The rain is here, and my pace is slow. I am getting lost in the woods with alarming frequency. Its mushroom season; I am completely distracted. My fervour hit a ridiculous peak last week on a sunset run, three kilometres left to go, boletus in both hands and a bumper crop of lobsters stuffed down my sports bra. I just couldn’t leave them behind. I probably should have. Note to self- a mushroom filled shirt is not an appropriate training incentive. Complete discomfort. Until I start to train for a 50k and need to learn to cope better with self-induced pain, I am not doing that again. This morning I almost crashed my car thinking I spotted a pile of chanterelles on the side of the road. Again, dumb. But, the point is that this is an exciting time of year where one can move away from doom over impending centimetres of rain towards thrill in finding delicious dinner intact in the woods. Because, more rain equals more mushrooms. More mushrooms equals a woman possessed.
The silly part of all of this is that I don’t actually like eating mushrooms very much. I like them in gravy. I like them in this soup. I like to look at them rotting in the fridge. I mostly like how quietly meditative I become during the process of finding them. Deep primal focus. The here and now of feeding oneself in one of the oldest known ways.
Whatever your mushroom style, here are a few photos of three easily identified edible fungi that are prolific right now. There are so many others about to show up-honeys, oysters, hedgehogs, and corals-that I will show you when I find them. And, if this rocks anyone’s boat, perhaps in a future post I will go into fundamentals of mushroom identification and collection. For now, please (please!) don’t do anything crazy. Learn your local mushrooms from someone knowledgeable, or from a reputable book like “All that the rain promises and more.” Take spore prints. But, if you are careful, you don’t have to be afraid.
It would have been my grandmother’s birthday today. Ruth Elizabeth Smith (Morrison). She would have been in her mid-nineties and I think about her almost every day. So many of the best conversations of my life were with my grandma. About the meaning of god. Of life. Of why a real lady should study French. About why I should travel, and where. About feminism, and how lucky I was to be able to go to university and study whatever I wanted, simply because I was born at a time and place when I had the choice to do so and there wasn’t a war or men in the way. About love, the hard work of marriage, and how to make the best chicken-noodle-soup so one doesn’t spend too much money on groceries. About how to grow a big garden and the value in putting things away for friends or a rainy day. About how life can be hard and unfair, but wonderful anyway. About how to let your granddaughter win at Monopoly. About the importance of being hospitable, and gracious, and about always making a cozy bed for whatever guest might walk in the door. About family, about sacrifice, about resilience, and mostly about joy. Happy birthday grandma. Thank you for teaching me about how to build a beautiful life.
The salmon are here! They found their way home. Across the ocean, up the sound, into the Cheakamus. The river is vibrating with fish and the air is thick with eagles drawn into the valley with the promise of food. The salmon are at their end, but I like to imagine they have found peace through arrival at the exact stream where they were born, where they emerged from the rocky river bottom as tiny little fish about to start their massive migration and constant movement of life. On big return years like this one it is hard to imagine what it must have been like for the Coast Salish people who were faced with intact ecosystems that allowed for millions on millions of salmon to return every year.
It always blows my mind to think about how pre-contact salmon consumption for the Sto:lo people (near the Fraser river) was estimated to be about 1000 pounds per capita per year. In other words, at least 4-12 million pounds of salmon were consumed every year, in one river, in one tiny part of the world (1). So many fish that just don’t exist anymore, and can’t magically find their way home (2). So much ecosystem change. This makes me sad, but at least some of the fish still find their way up the river.
Lately, I am definitely wishing for some of that fish energy. Stamina for finding the home-land. The elation of landing in a new place has faded somewhat. Its been replaced with that minor gnaw of homesick for a home that doesn’t really exist. I’ve been packing and unpacking for years. I know I can’t stay here. Pretty sure I can’t go back to my little corner of vancouver island. Its an interesting time being unsure where my river is. Happy like the minnow fish to be out in the ocean having a grand adventure, but starting to hope for the time to turn on my homing beacon, find my magnetic angle, spot the latitude that will bring me towards home.