foraging and parenting
this snow on the mountain looks a lot like queen anne’s lace, which in turn looks distantly like cow parsnip, which could in some cases be confused for water hemlock. when we were much younger and our daughter was a toddler, we spent a week in a cabin on a placid central minnesota lake. we walked trails and gathered plants and mushrooms and berries for identification, and occasionally for pressing in our flower press. we knew, as the saying goes, just enough to be dangerous. one day our daughter had fallen asleep for her nap, and we began identifying a sheaf of various plants gathered during that day’s walk. we came upon one that looked like a large and more substantial queen anne’s lace and began working through our wildflower book. the entry for water hemlock, which was a clear match, began, “water hemlock is probably the most poisonous plant in minnesota and among the most poisonous in all of north america. ingesting even a small amount can lead to seizures, respiratory paralysis, and death.” we had given our daughter a bottle, and she had fallen asleep on my husband’s shoulder we could have gotten our hands near her mouth in any number of ways. we raced to her side, and shook her awake, then watched her for the next hour, our hearts pounding, thinking of ourselves as perhaps the dumbest and most careless parents in minnesota, and among the dumbest and most careless in all of north america.