A couple weeks ago while up in the mountains, on the early morning rides to the trailhead, and the exhausted ones back to the base camp, Greg and I became enthralled with a podcast on survival stories. Tales of people sliding down ice faces and getting lodged in crevices on Mt. Rainier, getting buried by rock slides, and mauled by grizzlies.
It’s admittedly a kind of disaster porn, gripping survival stories that are suspenseful, incredible, and trigger the perfect hit of adrenaline and dopamine. Yet there’s also a feeling that listening to tales where people face extraordinary physical challenge or life threatening circumstances, and make it (this is key), is constructive. There’s always a lesson involved, the narrator weaving in expert advice on surviving quicksand, avalanches, and the importance of sharing hike itineraries. Some of these stories have felt like a fire drill, inspiring a playbook of possibilities---what would we do if we were caught in a lightning strike on a mountain, for instance?
While hiking the other day we chit chatted with a hiker on the summit who’d been in several Ironman races. If you don’t know (like I didn’t know two weeks ago) what an Ironman is, it’s where you swim 2.4 miles, go for a 112 mile bike ride, then run a marathon, consecutively, starting at sun up and hopefully ending before sundown. He was in good shape. Physically prepared for the task of hiking mountains you could say. He also casually shared that he dislocated his shoulder while hiking recently on one of the high peaks.
Back on our own, we discussed what that would be like, to dislocate your shoulder while hiking up and down these sometimes, very steep rock scrambles. Greg is an extraordinarily prepared person, always bringing more gear and first aid supplies than most people. Naturally this discussion drove Greg into planning mode, prompting him to say, “Yea, I should probably add some splinting supplies to my first aid kit.” Then I chimed in with, “Yea, because even if we didn’t end up using it, there’s a chance we could help someone else with it.” Preparedness sometimes feels excessive and a chore in a time of plenty, especially when everything is going right, but that time when it’s really needed, it could be lifesaving.
Alice and Amy, my housemates (and so much more), are also very good at preparing. They want to be sure that they and their community (and any hungry mouths that show up at their door) will eat well this winter. They’ve been relentlessly canning, drying, and freezing for months now. Blueberries, raspberries, cherry tomatoes, dilly beans, garden sauce… the kind of materials that make for good dinners in February. They do it as much for others as they do it for themselves. All of this work, their well stocked pantry, and generous hearts make them an oasis in any emergency.
This year feels important to be ready with supplies and nimble in how we deploy them. It’s obvious from the canning jar/lid scarcity, that many people have this on their minds. While I’m not hustling to can food everyday, I’m doing my best to squeeze in a little extra for leaner months, making sure my tincture inventory is wisely provisioned, freeze some of my favorite berries, some wild greens, and whip up whatever condiments I might crave in future times. I’ve got gallons of acorns and walnuts stashed, just in case they’re needed. I’m doing my best to get ready for the big mystery that is a pandemic winter. It’s my hope that what I squirrel away may be of help to myself or anyone who crosses my path. And remember Ironman? The hiker who seemed more physically prepared than I will ever be? Shit still happens. It’s no doubt there are times when I owe my survival to those who prepare beyond my capabilities or rescue me when I’m stuck.
Thank you to all the rescuers, stockpilers, and forward thinking wizards who plan and prepare to be of service. May all the berries, love infused sauces, fire ciders, herbal salves, and krauts see us safely through any blizzards, power outages, illnesses, or lonely heart feelings that come our way, till the flowers return and we can mingle again carefree. May we too have the courage to both help and be helped.
Carly lives and eats from a hilltop in Cummington, Massachsuetts and part time in Schenectady, NY.