Sunday I undertook our yearly harvest of the ramps on our property. For those of you who don’t know what ramps are, they look like a lush, chunky green leek and have a strong garlic onion flavor. They are also medicinal. You can’t cultivate them and they are easily damaged by ill informed harvesting so my ramp harvest is something I undertake with care so that our patch can continue to grow. The ramps on our property grow on a steep section, easily damaged as they are anchored into soft mossy soil, cradled by fallen logs and deadwood. I relish the few hours it takes me to carefully scale the side of the mountain, stabilizing myself with one hand, wielding a knife in another to gently locate the ramps that aren’t putting out seeds so that harvesting their leaves has less impact on ramp reproduction (and fortunately they seem to be tastier).
When I’m harvesting ramps out here I feel the vast and extreme abundance of this place – the air heavy with cool clean oxygen from the trees, every kind of green little plant tacked here and there under seas of trees blanketing the mountains. Water drips down onto us from high above – me and the little plants. I know that my untrained eyes miss so much in the forest – that in this lifetime they will only scratch the surface of what could be known here.
And I am aware of the deep contrast of these feelings with the other extremes of scarcity and poverty that you will find in and around the towns, tucked into the hollers – a family plot receding inch by inch. While the forest whispers of the endless possibilities of this place and its treasurers, the faces in the grocery store are often marked with decades of losses. Jobs, loved ones, health, vitality.
It is a privilege to come here with fresh eyes – to look at the beautiful land and see so much possibility. But nonetheless the realities of history remain – time wearing down hope, dreams, passion – a people’s mark on another people. Our mark on ourselves. The stories we amass of what this place is – backwards, drug ridden, ignorant, barren of opportunity – absorbed into people’s bones. Nature cares for us – but sometimes people don’t. Sometimes we don’t.
And so in the trees I dream of how to harness the incredible beauty of this place to bring back hope and opportunity. I wonder what it would take to heal a people who have been through so much. I have no clear answers. Only questions and dreams today. (And ramp pesto). But what I know in my heart is that there is a path through the trees, we just need to keep listening.
Go, fight, win.