Abundance Everywhere

By | June 16, 2015

Recently, a woman asked what I would do in an extreme survival situation, such as being stuck in a place where I couldn’t find food or shelter. I thrive on challenge, so right there I looked out the window and caught sight of the big white pine tree about thirty paces out from the house. I pointed to the tree and said, “Do you mean something like me being chained to that tree like a dog?”

“That would be extreme,” she admitted.

“Piece a’ cake,” I told her. “Shelter, water, food, it’s all there, and I’ll show you, in that order. Let’s go out there.” She looked at me incredulously. All she saw was barren ground covered with a solid layer of dry, sterile pine needles. Obviously being chained to the base of the tree, I couldn’t climb high enough to get at the eggs or young birds in the several nests up in the tree. “I would just sit here and let the food come to me,” I told her. I then proceeded to show her how I would first rake up a pile of dry needles to burrow into for a makeshift warm sleeping bag. I didn’t have to worry about rain protection, as most conifers shed water quite well. Their drooping branches channel water out to the drip line, which lies out at the farthest reach of the branches. I demonstrated how to look up and find the densest cover of water-shedding branches under which to locate my bed-shelter.

My second consideration, I told her, would be water. Depending on the weather, I could go for a few days or so without needing to drink. If the water table was high, such as it was on this particular site, I could dig down with a stick to reach water. If it rained, I’d have two ways for getting a quantity of water, or in should say, of letting the tree get me water. Sometimes the upper branches will funnel water down the trunk, and one can either lap it up directly or soak it up with a piece of clothing and wring it out directly into the mouth. Another possibility is to find a place along the drip line where the shed water comes down heavily, and again either drink it directly or soak it up and piece of clothing.

“What about food?” she asked. “I don’t see any way, but I have a hunch you’re going to prove me wrong.”

I began by telling her that we don’t need to worry about food unless we’re going to be somewhere for an extended period of time. “But why fast if I don’t need to,” I told her. “If I don’t know how long I’m going to be there, I’m going to start eating right away to keep up my energy.”

Lying around us on the ground were a number of immature pine cones that the red squirrels were nipping off from the uppermost branches. “Here’s food,” I said.

“How can that be?” she replied. “They’re not even half-formed; how are they going to have any seeds in them?”

“Break one open,” I replied.

She did, then made a sour face and said, “Worse yet, they’re wormy!”

I smiled, and she got it right away. The squirrels were dropping cones to then come down, gather them up, and chew them open to get at the worms. They are a good protein source and have a high fat content. And they taste pretty good, along with having a nice, creamy texture, which of course wouldn’t be a primary consideration in an actual survival situation.

“What if there were no pine cones?” was her obvious follow-up question.

I gave her a number of potential options. Over the day, a number of small animals would likely come wandering through and be within my reach. Snakes, toads, pine voles, and inquisitive chipmunks would be fairly easy for me to either grab or whack with a stick. “Yet right now,” I told her, “we have an even easier food source.” I showed her a couple of green caterpillars who were descending from the branches on their silk threads. “They’re not near as tasty as the pine cone grubs,” I commented, “yet they’re just about as nourishing.”

“There are many more possibilities,” I added, listing fungi, salamanders under the bark of a rotting log, worms, and insects of all kinds. There might even be a few plants that I could reach at the far reach of my chain. “If you can see what’s possible here in this supposedly sterile environment, where all you see is old brown pine needles,” I told her in conclusion, “imagine what would be possible in a more fertile location.”

A vague smile came over her face as she pondered a new world of possibilities.

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