Are any of you of the age where you remember having metal ice trays where you would have to pull the lever to release the ice? Well, I think I’m slightly younger than that however I don’t like using a plastic tray for something I want to eat or drink so several years ago I bought a metal ice tray. It’s a little bit labour-intensive compared to the modern fridges with their automatic ice machines built-in but I like the simplicity and the satisfaction of making my own ice. I’m an old soul.
This afternoon I pulled the ice tray out of the freezer and set the timer for 15 minutes. In the summer it takes less time to ‘loosen’ and in the winter much longer (about 18 minutes). When the timer went off I went and pulled the lever and massive chunks of ice came away from the tray and I dumped them into the bag I keep in the freezer for my never-ending obsession with cold drinks.
Now you may be wondering why I’m talking about ice and how I make it. Normally, I wouldn’t even think about sharing such a regular, every-day task in the form of a blog. Today was different. As I finished dumping all the ice out into the bag, I was about to rinse the tray before refilling it (to get rid of excess bits of ice still clinging to the metal separator compartments) when I saw a couple of loose pieces of ice that had already separated. Usually, I just rinse those little bits out but today I decided I wanted to eat those little bits so I chased one of them around the compartment it was in (I say chase because it took 4 attempts to get a good enough grip on it to pick it up) and popped it into my mouth.
In an instant I was transported back to my childhood and I felt like I was eating fresh snow! It was so cold and so satisfying that I chased another little piece around a different compartment and when I caught it, I popped it into my mouth as well. Same experience. It brought back a time in my life which I’m not even sure I appreciated at the time: the freedom to eat snow!
Today I hear parents telling their children not to eat snow because a dog probably peed on it or it’s dirty or simply, ‘don’t put that in your mouth’. It makes me sad because eating snow was a joyous part of my childhood and I ate snow in my teens on my way to and from school. There’s nothing so satisfying as reaching down and scooping up a lovely bunch of very cold snow and letting it melt in your mouth and trickle down your throat. I don’t crunch ice when I do have it in my mouth, I let it melt and trickle. It’s a sensation I obviously love but wasn’t conscious of how much I enjoy it until I decided to chase those little pieces of ice around my metal ice tray.
In my 20s I went hiking a fair amount and one of my favourite hikes led you to a waterfall and the water ran so clear all the way down that mountain that I took a few water bottles up there with me on one of my hikes and I filled them up to drink while I was hiking. The water was cold and delicious and when I held the bottle up to the light, it was clear as could be. When someone heard me tell them sometime later that I had done that, they appeared worried or horrified that I would do such a thing. That surprised me. I suffered no ill effects whatsoever and wondered why I seemed to be the only one (that I knew) who didn’t mind accepting what nature was willing to give to me.
Water that comes from the tap has gone through so many systems and filters and, at one point, was refuse itself. I’d rather drink whatever meltwater decides to tumble down a mountain and flow down a stream than drink what comes from a tap and has been through too many processes to count.
I used to pick berries on these hikes as well. Sometimes blackberries but mostly huckleberries. I love huckleberries. They always remind me of my dad because when I was small we had a huckleberry bush in our back yard and I remember him telling me (perhaps in a bush rather than in our back yard) how to tell the difference between huckleberries and a very similar plant which often grew in the same places as huckleberries because they looked very similar but one of them wasn’t good to eat and was best left for the birds. I passed this knowledge on to several children when I worked with deaf kids in summer day programs and went camping with them.
On one of our hikes, I remember one of the boys seeing me reach over to pick the huckleberries. He grabbed my arm and signed to me that I shouldn’t eat those, they’re poisonous. He was horrified when I popped them into my mouth (because I needed my hands to explain) and I told him that my dad taught me the difference between two similar plants and I showed him the ones that weren’t good and the ones that were. I told him how the leaves slightly varied and how the size of the berry was slightly bigger. I then picked a few more and popped them in my mouth and he watched me carefully to see that I didn’t keel over and die in front of him. I told him he could trust me and, while I could see that he wanted to, he couldn’t bring himself to eat them himself, however it didn’t stop his best friend from reaching in and helping himself to a handful and then declaring to the doubting boy how delicious they were!
I don’t hike anymore, mainly because I’ve broken my ankle too often and mobility can be difficult, but I wonder if anyone, today, hiking up that same trail to that same waterfall ever stops and drinks from the meltwater or if they are too afraid to try it.
Eat snow. Drink meltwater. Pick berries in the forrest. If you know what kind of mushrooms are edible, forage for mushrooms. The earth provides what we need and the enjoyment that accompanies that melting sensation on the tongue or the burst of summer sweet in the mouth or the travels back to childhood are all worth it. Be respectful and only take what you can eat or drink at that time and leave the rest for others and for the wildlife who also depend on it for their survival but enjoy it and let it take you back to how we all existed before grocery stores and restaurants became our go-to food sources.
If you’re not able to get to nature then just take little bits of ice and let them melt and trickle. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to the earth. Be kind to each other. Stay safe, stay healthy and enjoy the simple things in life. I absolutely do.