I grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia on South Cherokee Cluster. We had a huge backyard, almost a quarter of an acre. There were some pretty cool features
in our backyard. We had a shed where my mom and dad kept all their tools, the lawn mower, and our bikes. We also had a peach tree that would bloom
every season. Though the peach tree would fruit, very rarely would we each the peaches. The squirrels got to them first. Towards the back of the yard,
we had honeysuckles covering the fence. I’d go back there, pinch the little green caps off the bottom of the flowers, pull out the stem, and lick the
little bubble of nectar that came out. It would take a couple bubbles of honeysuckle nectar before I was satisfied. One year, we also had a vegetable
grew eggplant, zucchini, watermelon. I can’t remember what else we grew, but I remember our little tiny watermelons being super sweet and one of our
zucchini’s being HUGE. I think we even gave away one to our neighbor. I enjoyed watching the plants grow, however, it wasn’t a huge part of my childhood.
We did the backyard garden a couple seasons and never really came back to it. Perhaps it was because I didn’t see the importance, or I lost interest
or my family simply didn’t have enough time. After all, my mom was a single parent working and going to school.
My Dad lived with us in my early childhood. He worked as a surveyor for a company called Landmark Design Group. Sometimes when my dad came home from survey
jobs he would bring home box turtles. We’d name them and keep them as pets, and after a few days, we would release them into the wild. Occasionally
he’d take my brother and I out in the woods on his survey jobs. He’d navigate the thickets like a champion, all the while warning us about chiggers,
snakes, and poison ivy. My dad was a real nature buff.
My dad was also a hunter. He had tons of rifles and a bow and arrow. He taught my brother about guns and how to properly shoot the bow. He would teach
me sometimes too. One time, he took my brother and I out into the woods and set some targets up in a tree. One of the targets was a plastic bottle.
After my dad taught me the proper way to hold the rifle, how to look down the scope, where the safety was and all that, I kneeled behind a fallen tree
and looked down the scope of the rifle to my target, the plastic bottle.
“Watch me shoot the cap off this bottle,” I announced to my dad and brother, and POW! I did it. My dad started laughing out loud and I think my brother
was kind of jealous. I must have been about ten years old.
When my dad would come home from his hunting trips, he’d go over to my uncle’s house to clean his game. He would bring home the deer meat, season it really
well and make deer jerky. It tasted really nice. He always talked about how much he loved to hunt. His dad taught him, and in turn, my dad taught my
brother. Whenever I’d make arguments against hunting, he’d always explain the cycle of life and talk to me about the importance of survival. He’d talk
about the importance of having the skills to feed yourself, whether that be hunting, fishing, or growing fruits and vegetables. I understand his argument
better now then I did when I was a little girl.
As industrial agriculture poisons our environment and our bodies, now, more than ever, I realize the importance of my father’s words. There’s a movement
happening. There’s a consciousness being reborn. Humans across the globe are harnessing the practical knowledge of the land and the earth’s food systems.
My parents did what they could with what little time they had to teach me and my brother small lessons about growing food, fishing, hunting, and navigating
the wild. I am by no means an expert on any of these things. In fact, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown further and further away from nature. These
days, I’m always on the go— in class, or at work, or in the car. That means that being outside, growing food, catching animals, and fishing requires
a lot of intentional effort to incorporate these things into my daily life. Making an effort to learn about growing eggplant, or eating honeysuckles,
or catching box turtles is a silent reminder of my childhood. I don’t live with my family now, and I don’t talk to them everyday, but the memories
of my childhood and the practical skills that my family taught me about the natural world are deeply engraved in my soul. When it all goes down, when
the system crumbles and the stores close, I know where I’ll be— eating sweet watermelon and drinking honeysuckle nectar, shooting rifles in the
woods with my father.