It the holiday season, when people take time to reconnect with old friends. At parties and wherenot, people have been asking me what my plan is doing. I usually mumble something about Corsica and Santa Claus being a mushroom shaman. If people inquire further, I explain that I want to plant native fruit and nut trees on Cincinnati's overgrown hillsides, so that when the economy tanks, we'll have persimmon-fattened deer to eat. That's not really what I want to say, though. I would like to respond: "La vida vino veritas- et in Arcadia ego". That's a working version of my personal motto. Translates as "The life of wine truth- I am also in Arcadia."
"In vino veritas" usually refers to things you said while you were drunk that otherwise wouldn't have gotten said, cuz of social niceties. To get drunk and say what needs to be said is a good thing! Whether drinking our homebrewed hooch and doing an expose on the sillier habbits of our pets, or getting drunk on God like Rumi and speaking Truth to Power, like MLK jr. "La vida vino veritas" is also my shorthand for the Tao of fermented foods alchemy.
When you say that you're somewhere else also, it's code for your constant awareness of physcial mortality. Saying that the other place you're at is Arcadia, the mountainous Greek home of legendarily happy earth-conscious nomads, means you think that's the best place in a civilized imagination to be. I thinks so- they made bread with acorns instead of wheat (maybe because their land was inclined against sensible grain production?), and it's that steep topography that successfully hosted the Greek Revolution in which the Ottoman Empire got handed its ass. Also, in American pop culture, the Arcadians appeared in the movie "300", and they were good people who gave their lives for freedom without being obsessed with war like the Spartans were. Cincinnati, having more square acres of greenspace than any other major US city, could host a lot of trees that would make the ecosystems suitable for an Arcadian revival movement.
Part of what's bringing this batch of thoughts together is Robert Hart's Forest Garden (of Peace). It has been extremely amusing- inspiring, enlightening, makes my thoughts race and my head spin, my heart glow and my belly jiggle with giggles as I spin around in circles at Noon under the Solstice sun. The UK Plants For A Future crew reported their experience there in the Garden 10 years ago, and their story is SO COOL as to make me act the fool x9. So I quote:
"The summer had been a difficult one, it had been rather dry, and there had been a lot of damaging winds recently. However, the garden looked in excellent condition. Whilst the surrounding fields looked dry and barren, the garden was green and lush and, as we soon found out, it was literally dripping with fruit."
With spreading desserts, famine and growing amounts of governmental terrorism at our doorsteps, I find comfort in this image of abundant fertility.
"Narrow pathways lead you amongst fruit and nut trees, growing into them you will find climbing plants such as grapes and kiwi fruits. Growing under them are various fruiting shrubs such as blackcurrants and
gooseberries and also many herbs and salad plants that will succeed in the woodland shade. On the sunnier edges of the garden a number of more conventional vegetables are grown."
If you lived in the Garden, you could be molecularly one with your surrounding environment, on a very sensual level, by eating the fruits of the plants and ammending the soil around their roots with your composted humanure. You are experiencing a physical body that FEELS that it's part of everything else, you can see your feeling be played out in the ecology of the garden. It's so beautiful it speaks to your soul, and suddenly your whole perception is one of soma, being one with it all like you're on mushrooms and talking to the Green Man. Of course a Buddha or Anthropop might kindly point out that you don't need anything outside of yourself (tobacco, umeboshi plums or chocolate) to connect with Godhead. You can do it yourself, with or without help. I'm not deaf enough to argue against that, for to do so is self-defeating. However, since we CAN create an earthy, earthl paradise, (and that's not an issue of contention is it, for Robert Hart has already done it) we can outmode suffering. Noble Savagery is upon us, and it looks like deluxe raw, vegan food and humans being flabbergasted with delight. It also looks like people getting crunked on fermented drink, back to that in a minute. If we follow Mr. Hart's model, we in the Eastern Forest Biome can grow all the food and drugs we could possibly want. Valiant people, as gardening Foresters we could live the ultimate Debauchery! Hakim Bey as entheogen propagandist recounted an ancient Celtic story, one which illustrates our ancestors getting drunk from the fruits of a forest garden. In his enthusiasm for Aminita muscaria, the storyteller has overlooked an exciting possibility for today. Take a few deep breaths as you read this next quote here, it took my breath away.
