In the second KYD No. 18 teaser, Annie Raser-Rowland looks at foraging, food and urban waterways.
Last summer the three blackberry patches closest to my home finally succumbed to poison. They had grown alongside the urban creek where I walk daily with my dog, and for over twenty years the creek’s management committee has been gradually working to eradicate all non-indigenous species in its precinct. While the blackberries were still there, that part of my day where I passed them always involved a small mental shift. Early in the season it took the form of a subconscious eye flick to check for notes of purple fruit amongst the hard red ones. As summer deepened, this eye flick segued automatically into more active scanning for the weighty droop and dark lustre of any fully ripe clusters. From the first, this surveillance felt surprisingly familiar, effortless, stimulating. I realised that spotting promising clusters at fifty paces and mentally cataloguing them for later inspection not only required no slowing of my natural gait, but actually seemed to enhance its fluidity. Once berry ripening was really up and rolling I would pick daily, always filling a container to take home but still eating a lot on the spot.
Such semi-conscious thoughts shimmered only as a backdrop to the star of the show, however: picking. Plucking berries hand over fist, I am mostly in a completely absorbed mental state that I associate with art making. Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this feeling ‘flow’, and defines it as a state of intrinsic motivation to perform the task at hand, where time seems to stop and ‘the ego falls away’. Science identifies ‘flow’ as being a slow brainwave state hovering between the alpha and theta range, which promotes physical and mental rejuvenation by lowering stress levels. The ancient, adaptive act of finding food on a bush and steadily conveying it to your mouth can, I think, partly trigger this feeling because it is so completely its own end point. It has no further motive.
Want to read the rest? Pre-order a print copy of Issue 18, available online 21st July!
Annie Raser-Rowland is co-author of The Weed Forager’s Handbook: A Guide to Edible and Medicinal Weeds in Australia.
Image credit: Simon Brass