Sometimes you just don't notice until some heavy change occurs. You drive the same road every single day of you life and one day you just notice it again. The very simple nature of its curves and its imperfections as the tires of your car roll over scars the snowplow left the winter before or the pot hole that, all of a sudden popped in the blacktop. You may not notice the trees even though they have been a part of your entire life. They way they shaded you in the summer. The way they have grown along side you and kept a diary of every birthday you've ever had. You can remember stories told to you by your father or grandfather about how almost 100 years before their fathers and grand fathers had planted those trees along side the road, row on row, and that after many years of succession, those pines had dropped their cones and scattered their seeds and now a beautiful pine forest had thrived in your very yard.
This year that forest was a little different. Not in any way different from years when those pines had dropped their cones in the road before but you are older now and more aware and it seems this year the cones are so many you can hardly believe your own eyes. The crunching of them when you run them over, driving up that meandering driveway, just seems a lot louder. Nature has a way of surprising you all the time even though you've seen those same gardens every spring and you've planted the very plants that surprise you. Those same white pines that were like family all those years, surprised you this year because they are trying to tell you something.
There has been a bumper crop of white pine cones this season. More than I personally have ever seen in the past 5 years and we have been distilling almost every weekend. The oil produced from even a small batch of sticky, resinous cones is amazing (just a note 50 lbs of needle may produce a quarter oz of oil but 20 lbs of cones has been yielding us about 8 to 12 oz!!!!) This is therapy for us and it doesn't cost $75 at the local spa.
It's ritual and peace of soul and spirit. It's a quiet, slow walk through the tall, straight pines with silent footfalls, cushioned from the fallen brown needle bed beneath our feet. We bend down and gather cones in a pile to scoop up into our baskets. We rake bigger piles to shovel directly into the bed of the pick-up truck. Our hands are covered with gooey pitch and it doesn't bother us one bit. We smell like pure nature. A hawk shrieks above, circling in downward spirals and the blue sky is only dotted with puffy white clouds saying their last goodbyes to the warmer weather. This is more like work than any other harvest we usually do. Most of our treks to hunt and gather require some time to go out into the woods and find what we are looking for. That being the fun part, the adventure. But still this isn't work at all...being outside under the whispering pines that stand above us like guardians. We are at home here. Truth be told, when we are wildcrafting, we don't work much at all.
These old familiar trees are surely different this year. They have new breath in our eyes and they are more beautiful than ever. To share something with them is near magical or is it just what is supposed to be...normally in our lives. Our connection with nature and these trees may be something that should just "BE" everyday. Their welcoming embrace into the natural world is something we welcome and those whispers that come through the needles of the trees when the wind blows through them is music to our ears. Yeah, as different as they may look this year they are truly, old familiar friends.
...Plum Islands biowarfare ties date back to World War II and Operation Paperclip, a top secret government program to shield Nazi scientists from trial or punishment by quietly bringing them over to the U.S. and giving them new identities and U.S. citizenship in exchange for working for the government and military.
Our single plant studies are love songs, pure, unfiltered, admiration, of one species of plant or tree. One plant with so many scent notes in its catalog, balanced by millions of years of evolution...