Day 346: Harvesting Wild Rice in the Boundary Waters

Tick, tick, tick, tick, the sound of ripe wild rice kernels landing in our canoe signaled we were in a good spot. Amy paddled and pushed the canoe through the thick rice, which was tall enough that about all I could see was the green stalks of rice and the blue sky. We fell into a rhythm talking about rice, silently enjoying the subtle sounds of the rice kernels landing in the canoe and musing about a variety of things. All the while carefully bending the rice over the canoe with one flail and lightly stroking it with the other.

In the afternoon we carefully scooped handfuls of rice into one of our packs for the trip back to our campsite. Then we spread the rice out on tarps to dry in the sun and sifted through the kernels, hunting for small, white, rice-eating grubs. Soon small fish were splashing in the shallows as they gobbled up the grubs that we pitched into the water.

We have picked our fair share of berries and fried up plenty of fish, but we have never gathered food in such a deliberate and steady manner. What a wonderful gift these clean lakes and streams provide us. I hope we can return each year to the Wilderness as summer transitions into fall for the annual harvest. Gathering wild rice connects us to the land. We haven’t tasted a single grain of this rice yet, but I feel nourished in ways that a trip to the grocery store can’t provide.

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