Having My Cake and Eating it Too

      Today, while my husband prepares for his annual hunting trip, I am up at the homestead gathering.  As convenient as my garden is, right out my front door with its neat rows of produce ready for the picking, its domesticated flavors can’t compare to the wild tanginess of a berry foraged from the forest.  Half the experience of eating a huckleberry or spreading thimbleberry jelly over your toast is the memory of finding it–the day spent in the mountains taking careful notice of things, discovering not only the berries you were seeking, but stumbling upon the carefully built midden an industrious chipmunk has gathered against the winter snow.

I read recently that women are better suited to gathering than men.  It seems that we see colors more vividly than the guys and I wonder then, what the world looks like through their eyes, slightly less saturated, a bit duller perhaps.

Anyway, on this fine summer day I am gathering rosehips to dry in the sun–a winter’s bounty of vitamin C rich tea.  And of course, a few kept by to make a rose hip cake.  When the boys were little and we spent our summers rangering in Glacier Park, their favorite stories were the Broughton Bear books, by Susan Atkinson-Keen.  The main character was a little boy who lived in a cabin in the wild, just like my sons.  And the boy in the stories lived with a grandfatherly bear who took him out in the woods to share some natural history and gathering adventure which always ended in the preparation of food, recipe included.  Thus began our tradition of gathering the fat red rosehips to make a summer rich treat in the middle of winter.


2 cups dried rose hips
1 cup water
blob of butter
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Cover and simmer rose hips in water for 20 minutes.  Strain to remove seeds, hairs, and pulp.  Set aside 1/2 cup of this juice with a blob of butter.

Beat eggs in large bowl.  Beat in sugar.  Add flour, baking poweder, and hip juice.  Mix well.  Pour into greased 8″x8″ pan and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove from oven.


3 tbls. butter
3 tbls. brown sugar
2 tbls. cream
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Mix topping in small pot and heat until butter melts.  Pour over cake, then brown slightly under the broiler.


Erratic Journey

      Crossing the glacial moraine that dams Racetrack Lake above Deerlodge, we make our way to the trailhead at the lake’s inlet.  We are soon ascending through a hummucky, rock strewn forest of  lodgepole pines.  Sticks and stones won’t break our bones as we make our careful way up the trail, but climbing over deadfall and around the boulders will surely make our bones ache tomorrow morning.  We are traveling through a forest of erratics–rocks resting far from the source, carried from the high peaks with their sharp ridges on a sheet of glacial ice and left behind as the ice age ended.

We too are a group of erratics, most of us from other places, brought here by jobs or dreams of living just a bit closer to the bedrock, seeking out a place where we might be surrounded by space and wildness rather than the press of other people and commerce.  Only two or three of us grew up in the surrounding valleys and their stories of those ranching years and their knowledge of the flowers and birds helps ground the rest of us to our chosen homeland.

We think of rocks as steadfast and immovable, but each of these giant boulders is a monument to change.  Born in a liquid fire, they were expelled from the earth’s crust by a force of unfathomable power, cooling slowly over time, then squeezed and crushed and molded by tremendous pressures, thrust up in the violent collision of tectonic plates and rising thousands of feet into the sky.  Then they were sheared from their mother mountain by rains and freezes and broken by tons of glacial ice, scraping and filing their rough edges as they were carried down the mountain on the glacier’s back.  Even when the ice melted and these erratics came to rest in what would, aeons on become a forest, their stories did not end.  The seeds and spores of lichen and moss were brought by the wind from far-off places and began the slow process of burrowing down into the rock’s skin, breaking it apart, creating pockets of loose soil where grasses and then small bushes could get a foothold, maybe even a tree might reach its root tentacles down into cracks and crevices, feeding on the essence of the boulder.

“Stone is the face of patience,” Mary Oliver says.  Yes, these erratics are the face of patience, but their story is one of constant change, being shaped by powerful forces, no will of their own, no clinging to any one state, no concept of being a part of something bigger or broken apart from that, no sense of being a separate thing, no self.  Only a patient yielding to impermanence.  How can we imagine such a thing?