Redtail approached the church grounds and scanned for edibles. A young grasshopper hopped sluggishly in the damp grass. Again, her mind began wandering. “Lots of pineapple weed and peppergrass. I bet the grasshoppers get pretty thick here later on. The plants look lush and green. I doubt it’s been sprayed –at least not this year yet.”
Redtail got to the front door, to find it still locked. She set her things down on the concrete pad next to the building. The overcast sky precluded Redtail’s need to find shade for her stuff.
Redtail stood up, stretched and scanned the church grounds. Mostly gravel and mowed to the tree line. She wasn’t sure how far the church property extended, so she decided to browse the obvious for potential foraging.
Redtail explored about 20 minutes, then sat down by the front door to do some munching. Then she sat back and closed her eyes. Not long after, Redtail heard some crunching on the gravel and she opened her eyes. Pastor Tix was walking over from the parsonage across the parking lot. Redtail rustled into more wakefulness.
“Hi Redtail,” said Pastor Tix. “Oh, no need to get up. You here early for some music and crafts?”
“I guess so.” She got up and brushed off a bit, then continued. “I’ve got a couple questions you might be able to help me with.”
“I’ll see what I can do. Let me get unlocked here and we can go on in.”
Redtail laughed a bit. “Oh, it’s not a sit-down deep theological issue at all. When I was here Sunday, the kids all seemed excited about eating wild, so I thought I should take them on an edibles walk.”
“Eating natural is a pretty hot topic these days. I think that’d be fun and timely.”
“My questions were: Are the parking lot and mowed area the extent of the church grounds? And how often does the place get sprayed?”
Pastor Tix said, “Those woods are ours, as is the meadow out there. I know we haven’t sprayed this year yet, but we might be doing so fairly soon.”
“I was also thinking I could do that wild edibles walk here on the church grounds, if that’d be OK,” said Redtail.
“I don’t know that we’d have all that much to eat right here on the grounds.”
“Oh, you’d be surprised. There’s almost as much edible as there is grass out here.”
“Maybe that weed spraying is due quicker than I thought.”
“Oh, please don’t,” said Redtail. “Just in the lawn itself are a dozen or so edible species of plants and practically nobody’d notice them if it stays mowed.”
“I guess there’s no rush. Nobody’s ever fussed about the weeds. But I’m not gonna get to it today anyway. I gotta get stuff ready for tonight. You want to bring your things in?”
Redtail said, “Thank you. I’ll do that. Where’ll tonight’s festivities take place?”
“We’ll be in the Fellowship Hall in the basement, this way. You going to do more edibles hunting? It’ll be around an hour before most of the people start getting here,” said Pastor Tix. “I’ll leave the basement door unlocked for you. And feel free to come and go as you like.”
Redtail foraged behind the church, nibbling from time to time on things she thought clean enough. A car pulled into the front lot and stopped. Redtail heard snippets of familial bickering between car doors closing. “Mo-ommmmm! She’s…” “Just let it go…” “…but sheee…” Redtail smiled to herself and peeked around the corner to spot Lydia and who she guessed to be her older sister and her mom. Redtail decided to get involved.
“Oh, hi, Lydia! I thought I heard voices out here.”
Lydia smiled and got instantly happy as she ran over to Redtail. “That’s my mom, and my sister. Dad’s got his music night tonight and we’re gonna…” Lydia stopped like she was just about to let out a big secret. “Me and Lucy, my sister, are gonna do other stuff.”
“OK, sounds like a secret mission,” said Redtail, as she walked toward Lucy and Mom for introductions. “I’ll be sure not to tell anyone.” Lydia smiled big, but Redtail could see she really wanted to spill what she knew.
Mom and Lucy walked toward Redtail and Lydia and they all walked toward the church together. Mom and Lucy carried black trash bags full of what looked to be donated clothes. Redtail said, “I can take one of those if you like.” Lydia rushed in and relieved her sister of one of her bags with a panicked look, thinly hidden behind a smile.
“You’re weird,” Lucy said to Lydia.
Lydia stuck out her tongue at Lucy and Mom gave her ‘the look’. Lydia straightened up quickly. Mom said they had bags of clothes for the community clothes closet in Higginsburg. Redtail made a mental guess at Lydia’s being about 7 years old and Lucy being 12 or 13, but she didn’t guess out loud.
Lydia said, “This’s my dad’s church.”
“Is not,” said Lucy with a condescending smile.
Redtail gave both a look. And Mom drew in her breath to speak, but Lydia shot back, “Is so.”
Lucy said, “Is not. It’s God’s church and Daddy’s just the pastor.”
Amy snapped, “Girls, just stop it! You’ve been at each other all day!”
Mom extended her hand to Redtail and said, “Hi. I’m Amy, and these two wonderful” (she clenched her teeth and looked and looked at Lucy and Lydia) “loving” (and then the ‘Mom-look’) “Well-behaved young ladies are my daughters. And yes, Herman is their dad and my husband.”
“Well, I’m glad to meet you guys,” said Redtail. “I met Pastor Tix Sunday, and Lydia last week.”
They arrived at the door and Redtail reached for the handle. Lydia slipped past, grabbed and held the door open with a proud smile, dropping her bag of clothes.
“Why thank you,” said Redtail and she walked in.
Amy walked in saying, “Thank you,” and a bit more quietly, “and try to be more careful.”
Lucy walked in Lydia’s open door and muttered, “Klutz,” and made instant eye contact with Mom. She then added, “Thaannnnnk you, Lydia.”
Lydia curled her nose and snorted, “You’re WELLLLcome.”
Inside the church, Amy poked her head into the pastor’s office and then accompanied Redtail to the basement. Lucy and Lydia stowed the clothes bags in an unused classroom and soon joined Mom and Redtail. Lucy plopped down in a metal chair and laid her head on the table with a harrumphing sigh. Lydia scampered off to the kitchen and grabbed some toy cars. Pastor Tix brought in a box full of snack food from the car and set it on one of the tables.
Redtail asked, “Oh, is this a potluck, too?”
Pastor Tix said, “It’s informal finger foods. Don’t let not having a contribution keep you from fellowshipping.”
Redtail said, “I’ve got an idea for something I can get real quick.”
Lucy lifted her head from the table and looked interested.
Redtail continued, “May I use the sink to rinse some foraging?”
“Treat the place and people here like home and family,” said Amy. “Go right ahead with the sink.”
Lucy asked, “Are you going outside and, like, just pick stuff?”
“Only the good stuff,” replied Redtail.
Lucy sat up. “Can I help?”
“Sure,” said Redtail, “That’d be fun and faster.”
Lydia ran into the Fellowship Hall from the kitchen eagerly offering, “Me too! Me too!”
“Mo-ommmm!” fussed Lucy.
“She’ll be just fine,” said Amy. “I bet you’ll hardly notice her.”
Redtail smiled. Lucy sighed. Lydia hopped up and down happily.
Of course, Mom was right. Only a minute or so after Redtail explained finding dandelion flowers when they’re closed, clover, henbit and dead nettle flowers, Lydia was off on her own chasing grasshopper nymphs.
Lucy asked, while picking dandelion blower buds, “So how come there’s hardly any yellow dandelions?”
“Well,” began Redtail, “most people don’t think of it like this, but plants really do have feelings. I don’t think they feel pain or emotions like we do, but they certainly know hot and cold, dry or wet and even stuff like hard and soft. Some even respond quickly to touch.”