I'm sitting listening to Radio 4 (again) and the episode of the Digital Human called 'Tribe'. This particular episode includes a focus on the role of hunting and gathering as a way of working together and supporting each other. Indeed, our ancestors worked together closely to ensure that food, shelter and sustenance was provided for their community.
Alas, our reliance on each other has lessened a lot since then, yet somehow there has been a continuing interest in foraging over the last few decades. I've often pondered about our modern day fascination with foraging, despite no actual need for us to go into the forest or onto the shoreline to find food. It's all just passively sitting on the supermarket shelves waiting for us.
Over the years I've developed various theories on the role and importance of foraging for us digital humans, and I could sum it up in one sentence;
We need to feel connected
The dictionary definition of connected is; to join, link, be united, fasten together, to bind. Our increasing independence and distance from the root of our food, face to face meetings and the natural world has not, I feel, taken away our desire or need to connect, it has just side-tracked it. There's actually no way to get away from it, we are earth-born and even though we can do a fair amount to separate from this (stay indoors and not engage with others or any form of nature), the desire to belong and be part of something doesn't go away. In fact, there is some evidence which says that a sense of community and belonging is more important for our well-being than exercise or diet alone. Foraging doesn't appeal to everyone, though it is a simple and practical way to connect to both nature and food, to the source of our food and the source of our existence.
Connecting to people and nature
For me, being human means acknowledging my utter reliance on planet earth and I believe that the more I feel connected to the place I'm from, the more human and alive I can feel. There are many ways to do this; through interacting with humans that we share this planet with, with animals, with food and where it comes from, or more elementally with water, fire, earth and air. Have you ever thought about how trees and algae soak up our C02 and produce oxygen so we can breathe? Like I said, we are totally dependant on planet earth.
Being human isn't just about survival though, here in the West we left that lifestyle a while ago, even if some days can feel like a battle to get through. I like to think that feeling fully human also encompasses a sense of adventure, purpose, creativity and the spirit of joy.
We know that food brings people together, but foraging also includes a deeper, more instinctual sense of connection. A connection to the land, the seasons, to an adventure and sense of real achievement that perhaps is lacking in our digital reality.
I found, picked and ate my own food in the wild!
Simple and Good
Foraging is such a simple thing to do, yet, I believe, it sets off a series of feel-good hormones and brain connections that we share with our vital, hand-to-mouth, alive and kicking ancestors.
It helps us feel alive
When I forage, I am connecting to the sun, to the rain, wind, soil and to the turning of the earth. I am connecting to living plants fed by all these elements. A plant that has grown up in relationship to other plants, trees, insects and wildlife. That I've hand-picked, which connects me to my whole experience and kinesthetic memory of being out. As well as to the energy and vitality that my wild food is about to provide me as food.
Foraging helps foster a nurturing bond between people and plants, between people and people, between people and the natural world. A bond that has too often, and painfully been replaced by technology. I say painfully, for when we turn away from our home, our roots and a natural sense of belonging (to each other and to the planet that we live on), it is a loss. A loss that I believe, either consciously or unconsciously, we crave.
That is why I think we jump at the chance to forage, get excited about the ridiculous and un-necessary act of foraging; finding, collecting and eating our own food. Foraging fills a gap, a real gap in our experience that digital technology (for all its gifts) cannot replace. Foraging can connect us to what it means to feel and be alive, what it means to be truly human, and this is humbly worth celebrating.
I run foraging courses throughout the year to bring together people, plants and nature. I also offer bespoke experiences, where you can choose the people, place and time that we come together to forage.
This blog is based on the personal and subjective views of me, Rachel Lambert. I am not claiming that my views or beliefs are facts, or gospel or scientifically backed up (except in the places where I have said so). My opinions are based on personal experience, musings and hypothesis about foraging in the 21st century.
Follow the #mindfulwildforager if you want to see or read more.