Meet Naomi – amateur forager, spiritual singer and much more! Naomi loves to spend time outside and her perfect DMV day involves all her favorite nature spots. Read the full article to discover all about Naomi and her very cool hobbies!
Hannah: What brought you to the DMV?
Naomi: After graduating from Oberlin in 2019, I found a position called the Public Lands Transportation Fellowship, which places young and aspiring transportation planners into national wildlife refuges with the Fish and Wildlife Service. I got a position at the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge and was able to live in the forest in Fairfax County on Mason Neck Peninsula. I got to work on access and connectivity projects for the refuge, which combined my interests in biology and nature with planning and sustainability. The cool thing about the fellowship was that it gave me a special hiring authority for the federal government called the Public Lands Corps hiring authority. Because of that I now officially work for US Fish and Wildlife Service in the headquarters office doing planning work. I am so happy to still be in DC because I have friends from Oberlin who moved here. Living in DC is really about community for me.
Hannah: Can you describe your dream day in the DMV from start to finish?
Naomi: My dream day in the DMV starts with a few hours in Rock Creek Park to look around and forage because there’s a lot of cool things you can find there. Then I would probably have lunch somewhere new because I love to explore new spots. After that I would go play volleyball in Arlington. Later I would meet up with some friends along the Potomac, maybe at Teddy Roosevelt Island and hang out for a while. At the end of the night I would come home and maybe go to a bar to finish things off.
Hannah: How did you get interested in foraging?
Naomi: I got into it through mushrooms. I got super excited about learning to identify mushrooms, especially edible mushrooms. I got more involved during COVID because it’s a good way to pass the time. I joined a bunch of Facebook groups to help me identify things. Anytime I found something that was like a mushroom in the woods, I would look at it and snap a photo. Over time I began to develop a sense for finding edible mushrooms that didn’t have any deadly lookalikes (those are the safest ones to try out as a beginner!). Once you start foraging for mushrooms it’s hard to stop. It’s almost like going shopping in the woods. It’s an amazing feeling. After mushrooms I started thinking about what else I could find in the woods and I started to get more into plant foraging. I’m still very much a novice forager but the more I go out the faster I learn.
Hannah: What are some of your best finds?
Naomi: I’ve found lots of oyster mushrooms and wood ear mushrooms. In the fall, there’s tons of pear shaped puffball mushrooms that are really good. You can make fun sauces out of them. Sometimes I find things on the street or in public property. It’s so cool to discover things.
Hannah: What is something you do to relax or for fun at the end of a long week?
Naomi: I like to walk around the neighborhood and go to the library in Petworth. I also love to sit on my house’s porch. We have a really nice porch vibe and porch community around here. Sitting and reading on the porch is an ideal thing to do at the end of a long day, although the mosquitoes are inhibiting me a bit now.
Hannah: What is one thing you can’t get through the day without?
Naomi: I need a solid lunch. I’m not that much of a breakfast person but I need a good lunch to get through the day. Then maybe a 10 minute nap afterwards.
Hannah: How do you connect with your Jewish identity and or Jewish community?
Naomi: I connect with Judaism through three channels: family, food, and singing. I connect with Judaism by making recipes from my past and my present. An example of that is making my grandma’s matzah ball soup recipe, and then also trying a bunch of other types of matzah ball soup recipes from different cultures. I tried a Mexican matzah ball soup recently with jalapeños and mushrooms and it was really good. I think cooking in general helps me connect to my culture. I also love to sing with people and I like to have spiritual singing groups in my life. I also feel very Jewish when I’m with my family. They have always supported a really flexible, wholesome, and nurturing Jewish household. Whenever I go back home to Chicago, I feel that again. I’ve also kind of nurtured that feeling in my own community here which is really nice.
Hannah: Do you have a favorite Jewish tradition?
Naomi: Growing up I always loved break fast after Yom Kippur, so much so that I really wanted to fast even when I was a kid. My parents encouraged me to try my best but I always was so determined to fast so that I could have the feeling that all the adults had when they broke their fast with all the bagels and schmear. I really wanted to earn it.
Hannah: What is your favorite thing you’ve done so far this year?
Naomi: I manifested a traveler’s break for my time between jobs. So while I was looking for new jobs I was able to go abroad. I got to accomplish a long time goal of mine which was to do a long distance hike. I hiked the Lycian Way in southern Turkey for 27 days. It was beautiful and eye opening and I was able to prove to myself that I can accomplish something big if I put my mind to it.
Hannah: Last question! When the Jews of DC gather…
Naomi: Everyone eats well!
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