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A Wander in the Woods

By Nick Wittkofski

A hike is for your mind, a walk is for your body and a wander is for your soul. When you wander you don’t follow a path, and you don’t wear a watch (or at least pay attention to it). You just wander.

A couple of weeks ago, we had the pleasure of going on a wander with our good friend Pen Goodall on his 1,800-acre property, which is mostly under easement and largely a natural system. As a special treat, he brought along his friend Luke Cannon, who is an ecologist, botanist, herbalist and permaculturist. Luke opened our eyes to the flora, fauna and fungi surrounding us.

He encouraged us to get to know what we’re observing, rather than try to memorize specific features. What are the surroundings? What is the substrate? What is the taste and smell? What is the shape, form or posture? In doing so, we found ourselves much more engaged in the whole forest system while simultaneously understanding its parts.

We smelled this Stinkhorn mushroom before we even saw it.

AMI Founder Laurie Berman smells a less offensive mushroom.

Pen showed us a spot just downstream from one of his springs that had delicious Rock Lettuce!

These beautiful old Red Oaks are around 500 years old!

We even found a blue crayfish!

Wandering in and getting to know a natural ecosystem helps you find your place in the world. It reminds you that you are not separate from nature, but a piece of it.

While it is sometimes easy to forget that the foods we eat have been domesticated over centuries, we must still consider their ecological niches. When we wander in nature, we can begin to understand the complex ecology from which we all derive. While we are only scratching the surface, we can use our observations to tend our crops in a restorative and integrative manner.

That day, we left Pen’s property with a greater sense of how to slow down and be curious. We learned to look at the big picture to find answers for the small things. And we learned how to deviate from the path and just wander about.

Thank you Pen and Luke for a beautiful day!

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