By Ariel Duran, Phase I Fellow
Still in the early days of Phase I of the Fellowship Program, I’ve already enjoyed so many great experiences between learning about plants, food, nutrition, fungi, and little life lessons in between.
Coming to the top of Allegheny Mountain from New York City has been a big change of pace, but without a doubt a very welcome one. I feel fortunate to be able to explore natural spaces and share these experiences with people who are here for the same cause.
As a cohort, we’ve had the opportunity to go on hikes exploring neighboring lands and discover more about their history and what they have to offer. With the help of some experienced guides, we foraged for wild edibles and learned about various plants—some medicinal, some just plain beautiful, and often times both.
On a hike through Midtown Manhattan, I’d be lucky to find an acorn. But here, immersed in nature, there are a million tiny natural miracles that are on display. It’s nice to be able to stop, listen, and observe the surrounding environment to get a broad image of all the parts that make up the forest. As individuals, however, there is so much beauty in each component.
Just the other day, I stopped on a hike to observe the peeling bark of a Yellow Birch, and noticed moss growing in little breaks and spaces between ribbons of bark.
With spring slowly creeping up the mountain, I observed that the forest floor here is now almost entirely covered with green. Even the fallen trees were almost entirely covered in a variety of plants and other colorful living things.
In our garden, this one bush, a quince, is literally buzzing with life. Almost every flower seems to be occupied with a bee, hummingbird, or other noisy creature. Waiting patiently to catch a photo of a hovering hummingbird, I took in the sounds, smells, and colors brought to life by all the little things working together.