Four Native Species to Know

Here are four species of native plants of the Pacific Northwest. If you live in this region, do you recognize any of these? They are common friends to know.

The first, Oregon Grape, is a delicious (albeit rather tart) edible berry. It is most ripe at the time of my writing this in late August. When the berries start to shrivel up just a little bit is when they are most sweet to eat by the handful. It’s okay to eat the little sift stems attached to the berries, too. In springtime, the new leaves of this plant are deliciously edible; they are very soft and light green and taste like a tart apple.

It is said that parts of the Nootka Rose can be edible. I am not certain about this, and beside, we should all do our research to make sure we can absolutely identify any wild edible plant before eating them. Some wild plants have parts that are edible and other parts that are poisonous. Others are completely edible, but only at certain times of the year. It’s not hard to learn these things, but it does take a bit of real-world identification practice.

Salmonberry is one wonderful species that I can say for certain is edible. The berries are totally edible, being ripe in early summer, around early June. The flowers, which come out in springtime before the berries, are also edible right off the stem. They have a very subtle, soft, sweet taste. I don’t think the rest of the plant is edible. Salmonberry is super prolific in this region, so I’m never concerned about over-harvesting. It even competes with Blackberry.

Snowberry, the fourth plant here, is poisonous. Many plants with white berries are poisonous; learn who lives around you, so you are not wrongfully fearful of an edible plant. It’s strange that this fourth picture is the darkest, an uncanny coincidence of an omen.

It was at Wilderness Awareness School that I adopted the practice of using the word “who” to describe plants and nonhuman animals, instead of “what”. This choice of language signifies a different way of thinking about nonhuman species; the sense that they are alive, and that a species need not be human to have a personality or be in meaningful relationship with others.




Plant photos by Gentle J. Pine.

Featured photo by luke flynt on Unsplash.

Ruach and Scripturing (Flowers Don’t Get Distracted)

You think you know what you want to say, but get out of the way. Creativity says something bigger than planned, always. It’s hiding to leap, crouching gargoyle crying beautiful night howl, the marvelous night! What love is this! How glimmering the comfort of shadows! Walk into my dark wings! Great black wings to spread over the heart of the dark earth and go chanting your praise, good Wild God, you who live in both shadows and light. You, who drink hidden light, hidden in darkness. From the moon, from the fertile earth rip rolling wet soul under changeling dark castle in the low place love chakra get the words out of from undermind where the real poetry lives. Bring on back to the everyday the true knowledge of what is. Make the dreams live, the ones indescribable –babble– because you want to stay there where the holy is. His arms will hold you. Now, deeper into the soul of the world. Land, boxes and tunnels of animal’s of earth, He needs you. I will not forsake you. Even there the Christ-love sleeps and wakes and takes his pleasure in falling and rising by the season of day, ruach breathe in and out. Christ–love isn’t worried about linear time. He’s down here already. 


I used to write for approval. Now I write for the craft I know I am called to by The Beautiful One who makes the stars and the world. That’s makes in the present tense, I say. Always happening and we’re participating. It’s a big job, being human. Being animal or plant sure is too. It’s a rare gift to be one of these and not nothing at all.

I write for God who is the Beloved. To know the Beloved Creator in great affection and friendship is the most satisfying voyage. I think I feel what the tellers of the old bible stories felt when they wrote for God. They focused on the Beloved, and it was spontaneous, and that was the only that mattered. Divine inspiration is absolutely spontaneous, as is understanding. This is what makes ever disjointed the literalism of our time. Of written history. I call scripturing the putting together of free form thought for the love of the Holy. This is where great writing comes from. It is poverty to say there has been only a small set of absolute scriptures with the answers forever. Poverty! It is a dire poverty of the mind to be so absolute. We must mind the muses, holy spirits, tongues of fire in the poets today not so different from ages ago, from Isaiah. God, who does not fear compost, of tuning the shit we’re afraid of into soil and food to sustain us, you are most worthy of unshackled wonder. By writing the world we access the world larger than us, give it praise, meld with it. When I am in pain I know it is not my pain alone, but the world’s pain, and I do not carry it alone. So be a flower who is loved by the sun and does not worry about its own life, when it blossoms or when it dies. Flowers don’t get distracted by crazy heads like we humans. They’re always being as the Lord of Love made them to be, in their direction. It knows it will be back again. It knows it exists in the great belly of life who is its Beloved.




Images © Gentle J. Pine. All rights reserved.

Green Makes Your Worries Stay Still

Green wants to keep changing, hard to make it stay still, but it makes your worries stay still.

It’s said the human eye can see more hues of green than any other color. I sit here thinking about green, with turquoise, my colors of love. Scribbling these words between episodes of bounce-house supervision of children on this day in summer at work. Here in Cascadia there is no shortage of greenness in summer rains. Where I’m from in the great San Joaquin valley of California, all is crisp and dry-brown gold in summer. It is big news on the rarest of days when rain appears in the long summers.

I’ve lately heard again the myth of persephone, how the earth is barren in the months when she is in the underworld. Not available to bless the plants with her life-giving powers. And so the earth is barren during this time. The story collectors of northern Europe thought it must’ve been winter, the dead time of year. But I think it is summer. Greece is is the same climate as California, with those long, hot, dry summers, and this season is the most deadly. My early childhood observations of California’s lush winters may be my root appreciation for the color green, when the winter rains bring verdant growth back to the land.

