Wildcrafting Article

Another Wild Winter

by Howie Brounstein

Come walking with me down to the creek and we can see how the floods have changed our old spots. Don’t worry about the cold, or the patches of snow. It’s not that bad, and besides, a brisk walk is always good this time of year. You can hear the creek now, let’s head that way. Seems no matter how I try to get to the creek, I always end up at this spot. It’s the noisiest spot on the creek, and seems to be the easiest spot to find. The noise almost seems to draw me to this place. Wow, the creek has become wider, full of bustling freezing water. How raging the floods must have been a few weeks ago. What torrents must have gone through here. Look here, where the creek makes a sharp right and s-curves up ahead. This is where all the noise is coming from. Let’s look closer at this little penninsula that the river runs around. It’s been flooding all through here, all the usual plants have been swept away and replaced with a pile of sand. Sand, who knows how deep, swept with ripples, almost as if a part of the still waters full of ripples have been frozen, transformed into sand ripples. We don’t have to walk on them today, because we can cross this fallen log to the creek’s edge. What a nice day. I sense deer around, perhaps we’ll see them on our way back.

Hmm, come over here! This part of the creek also has been replaced by a sand bar. Let’s touch it, it’s volcanic sand, worn down from the Mountain’s lava long ago and transported here from miles away by the strong hand of the another wild winter. It came from the high country, now only accessible to us by ski or snowshoes. Perhaps someday we can go snow camping up there, but not today. I like the warm fire back at home.

It’s winter now, let’s imagine what might grow in a place like this come spring, come summer, come the following years. Remember what it was like last year along creeks like these, in spots like these new sand bars and wet sandy ripples. I can almost see the large purple Mimulus

lewisii’s smiling mouths; I can almost taste their sweet aromatic sepals.

Remember last year, when we were looking for Angelica. We were walking along a creek like this, enjoying the scents of the Artemisia douglasii, and finding a few

Angelicas here, a few Angelicas there along the creeks edge. It was warm then, and the cool water felt so good on our feet and legs as we walked along the rocky bottom of the creek. Eventually we found a place where the creek turned sharply. Walking away from the creek, what was it? Twenty, thirty, fifty feet? Either way, through a wet drainage of Artemisia we walked, and found ourselves in a wet boggy area full of hundreds of Angelicas, both

genuflexa and arguta. The creek curved around this “almost peninsula”, around us. Good thing there were both kinds of Angelica around. We were a little late to get

Angelica arguta, most of the schizocarps had split and fallen off the umbels. Most were unidentifiable at that time, without seeds, and there was so much Cicuta

douglasii around! But the Angelica genuflexa, with its distinctive genuflexed leaves. Hitchcock calls it “abaxially geniculate,” but I think a picture is worth a thousand words. It’s easy to understand it when you see it like this, and I wouldn’t call your sister “abaxially geniculate.” Well, you might want to remember these words to impress friends at parties, I guess.

What a day we had! Was that laterally or dorsally flattened? You would bring the Angelica roots to me, and I’d double check the fruits to see that they really were

Angelica. Always good to be safe, especially with Umbelliferaes. And the growth rings on these older roots. Remember how we counted them, and all the old Angelicas had twenty to twenty five rings. And we pondered on the meaning of this, as some of us went into the water for a quick refreshing dip. What might have happened here twenty five years ago?

Open your eyes! You must’ve been dozing. It’s cold here, and I want to get moving. Look again, it’s suddenly become clear. This sand bar will grow Artemisia,

Mimulus, perhaps Angelica from the mountains. Perhaps in twenty years we can come back again with another group of new students. Perhaps they’ll fall asleep at lunch in

Artemisia patches that will grow on that sandy area. Perhaps they’ll ask, what happened here twenty years ago when all this Angelica was suddenly planted in the spot by some unknown force? We will know, won’t we.

And Michael Moore has said that many rivers in the plains are so degraded, and that their upper lands have been degraded, that the seeds no longer flow from the mountain to replenish the river’s edge down low. Let’s be thankful that Oregon’s ecosystem is still a bit more intact. And despite the CNN coverage, despite making the front page of a major Chilean newspaper, Oregon geology and ecology continues to evolve.

This was originally posted on the Professional Herbalist’s Mailing List Wed, 22 Jan 1997 by
Howie Brounstein.

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