The cold weather if late Fall and early Winter always draws my imagination to the Pleistocene era. I can imagine how the lone hunter must have seen his pristine world. He walks through a land untamed by clocks and unnatural restrictions. As he steps out of a thicket his eyes behold the falls for the first time. He is at one with the rhythm of nature as he approaches the edge of the water. He sees the fluid movement of the shadows as they dart around beneath the falls. His feet are in tune with the earth as he raises his Atlatl spear and slowly gets into position. As he casts his stone tipped dart towards the target his eyes never lose focus. There’s no splash as the dart penetrates the fish below the water’s surface. His skills with the weapon are so deft that the rest of the fish are undisturbed until he wades into freezing water to retrieve his meal.
Today Blackwater Falls is a popular tourist attraction in West Virginia. A paved path leads to the wooden staircase and there are platforms for taking in the view. However, it’s still easy to imagine that you’re a wild human roaming the wilderness in the distant past as you look down into the Falls.
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I love big old ancient trees. The older the better. In ancient times, big old trees were thought to be magical entities that stood between heaven and earth. They guarded the secrets of the universe. Trees also represent a shelter for weary travelers. The give us food and medicine. I believe that the tree in the feature image is a Red Elm tree. Also known as the Slippery Elm, the inner bark yields a mucilaginous substance that is used to treat respiratory ailments. The tea made from the inner bark has a sweet spicy flavor that’s pleasant enough to enjoy just for relaxing. Don’t drink too much because it’s also a laxative.
I’m really surprised that this one is still around. Sadly, the Elm population was nearly destroyed by Dutch Elm Disease. In the spring the government hangs purple boxes in the trees that attracts the beetles responsible for the spread of fungus. The beetle traps seem to be working well so hopefully we’ll have these awesome trees around for generations of travelers to shelter under or collect medicine from.
Some of my most cherished memories are the long walks with my grandfather. He was World War Two veteran who walked with a cane due to shrapnel that was embedded in his leg but that never seemed to slow him down. He would come over to our little house trailer which was next door to his house and invite me to help him check on the cattle. He was also a survivor of the Great Depression and on our walks he would teach me about the things that they used to do to stretch the budget. One their best resources was the wild edible plants that are found in abundance in Appalachia. Pictured here is Chicory. All parts of the plant are edible. The leaves are eaten as a salad green and the roots are roasted and then ground into a coffee substitute. ( no caffeine). The blue petals if Chicory are a natural litmus test. When exposed to an acid they change from blue to red.
In the background of the image is Queen Anne’s Lace. ( the white flowers). Now, you have to be careful about collecting it because there’s also poisonous look-alikes such as hemlock. Queen Anne’s Lace usually has one tiny little blood red flower in the center of all that white. How’s it used? Well, I’m pretty sure that most of the world already knows because it’s simply a wild carrot. The root doesn’t really look like what you buy in the store or raise in your garden. It is small, white and kinda bland. But, it is a carrot none the less.
Most people look at the plants that grow without any help from humans and all that they see are weeds but I see the province of God and hear the voice of my grandfather.