Green, the eyes of the forest, green taking a moment to zone out and not try, look out the window at green and sink-fall into the unconscious reverie of leaves with dew, even if the dew is from sprinklers, it still does the trick. Green is branching into brain patterns brightness flashing inspiration. Green is the color of reptiles and genius and ecstatic desire. The color of the god Pan in the thicket, this glory-green is the original color, maybe the first we ever saw, telling one green from another to sift apart the multitude of species upon species together in chorus. Green is mind-thought and no-mind imagination. Other colors look better with green. I like to add many blues as the most beautiful companions of green. In fact, there are many blues and many greens. Spin with gold-yellow-amber and paintbrush-fur-brown.





Photo by Thomas Lambert on Unsplash

Conservation of Energy

“[Soil] is where the dead are brought back to life.” –Toby Hemenway, Gaia’s Garden

Look up the Law of Conservation of Energy and you’ll get a long pile of words. Within all those words is the infamous idea of the ultimate circle –matter is never created or destroyed. Matter goes about in a continuous loop, firing the will of movement into suns and animal bodies and small green plants pushing up form the black earth. Is energy another form of matter? I go ahead with my wondering.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, paleontologist, Catholic priest and beloved edge-walking mystic of the atomic midcentury once said, “matter is spirit moving slowly enough to be seen.” I walk out to the modest garden, observing each day the tiny green sprouts of my beginner gardener’s hope and frustration and awe. And I see in my mind’s eye their delicate stipules as so many shimmering stars all compacted together unhurriedly, taking time to taste the water seeping gratefully into the breathless soil, now pushing upwards as if to reach back again into the celestial abyss without gravity.

A tiny plant is compacted energy. It must draw up from the dirt and down from the sun all the food it needs to live and survive the test of uncertain Nature. My species has taken steps to comfort the baby sprouts, sheltering them in greenhouses, within copper wire to fend off the slug beasts, befriended by the aphid-eating cotton-balled Green Lacewings, watered conveniently, bred for battle and pampered in domestic luxury. It can be argued that domestication preserves energy on both ends: the plants get to not die so often while we get to eat them reliably.

And yet gardening takes a tremendous exertion of energy, especially in the beginning, when mistakes are more abundant than edibles. It takes my vital energy, that which I am programmed to want to preserve, and which I have fought battles with myself to have more of. But it has also surprised me with a sweet delight: gardening is a kind of labor which, though it necessarily takes energy from me, it gives back in return. Here I do not need or desire to cut corners in defense of my lifeblood as we sometimes do in the parade of other jobs worked for survival’s sake. Already I have found this labor to be an effort of returning rewards in a generous circle. Long before a crop of edibles, I bring in the freely given health that is putting my actual head to the big solid earth when I need to quiet the anxieties of a human life. There, in the crepuscular light of a summer’s eve, beside the sleeping dust of dirt as yet unactivated by tilling or by compost, I go down on my knees and put the crown of my head to the ground. It is where the vital energy of stars and sprouts and animals are kept, and awoken.



Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Tea-Drinkers Anonymous

Guys, it’s getting really bad. I’m drinking all the time. Licorice root tea, green tea, orange peel with ginger root and eucalyptus, red rooiboos, rosehips, honeybush, nettle, raspberry leaf, lemongrass, peppermint, spearmint, dandelion, jasmine, chamomile, saffron. I’ve started hoarding cute little bags of organic green tea, petting them with shameful delight when nobody’s looking, keeping an assorted stash in my bag while I’m at work. I’ve got a cold-steep bottle with me wherever I go. I must constantly pee. My friends may not have fully seen it yet, but my skin is looking alarmingly sexy, increasingly free of blemishes, and I’m menstruating normally like a female in full moon. This could be bad. I can stop anytime, but maybe I’m too far gone. Next I’ll be foraging and brewing my own from the wild. My friend said I’m on the risky road to herbalism, and there’s no turning back. I’m so thirsty I can’t go a few hours without sneaking a sip. I fear I shall never recover.



image source: creative commons CC0


Cooking alone on a hotplate,

sound of a Spanish guitar plucking notes

from some other time and place

in Mediterranea, over songs of gentle want

she boils cures for broken hearts

from Dandelion, Laurel and Nettle,

one with a sting and once with spice,

and another sweet to cure-all.

This is Spring and much is scarce but weeds,

though she knows their names and secret uses

with a smile, the way the leaves and flowers

soak slowly until steam rises

reminds her what determination

with a spritz of fragrance is required

to taste the feast beyond famine.

Hot jewels of blooming stars, fair Orion

and the Dippers lend their love overhead

while she brews Springtime satisfaction.

Summer’s almost here.




image source: public domain

Circle Two

Dry leaves have accumulated

in our circular driveway,

caught in a pent-up whirlwind

which cannot escape. ‘Round

and around they are pulled

in succession, convoluted

blades scraping asphalt,

one after another

in consecutive milliseconds

outside my window, dead foliage,

once living, now carnage,

leaf berating stone without relief.


O hear, it sounds like rain, a haunting

pitter-patter promising insistence,

and there it goes again, but it isn’t.

No water for the thirsty earth.

Parched, we are without abatement.

It is an illusion, a mirage to

desperate dry ears wanting

to make the hurricane of fire

give refreshment

and break.



image source: public domain

The Wood-Bird

I dream of a wood-bird who is living, both animal and plant is its body. It is like an ostrich, but has wood and leaves for feathers. There is also a cinnamon bird, often mistaken for a guinea pig, as people want to subject the magical to their experiments. And there was a giant pelican, like a god; the power of this creature overwhelmed me in awe. This giant pelican does not like to be fully depicted in image. To look at it completely would blind you. If you see part of one, prepare for war of the celestial kind, for these god-birds are heralds. They may appear to you anywhere. I saw mine in a shopping mall parking lot.



image source: public domain