“Dad…what does exist mean?”
Fuck. How the hell do I answer a question like that? My four year old has nailed me with a question that I’m still asking myself as an adult. We’re driving out of the forest, our baskets devoid of mushrooms our hearts a rather deflated. I’m not sure where the question came from, maybe it derived from our existential philosophical conversation walking the paths searching for wild mushrooms, which in fact is just me talking to myself with the odd effort to include a random kid in conversation. I’m often overcome with what my kids ask me, so stumped am I that I end up asking myself the questions my kids are asking me. Often I reply by simply asking them for time to think about the question until I can come up with an answer. This answer to this question however, was no where to be found, like the mushrooms we’d just been searching for, it was a mystery.
As far as I’ve experienced, existing simply invites more questions. I’m aware that I’m only around for a short time, I’ll blaze as brightly as I can, then my light will fade away to be lost forever. We all face the same reality, the difference is in how we blaze.
My hands dig deep into the frigid soil, the tips of my fingers ache cold, deep into from the flesh into the bone. My garden is in a state of chaos, it’s being ripped, dug out and transported to the new house by order of the landlord. The soil I’ve worked, the soil that has provided us such valuable asset is now just something that has housed things to exist, which in turn feeds us so we continue to exist. As I work the soil I feel for the wide head of parsnip, the round bulbous of beetroot, the whte stalk of fresh leek, everything must be harvested, and in turn cease to exist.
As I pull out one specimen after another I feel the question from my four year old daughter resonating in my thought. I exist because I’m fed, I’m fed because I grow, because I work for my nutrients. It makes sense. It’s a simple cycle of energy out….energy in.
Later that week I run a workshop sharing the skills of my everyday live with those keen to learn. We discuss, we share ideas and concepts, techniques and concerns. It’s not just a skills sharing its a stew of thoughts, ideas and attitudes. We walk the forest paths searching for this years elusive mushrooms and no matter how much I assure people that they are safe to eat, there is always a few that feel apprehension. Eating food that’s grown wild and natural is something foreign for most of us and invariably intimidating. We do however, put absolute faith in food that we can select off a shelf and place in a shopping trolly based on the picture on the packet or the television commercial we saw on the item on last nights television. The reality is that the wild food is better for us, even though there is often apprehension that it may poison us. The irony is that the food we eat from the supermarket is probably making us unhealthy and in many cases slowly killing us. It’s just less obvious than a poison mushroom. It’s slow and discrete.
I have yet to answer my daughters question. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to answer it in full. While I work on a suitable answer I’ll plant more seed, I’ll continue to walk the forest for mushrooms, the fields for rabbit and pass on what ever skills I can to those who’ll listen. Maybe that’s all it is for me to exist.