Delightfully Deep in the Weeds

Delightfully Deep in the Weeds

Photo by Jessie Waters

Our lead digital editor spent a week apprenticed to a master seaweed harvester—and learned much more than how to gather kelp.

My best friend, Jessie, and I were told by the Seaweed Man to arrive at EverWild “on the August full moon,” which we did after a leisurely seven-hour drive north on Route 1.

EverWild is the home base of the Maine Seaweed Company, operated by Larch Hanson and his partner, Nina Crocker. EverWild is a seven-acre patch of land just a moment’s walk from Gouldsboro Bay in Steuben, Maine, where Larch harvests seaweed every summer with a small motorboat, a container boat, two rowboats, and a canoe. He has been there for over 50 years, and Nina for 15.

Once a rocky forest of conifers and mixed hardwoods, the couple have turned EverWild into a flourishing homestead replete with gardens and fruit trees; an extensive campsite for visitors (where Jessie and I shared a tent on a platform); a large, cozy, hand-built home; and an entire operation for the harvesting, drying, packaging, and shipping of seaweed. They ship worldwide, and thousands of people coast-to-coast have been nourished by the luscious varieties of kelp, alaria, digitata, dulse, nori, and Irish moss traditionally used for food and medicine—or nourished indirectly by rockweed fertilizer.

Larch and Nina are also both skilled bodyworkers, teaching hands-on workshops for amateurs and therapists of all stripes. They take apprentices in gardening, carpentry, boatbuilding, bodywork, and seaweed harvesting April through October, and sometimes year-round.

I first saw a video of Larch doing his work back in 2020. Sporting a wetsuit and knife in hand, he effortlessly leaned over the edge of a small black linseed-oiled rowboat, thrust his upper body toward the waves, and emerged in one fluid motion with an armful of kelp. I was captivated.

“Perfect timing,” Larch said calmly as Jessie and I arrived. “A visitor from Virginia is just leaving. The plumber is supposed to arrive soon, but I have a feeling he won’t make it.” And he didn’t.

Though Larch and Nina might host dozens of apprentices and guests during a non-pandemic summer, Jessie and I (along with one other apprentice who had been there for nearly four months) were the only overnight visitors.

After emailing Larch back and forth the previous winter to introduce ourselves and discuss everything from varieties of seaweed to Larch’s life story and spiritual adventures—apprentices quickly find out that spiritual teachings inextricably accompany Larch’s practical lessons on how to identify seaweed varieties, how to cut it, and how to breathe deeply through the process—we’d been invited to assist the season’s largest Laminaria digitata harvest. Jessie and I hadn’t been told exactly what our tasks would be, but we were prepared to work, and work hard. We would leave a week later having helped move and dry nearly 5,000 pounds of the stuff.

Late on our first evening, after dinner and a campfire, Jessie and I offered to help Larch move the boats from the moorings in the cove (which drains out to mudflats at low tide) to offshore deep water anchorage in the bay, a process that happened in late evening to prepare for the morning’s low-tide harvest. We quickly discovered that Larch didn’t need the assistance of two landlubbers who had just rolled into town—in a pinch, he could run the show by himself half-asleep—but he indulged us.

The water was absolutely still, and the full moon was obscured by clouds and a thick, salty fog. With Larch paddling at the stern and Jessie paddling in the middle, I was seated at the bow of the canoe, which Larch used to move the four working boats. Having no paddle and no flashlight, I stared directly into nothingness, forced to sit with a deep sense of panic—feeling I’d grown familiar with over the last few years. Did I drive seven hours into the middle of the woods only to be drowned at sea by a total stranger? How far from shore were we?

As I breathed the bay air deeper into my lungs and tried to summon some semblance of mindfulness, the panic faded, and I was greeted with the pleasant sensation of being totally at one with my surroundings—like being back in the womb. What I thought would be a quick trip out on the water became a lesson on sitting with deep discomfort and fear. It was an initiation of sorts, being forced to face my fears of abandonment and solitude and put my complete trust in a mysterious stranger.

