Photographs by Marco Kesseler
Photographs by Marco Kesseler
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The secret to foraging in your backyard

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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor

You don’t have to travel far to travel deep. When I was a kid in Ohio, I was captivated by the mystery of mayapples, which emerge from the earth like moths and then unfurl like tiny palm trees. I used to play beneath them, pretending I was on a tropical island far away. I was surprised to see that the plant’s bud flowers beneath the canopy—like a little secret.

Looking closely is the joy of travel. Being in a new place is often what gives us license to look closely. But even when you can’t travel to a new place you can still see the world with new eyes. In this summer of staycations, where better to start than in your own backyard? Our story about foraging is about finding nourishment—nutritional, communal, spiritual—in your everyday surroundings. It’s about giving yourself the opportunity to take a walk and let your mind wander.

“My worst fear is that when this pandemic crisis is over things will go back to ‘normal’—even though normal wasn’t working,” writes Wross Lawrence, a professional forager (pictured above, collecting mugwort in east London). “Perhaps during this period, as we find ourselves keenly aware of our restricted access to the outdoors, we’ll take the time to think more about our vital relationship with the natural world.”

He’s not the first to look to the soil for inspiration or to connect emotional and physical well-being with the health of our environment. You don’t have to be William Blake to “see a World in a Grain of Sand/And a Heaven in a Wild Flower," either. All you need to do is take a breath, take a stroll, take a look—and take your time.

Above, two prizes found while foraging. On the left is mallow, valued for medicial properties but also a thickening agent (and the original ingredient of the marshmallow). Right, hawthorn berries, which taste slightly like apples. With a high pectin content, the berries are excellent for making jams and condiments.

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Today in a minute

When are the borders reopening? Here’s a rundown on the current status of Canada, Mexico, and certain Caribbean destinations. While Americans wait, six European countries are cautiously reopening—and, for travel purposes, the British still will be treated as EU citizens, Brexit notwithstanding.

Manatees and spaceships: Will the resumption of human spacecraft launches lead to a rebirth of Florida's Space Coast? The scheduled launch tomorrow of a SpaceX rocket carrying two astronauts means a lot for this 72-mile stretch of coast east of Orlando. Alongside NASA's Kennedy Space Center, migratory birds fly and West Indian manatees swim. “You’ve got a center of next-wave technological advancement, and they’re doing it right here in a national wildlife refuge,”conservationist Duane DuFreese tells us.

Want to get away? We recommend these 13 books that take you to fantasy worlds through sci-fi and speculative fiction. Ursula K. Le Guin, Tracy K. Smith, Philip Pullman, and Ted Chiang make the list, as does Kim Stanley Robinson, a Tom Hanks favorite. And no, we didn’t forget Dune.

An immense moat: Water—a lot of it—is protecting inhabitants of the six-by-six-mile volcanic island of Tristan da Cunha from the coronavirus. The South Atlantic island is roughly halfway between Brazil and South Africa, and its closest neighbor is St. Helena, 1,500 miles away. It also lacks an airport, writes Andy Isaacson for the New York Times. The island’s leader, James Glass, says Tristan has so far been spared from COVID-19, as it was from the Spanish flu in 1918. “All we have for our protection is our isolation and our faith,” Glass says.

Concern about Madagascar: The isolated biodiverse paradise is facing both drought and COVID-19. That’s preventing tourists and international animal rescuers from coming—and raising concerns, Katie Knorovsky writes for Nat Geo. One mission, to remove lemurs from an area where restive villagers wanted to kill them for eating their crops, has had to be scrapped with the international travel restrictions, she reports.

Your Instagram photo of the day

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Double rainbow: First comes a storm. Then the sun. And then, as photographer Renan Ozturk describes it, “a lucky moment of indescribable joy.” Ozturk found himself in Utah’s public lands—and encourages others to venture out (safely) during these troubled days. “Here’s to getting outside and finding bits of light and calm within the chaos,” he writes.

Subscriber exclusive: Digging for traces of dinosaurs in Utah

Travel on Instagram: Are you one of our 38 million followers? (If not, follow us now.)

The big takeaway

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When trees marry: The pandemic has canceled the Olympics, massive rock festivals, and in the southern Italian town of Accettura, the procession of San Giuliano. Mayor Alfonso Vespe acknowledges he had no choice; there was no way to stop the crowding of townspeople for the main event: the grafting of a male maggio (oak) and a female cima (holly). “The Maggio is not just local folklore, it’s the expression of our identity,” says Vespe, who is already looking forward to next year. Pictured above, girls at the Maggio last year, following the tradition of placing cente (votive candle sculptures) atop the heads of women and girls during the procession.

Read: Two trees get married every year in this Italian town: Find out why.

In a few words

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On Wednesday, Victoria Jaggard covers the latest in science. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Rachael Bale on animals, Whitney Johnson on photography, and Debra Adams Simmons on history.

The last glimpse

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The secret to Denmark’s happiness? Sand and surf. “For many of us, looking out at water every day is key,” says Rikke Johansen, curator of the Viking Ship Museum in the Danish city of Roskilde. The nation of 5.8 million people has 5,437 miles of coastline, writes Helen Russell for Nat Geo. She should know. She lives near the water in Denmark, too. “You never get bored,” boatbuilder Søren Nielsen tells her. “You can leave your phone, your ‘busyness,’ behind, and just get out there to feel close to nature.” (Pictured above: This 49-foot-high freestanding rock tower on the Danish island of Bornholm is a magnet for climbers.)

Subscriber exclusive: Denmark’s alluring pull of the sea and the beach

Related: These are the world’s happiest places

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, and Jen Tse and selected the photographs. Have an idea, a link, a favorite happy place? We'd love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com . And thanks for reading!