense, in order to really give pleasure to ourselves, or to fully accept pleasure from the people and places around us. We treat other people, and the living environment so much better once we’ve done the practical magic of properly treating ourselves, or of letting others treat us really, really well! It’s far less likely someone will hurt another or wage war, overpopulate or overcompensate, become a drug addict or alcoholic, cut down the last old growth forests or neglect their spouse when they’ve learned to truly notice, tend and honor their bodily and spiritual selves. In this way, our indulging in pleasure is not only a means of feeling, but of dealing.... and healing.
Indulgence is neither tolerance, license nor excess. The word means literally to “satisfy one’s innate hungers,” and to “allow oneself to follow one’s will.” Society teaches us not to trust our feelings, and indulgence is our response: listening to our bodily desires and needs, the pleadings of intuition and instinct, and our heart’s fateful call. Indulgence is a high-dive into the intimacy of sensation, pulling the universe closer where we can touch and taste it. It is manifest in a baby’s wanting to put everything in its mouth, to taste, test and perhaps savor. It is our acting out of the will and wisdom of the ancient knowing beings within us. It’s both connection, and reward– not only eating what’s good for us, but eating meals that taste good.
There exists a potential for both enchantment and sacrament, every time we soulfully tend and nourish the sacred body. This is true whether one is talking about conscious cooking and eating or ceremonial bathing.... whether rubbing and oiling ourselves after a hard day at work, or getting together with friends to wash each other’s hair with a play of herbal shampoos. We’re transported by the diverse flavors of our just deserts, and by the purposeful bath with its trance-dance of touch.
There is perhaps no more urgent duty than the understanding and tending of our true selves and needs, so that we might best understand and tend our species and this living Earth! In the course of sating and nourishing our whole beings, we become adepts in what is the ancient art of sacred indulgence. We can evolve into alchemists of our own existence through the mindful practice of preparing our meals, rubbing our own stiff neck or drawing a luxuriant bubble bath. We literally “come into ourselves” when we satisfy our authentic creature needs, and ceremonializing every intentional act….. by taking responsibility for adding aroma and flavor, depth and meaning, beauty and magic to what is surely the meaningful ritual of our lives.