On the water that night, Larch told us that “the ocean remembers.” When he wants to talk to his ancestors or when he needs spiritual guidance, he asks the ocean. He believes the ocean to be a sort of Akashic record, where all wisdom of past and future is stored (a perspective he credits to Veda Austin and Itzhak Bentov). We need only beseech the ocean for access.

That week, what could have been seen as dirty work—yes, I used to be the type of person who shrieked when brushed by seaweed at the beach—turned out to be deeply nourishing and empowering.

Jessie and I spent our days hauling digitata in from the boats, hanging the long fronds in the heated dryers (which were fed every four hours throughout the night), and laughing boisterously with the other apprentice, offering up naughty riddles and giggles amidst literal tons of hanging kelp. The first few handfuls of kelp had an “ick” factor, which soon subsided. Majorly occupied with other tasks, Larch would occasionally pop into the dryer to wordlessly offer a perfectly-grown husk cherry or a medicinally bitter piece of cutting celery. We wore bathing suits and straw hats in the heat, our feet bare and tanned.

Every 6-foot-long frond of digitata kelp I lifted coated my arms, chest, and legs with a layer of iodine-rich slime, nourishing my skin and lubricating my joints from the outside in. As I lifted the digitata out of the baskets used to transport them from boat to shore to greenhouse dryer, I was being taught (by both the seaweed and by Larch): Breathe. Stay gentle. Keep the heart open.

When we weren’t slinging seaweed, our mornings were spent reading tarot cards and runes between strong cups of coffee, and our evenings were spent around the fire singing songs and telling stories. It was as if, for one week, I was gifted temporary entrance into the life I desired the most, living firmly in the heart space. It was pure, unexpected magic. My only expectation for the week had been that I would learn how to cut seaweed. Although this was a healing experience many people would pay a large sum of money for, I was paid for my labor and given pounds upon pounds of dried seaweed upon my departure.

Only once during this week-long adventure did I have a truly melancholy moment, and I went to the beach alone and prayed: “Atlantic Ocean, please show me where I am supposed to be. Show me what I’m supposed to do with my life—guide me. Thank you.

I listened for an answer in the wind and in the crashing of the waves, but nothing made its way to my ears or heart. I worried that I’d lost my connection with nature, or that somehow I’d offended the sea. I made my way back to EverWild where I ate a snack and started working again, and my joviality returned.

It wasn’t until I returned home that I was hit by the weight of my seaweed initiation.

In a “normal” year, I used to cry less than a dozen times. After returning home from EverWild, I sobbed daily for two weeks. A deep chasm of loneliness and agitation settled into my heart. I felt as if someone had died, or like I was longing for something I could never have again.

Every emotion—all the fear, anxiety, panic, and shame I’d been suppressing for my adult life— flooded into me through a deep healing chasm carved not by force or pressure (as I had tried in the past) but by the gentle sway of seaweed.

I was faced with a decision: experience these feelings with love, or be crushed by them. And the diviners I consulted all told me the same thing: Ride the waves. So I did.

Who have I become after this transformation by seaweed? Less fearful, and more trusting of nature.

I can feel more deeply: Smells are more nuanced, colors more vibrant, and touch more electric. I couldn’t have believed how sensual seaweed was until I spent a week covered in the stuff, nearly high off of the iodine, able to move more fluidly and gracefully than ever before.

And, perhaps most importantly, I appreciate myself more. Somehow, with my hair in a messy braid tangled with seaweed slime, a borrowed straw hat atop my head, slinging digitata in the summer heat, I felt my most capable and most beautiful, doing what I loved—communing with nature and with people I love.

Now, even in the darkness of a New England winter, I can still summon that feeling with a bowl of vegetable and seaweed soup, a visit to the coast, or just a moment within the spaciousness of my own heart.

You can find Larch and Nina (and their delicious seaweed) at, and contact Larch at [email protected]. Not yet part of the Spirituality+Health community? Celebrate 25 years of S+H by subscribing here.

Brenna showing off a tiny snail credit Jessie Waters

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