Sunday, February 23, 2014

Death by Glochids (by CJ Moi)

Guest blogger CJ Moi is an enthusiastically ADD OCD writer, speaker, promo agent, educator and naturalist. Once a resident of central Vermont (where she worked with Jungle Pete), her home base is now Seattle. This post is an excerpt from her first ebook, Being Nomad, which releases on February 1. The book is the story of her epic inner and outer journey, car camping and couch surfing for nearly two years across America and beyond, eccentrically rendered in email conversations, blog posts, Facebook posts, and lyrical pieces of writing and poetry. It is available for pre-order until February 1 at the special price of $2.99 at Barnes and Noble and Apple iBooks. Visit Being Nomad at

Darwin Award Nomination

n Tucson I got my first lesson about the consequences of carelessness. When undertaking a journey like this, when being nomad, one cannot afford to be even a little careless.

I felt that my visit to the southwest would not be complete without trying cactus pads, and being a long time forager in New Engla
nd, I felt that it would be a total cop out to buy them in a store. So one day I set out for my walk in the desert with a mission to bag me a couple wild prickly pear pads. I captured a green and a red one, not without some wounds to show for it. By the time I got back to the house they had fairly shredded the plastic bag I had bagged them in. Not to be deterred, I got out a knife and tongs and set to work to pull their fangs.

I couldn't quite remember the cactus pad defanging instructions from the foraging books I'd read and I didn't stop to pay attention to what I was undertaking. If I'd taken time to Google it, I'd have recalled that the large canines are not the prickly pear's only defense, and that the best way to thoroughly neutralize the clumps of insidious small fuzzy glochids is by running the pad through a flame and burning them off. Instead, I attempted to cut them all off.

(Nearly a year later in California I finally got to try prickly pear fruits with the guidance of an experienced forager. Despite the hard little seeds throughout the sweet pulp, they are much better tasting than the pads. And their glochids are much easier to avoid!)

But as one begins to cut into a prickly pear pad, it starts oozing a viscous liquid which engulfs any loose glochids. By this time I was getting a bit frustrated with all this painstaking process just for a taste of cactus pad. I hacked off a couple pieces, ascertained that they were glochid-free and popped them in my mouth. The punch line here is that I ended up with a glochid stuck in the back of my throat, just far enough down that I couldn't reach it without a gag reflex and couldn't dislodge it by scraping anyway.

Now I did Google, to find that I had plenty of company in the embarrassing glochid ranks of Darwin Award Nominees. Most accounts said that I'd be fine, albeit with a resident glochid for anywhere from several days to several months - except for a few that recounted the deaths of individuals whose throat swelled up and constricted the air passage so they couldn't breathe. But after a somewhat uneasy night I woke up alive, breathing and with the annoying tickly pain gone - the glochid had apparently dissolved.

Some great forager I was. How could I have been so stupid? To add insult to injury, the damn cactus pad didn't even taste all that great. But already I was at least smart enough to see the lesson here. Pay attention. Think. You can't afford to be careless on the road.

Nonetheless there would be times when I was careless again. Every time was a reminder. Every time the lesson went a little deeper. Still, it sometimes feels like it's only by rather dubious acquiescence from the universe that I'm alive to write this book.