I just finished reading a creepy mystery called Into the Woods by Tana French. Happily, yesterday’s visit into the woods with friend Marilyn was anything but creepy. We went to a nearby lake and forest in search of chanterelles.* She had a second purpose, which was to complete a photo class assignment around the theme of “autumn harvest” (and provide art for this blog).
By nearly every standard the day was a 10: perfect temperature, full sun, a variety of mushrooms waiting to be found (but not identified because we left the mushroom guide in the car), fresh woodsy odors along with scents of fall decay, and great exercise climbing a steep side path in a futile search for the main hiking trail.
One reason Marilyn knew that this was a good spot for picking chanterelles was that she and Betty, a friend whom we lost 2006, had found them here before. And she had helped scatter Betty’s ashes in this same place last spring.
What better place to celebrate a friend’s life, especially a friend who loved gardening and nature, and who was a scavenger, not just of mushrooms, but of other wild edibles such as nettles and fiddleheads.**
So why wasn’t this day a 10 in every way, you ask?
Simply because I found only two small chanterelles and Marilyn didn’t find any. I put these golden delicacies in scrambled eggs this morning. “Scrambling” also is a good description of what we did yesterday on the salal and fern-covered hillsides, but instead of finding ingredients for the saute pan we mostly came across patches of giant, neon-orange fungi. Come to think of it, I guess these woods did hold a few creepy mysteries after all
*It’s considered bad form — or maybe just necessarily stingy — to reveal the name of a good mushroom site.
**In fact, a group of us selected poems for a program to hand out at her memorial service, which included “She Spoke of Tomatoes” by Judith Hougen, “Scavengers” by Alan Chong Lau and “Backyard” by Mary Oliver, plus a reading on compost from Stanley Kunitz’ The Wild Braid.