by Brad Cole
I could feel the cold autumn fog blanketing the forest surrounding the village of Tuluksak. Its icy fingers firmly gripped the dried, dusty trees, but the heavy mist was being slowly blown away by a breeze. The crisp evening chill felt fresh as I stepped out onto a familiar trail. This was the time of year for flocks of geese and swans to be flying I thought, looking into the sky.
On my daily hikes through the woods I gather herbs for home use during the evening. Over the years I have grown to deeply respect and appreciate herbal medicines. I feel that they are part of the pathway that nature provides to protect and guide us. But we have to listen before we can see our way to what is genuinely good and real in our lives. Only grass root societies are sustainable.
Once the flocks stop flying it is time for those of us left behind to prepare for the coming cold, I ponder while walking down the trail. For winter is a reduction of the world to a mere shell of its former self. This is when I apply a thick layer of wax to my hunting boots to keep the leather from cracking and leaking. For I know that it will get rainy, icy and then the snow comes.
Gathering herbs has brought me closer to the wild because I have to observe the woods closely.
When you live off of the land you want it to be as healthy and wholesome as possible because it is an important part of the community. It is that big spirit of wilderness lying outside of ourselves where we can reach out and find redemption and healing. We have to heal before we can be free.
Once I arrived back at home I boiled water for evening tea. The darkness seemed to arrive early and looking out the door night had fallen. Without me noticing it, the world has become a place for sleep and dreams, I realized.
After supper I fell into a slumber full of dreams that passed through the night like wild geese flying across distant skies. I could hear their wild call, “Peace will come to those that mount the wind and take flight.” The rest of us will be left behind looking for our lost wings, I thought while falling to sleep.