Mushroom hunting


Divide and conquer! This is serious business people! Mushroom hunting is a competitive sport here in Slovenia. And sport it is. We are walking up a steep slippery slope. No stair master has a function built in for this difficulty. I am also pretty sure that my brother sent me up the way he knows I won't find anything. Sister or not, he is not taking any chances. Just like it was when I was a little girl. I just wanted to be right next to him, follow him around like a little lost puppy. I worshipped my brother, I still do, yet he still pushes me around and away, albeit all soaked in love. And of course- it's raining, pouring as it has been for the whole week straight. I haven't seen this much rain since well, my childhood I guess. Living in the mountains of California it either snows or it is sunny with an occasional thunderstorm in between. When my husband wakes up in the morning and he sees a single cloud against a deep blue sky he exclaims " Shit! It's cloudy today! " He honestly forgets he's from Massachusetts. 
We are combing the steep hills covered in thick layer of fallen leaves. My eyes want to be sharp. I calm my mind, I focus and I am really afraid I won't be able to see anything even if it is right in front of me. I console myself that I am really here for a walking meditation through rainy woods. I inhale. God, I missed the musty smell of the wet ground. When I left my country of birth 33 years ago, one thing I missed the most were the smells of my childhood and this is definitely one of them.
So far 5:0 advantage - my brother. Damn it! I am still counting on my beginner's luck. I consider myself a beginner since I haven't been mushroom forging in over 30 years. 
These woods are tricky though. Lots of ridges and valleys falling in different directions. Custom-built for guerrilla-style fighting in favor of local population during German occupation. Local people know these woods like the palm of their hand. With my luck and skill of getting lost, I better stay close to my bro. When our path crosses again, he reminds me of how, years ago when we were kids, we were mushroom hunting in this same parts with our dad. We were walking what seemed for hours and I remember we were both getting hungry, tired, and cranky. Finally, my father admitted we were lost. I am sure it wasn't an easy thing for him to do, as he was always on a mission to teach us by example. We ended up coming out on a totally different side and having to take a bus home. My dad later got a ride from a friend back to our car. Our mother was livid for coming home hours after appointed lunch hour. She was also worried sick I am sure, but coming home late for lunch is a capital offense.  
One, by the way, does not need a watch here even deep in the woods. The bells from the churches toll at every half hour. I heard twelve bangs in the near distance. Lunchtime soon! Church bells are yet another thing I miss where I live now. For years I used to wake up in the middle of the night convinced I was hearing the bells toll.
We are scouring the woods up and down and I haven't found a single mushroom except for the bright red poisonous ones and several yellow-spotted lizards. I am listening to the rain under a thick layer of bright green canopy of leafy woods. God, I forgot how green it is here! And yes, there is a good reason for it as well. That's why I feel the trickle of cold water right down my but crack. I do hope it's lunch soon! I know I am not going to find anything!
Yet, there it is! The first glorious sighting of a porcini mushroom. I swear it is the perfect creation of nature. The leaves around it still enveloping the stem, the top glistening from moisture and the hue is perfectly golden brown. The flood of memories comes back from my childhood from way, way back. My dad, my brother and me, trailing way behind. I didn't really care about finding mushrooms. I wanted to catch lizards, I picked up every snail, I sat on wet stumps and listened to the birds. I was a dreamer, not a hunter! I wanted to study spider webs, not slay any mushrooms! But then one day as I followed a yellow-spotted lizard, he showed me the way to the perfect huge and glorious porcini. Boy, did I make my brother jealous! I was hooked! Finding a beautiful edible mushroom is like reeling in a huge fish. That's why we call it "mushroom hunting." It feels like winning the lottery, although I've never won one.
By the end, I found five porcini and two what in translation we call umbrellas. They are from the parasol family and perfect for deep frying.

I hope it wasn't just beginner's luck! I hope it was something deeply rooted in me from many lifetimes ago. From the days when we were still walking in woods as hunter gatherers. 
In the end it really was just a walk in the woods looking for the meaning of life and finding it. It was walking down memory lane with someone I love. My brother. 
 

Alenka VrecekComment