ART OF LIVING l 1
To reach the honey hole I have to
cross a channel of knee-high, silt-stained river with twenty-month-old Luka, my mushroom-picking partner, on my shoulders. I wade in: the soles of my sandals clambering for purchase
on the moss-covered cobbles, the cold ?ow kiting my pant legs,
Luka’s knees tightening around my neck. Ashore, cu=s draining, I tell the boy, “We’ll beeline it for the old burn,” where
I sense the freshest morels are poking out in droves from the
undergrowth. But ten yards into our beeline, I’m crouching to
pluck a three-inch-tall yellow morel from a patch of Solomon’s
seal, then two, thimble-sized, from the dappled shade of a
A red-shafted ?icker’s call slits the quiet of the wet May woods.
“Wha’s that?” Luka asks.
“That’s a ?icker,” I say, mimicking its call with a whistle.
“Flicka,” he says, then tests the air with his own scream-like rendition.
The bird responds to neither.
Shifting, squirming on his perch, the boy wants down. I let
him o=, my shoulder muscles uncrimping—then spot a small
gathering of the honeycombed, conical caps on a south-facing
ditch bank, a little board meeting of morels. “Look, Bud—
mushrooms!” I say, nearly diving to slice my stationary quarry
o= at the stem. “And how about this one?” I’m marveling at a
hand-tall specimen. None too impressed, Luka stares into the
budding branches, their wide grasp of sky.
It’s a strange creature whose pulse quickens at the sight
of a fungus. Hunched and creeping over the old overgrown
road, I must look strange indeed to my son who seems content
to watch sunlight-loosened beads of dew slide down blades of
grass. I must look stranger yet to the eyes of the woods—the
deer we don’t see but that certainly see us, the pair of red-tails
casting their shadows intermittently alongside ours: a two-legged
with a smaller two-legged by his side, bowing now and then to
gather something from the leaf-rot.
For a week now the weather—hot spell after hard rains—has
had me thinking mushrooms, and almost daily I’ve been bringing Luka into the woods in search of the mother lode we haven’t
quite found yet. To date we’ve picked a few baseball caps full.
Mostly I pinch o= the hollow stems and place the moist morels