31 Days: Apocalypse, Now ~ Day 19 :: Sauntering and Foraging

metalorbburiedfernKCCExtNLNH29Sept2018Welcome to day 19 of 31 Days of Apocalypse, Now, a month of posts about apocalypse, revelation, uncovering what’s been hidden. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may only peripherally seem related. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.


I came across this obituary today. Cy Adler, oceanographer and mathematician, understood the value of the edge, the unknown (x), getting lost, and exploring a familiar place in unusual ways so that new things, hidden things, can be revealed.

He began an annual tradition, his Great Saunter, in 1982 “to promote his vision of a shoreline green ribbon encircling Manhattan, and to remind its residents that they inhabit an island. Covering 32 miles (about 10 hours if you walked it all), it took place on the first Saturday in May.

“Walking around the edge of a big city along an unknown path can change you, expand your horizons, knock you around for a while,” Mr. Adler wrote.

”You see things on these walks you wouldn’t see anywhere else in New York. … We saw cows in Staten Island, oysters in the Bronx and pheasants above the George Washington Bridge. We saw dead chickens hanging from trees on the Harlem River that looked like they had been part of a voodoo sacrifice.

“Should you get lost,” Mr. Adler added, “consider yourself lucky.”

crabapple trees, Conservatory Garden, Central Park, April 2016

What a grand idea. Here’s are two more in New York City:

Marie Viljoen, a writer, forager, and gardener, offers inexpensive foraging walks in New York City. Her “emphasis is both on weedy or invasive plants (usually the target of mass-herbicide application), which could easily become commonly eaten and enjoyed vegetables, fruit or herbs, as well as indigenous flora whose unique qualities have been ignored by most cooks. … All plants — not just edible — are part of our mobile discussion. My goal on each walk is to tune the eye to the green details beneath our feet, so that we see the place where we live with newly appreciative eyes and an expanded sense of context. The next walk is tomorrow in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Woodland, which offers mugwort, edible invasives, acorns, fall mushrooms.

flowers on Berberis Julianae (wintergreen barberry) shrub, Central park, May 2015

And “Wildman” Steve Brill offers a hands-on walking tour of foraging and nature-study  “to learn about the environment and get back in touch with nature.” Some are in New York City and some (quite a bit) outside of it. For instance, tomorrow there’s a 3-hour foraging walk in Tarrywile Park in Danbury CT (an urban park with varied habitats, fall herbs, fruits, herbs and greens, nuts, seeds, roots, and mushrooms), and Sunday a 4-hour foraging tour in Central Park, including burdock root, sassafras, common spicebush, ground ivy, black walnuts, gingko nuts, red juneberries, hawthorn berries, Japanese quince, wild raisins winter cress, epazote, sheep sorrel, chickweed, lamb’s-quarters, wood sorrel, field garlic, garlic mustard, and possibly gourmet mushrooms such as brick tops, pear-shaped puffballs, chicken mushrooms, hen-of-the-woods, and honey mushrooms.

echinacea and liatris, Washington Square Park, July 2012

Other cities probably have similar walking tours, plant walks, foraging events to remind residents of the land they inhabit. Just a quick scan online found these events in the offing: a fall foraging walk: edible and medicinal plants in the city, in Washington, DC on Monday evening; an urban plant ID and foraging walk next Wednesday evening (24 Oct) in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on the “trails” of its signature West Central neighborhood “to discover the surprising variety of plant species an urban area supports;” and an edible and medicinal plant walk on Sunday at the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center in Lake View Terrace, CA (Los Angeles), followed by a snack featuring some of the plants/berries or fruits seen, plus cactus pears soda.


No method nor discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert. What is a course of history or philosophy, or poetry, no matter how well selected, or the best society, or the most admirable routine of life compared with the discipline of looking always at what is to be seen? — Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Featured image: trees, shrubs, grasses, against row of buildings, High Line, March 2013

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