"They were now a long time tossed about on the great billows, when at length they came in view of an island with many trees on it. These trees were somewhat like hazels, and they were laden with a kind of fruit which the voyagers had not seen before, extremely large, and not very different in appearance from apples, except that they had a rough, berry-like rind. After the crew had plucked all the fruit off one small tree, they cast lots who should try them, and the lot fell on Maildun. So he took some of them, and, squeezing the juice into a vessel, drank it. It threw him into a sleep of intoxication so deep that he seemed to be in a trance rather than in a natural slumber, without breath or motion, and with the red foam on his lips. And from that hour till the same hour next day, no one could tell whether he was living or dead. When he awoke next day, he bade his people to gather as much of the fruit as they could bring away with them; for the world, as he told them, never produced anything of such surpassing goodness. They pressed out the juice of the fruit till they had filled all their vessels; and so powerful was it to produce intoxication and sleep, that, before drinking it, they had to mix a large quantity of water with it to moderate its strength."
Could there actually be a plant like this, that's gets us easily drunk with its low-hanging fruit? Of course there *could* be, but do we have any candidtates? I've found one, w/o falling back on Cannabis (the Tree of Life Everlasting), or Psylocibin (the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil). It's on the mountainous isle of Corsica, which already has some prestige as a former permaculture paradise*.
Meet the the "Strawberry Tree" (Arbutos unido). Its fruit ferments on the ground into tastey alcoholic globules; birds around one specimen that my teacher Simurgh grew up with would get intoxicated, and you could watch them flying around lazily in no particular direction. The PFAF crew lists it at #5 on their list of 20 top (most favorite) plants. Why? Read their article for more general information, but these particular details jumped out into this. JÃºlio Reis tells us that "In Portugal, they make an alcoholic beverage called "medronheira" from the fruit of this tree, which would translate as "strawberry tree firewater". It's very alcoholic but very aromatic, can be used in cakes, or it can be sipped in (preferably) small quantities, like port. The fruit itself is delicious, at least to my palate." Hallelujah that sounds good. Sean said "I've just returned from Corsica where I have eaten some extremely nice Arbous jam made from this plant and also bought a bottle of Arbous liqueur which was one of the nicest I have ever tasted."
Finally, Ana Margarida Martins said "Hello!!! About the toxicity of this fruit: in Portugal we do make jam and liqueur (aguardente de Medronho) with it. I have personally eaten many of these fruits and I can tell you they're very sweet and tasty. But in Portugal the cultural say about Arbous is that you shouldn't eat too many, or you risk beeing drunk. That's probably because the fruit ripens very quickly and ferments. That's why you feel sick and dizzy... because you're slightly drunk... But nothing serious... Enjoy the fruits everybody!!!"
Food for more than body or thought, tree crops as soma even w/o the transcendental abundance of their ecology. I want to give this kind of soma to Cincinnati, a paradise now that's so good people give up on Millenialsim to start enjoying where they're at.
*In "Tree Crops: A Permenant Agriculture" there's a great description of Corsican agriculture. There was a series of villages, spaced along a hillside band of forest gardened European Chestnut (Castanea sativa). These sloped communities based their whole economy on the nutmeat of C. sativa- they ate it with gusto directly, reared livestock on 'em, and exported some of the surplus. The ancestors of those farmers who appeared in the book 56 years ago had been living symbiotically with their chestnut groves for literally centuries, with some of the oldest trees being more than 300 years of age. All of these had been carefully propagated, superior cultivars grafted onto rootstock, the humans planting them out to fill gaps in the canopy as they naturally occurred. The chestnut blight destroyed this. Conspiracy buffs who say the UN seeded HIV in Africa under the cover of vaccination programs to check human population growth by killing off the poorest of the poor might begin to suspect that the chestnut was deliberately destroyed by the bad guys; I prefer to ignore that possibility, as it would negatively impact my quality of life and discourage me from the work that needs to get done so that these Arcadian landscapes may inherit our Wastelands.