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A Perfect Day

I get up before the sun will light my dreamland. Quickly now I finish my morning toilette, dress up in layers, hiking boots, take that large open basket with the sturdy handle, store in it a kitchen towel into which a sharp knife is tucked. I have a snack of some crusty bread with butter, a little blueberry jam, a nice steaming cup of coffee with thick cream in it. Then I go.

Outside, the fog of autumn night drips on my wool cap, the sky spreads diffused light. Slowly, imperceptibly the day arrives. My hands are clammy from anticipation and the coolness of the morning. With long strides I climb the hilly street until I reach the first trees of the woods. They stand still in blackening moisture. Nothing moves. The muffled sound of drips on leaves under the trees is all I hear. The grassy edge of the forest turns slowly into large stands of arching ferns. Drops of liquid fog on the fronds reflect the dull sky.

Stylized fern

Deeper Into The Woods

I walk deeper and deeper into the stoic tree community, being careful not to step onto little plants and critters. Here is a familiar hedge of raspberry bushes, I pluck a few of the overripe fruit that still clings to the thorny bramble, oh—the sweetness.

But onward I must go, toward the spots that I know from previous years. The leaves under my feet are rustling. My eyes are turned down to the forest floor, searching, assessing, hoping. I breathe in the heavy scent of forest, the leaves of last year already turned into soil. My cap is too warm now, sun-rays are fingering through the painted leaves—golden above me. The mossy dells ahead lure me towards them—I always had luck here before. My eyes sweep slowly over the soft green bumps, a festive gown for the forest floor, now embellished and embroidered with golden leaves of autumn.

There! A domed velvety shape. And there, the second and third, no: more! I can not count them all at once. What a glorious sight. Such a delightful picture. I bend down and touch the top of the first mushroom. Tight and full, soft and slightly rough, a Cep. The next one shows some marks of teeth, perhaps a squirrel, a rabbit, a mouse had some delicious meal. I smile. They too know what is good. So I cut a few of the bounty, right at their base, so as not to destroy the underlying mother plant. The rest I leave, the spores will help to make fresh ones next year. I also leave the attractive poisonous ones like the Panther Caps and the red Fly Agaric, I just look at them and enjoy their beauty.

Boletus mushrooms

— Boletus —

As I move on to check for some new places and some familiar ones, my basket is filled slowly with Charcoal Burner, Boletus, Sticky Buns and even some Parasol Mushrooms from a meadow that I cross. The basket has some weight to it now. I drape the towel gently over the mushrooms to protect them from intruding flies and falling leaves that might get stuck on them.

The Best Ones Yet To Come

The midday warms nicely, my clothing layers come off and I tie the jacket around my waist. Ahead stands a nervous deer, its white tail flicking as it rushes away with a crashing into the under growth. Some birds are singing now, more a twittering and chirping, not the happy sounds of spring time. More subdued. A Blue Jay shreeks his displeasure about my intrusion, but I find a little blue, black and white striped feather he has left on the forest floor, and I tuck it into my basket as well.

The hunt for my evening meal is almost over, just one more spot and the best ones yet to come, I hope. Every season is different. And then I see them, yellow trumpets standing in their fairy ring, some still small pale buttons, some folded over from age. I take the middle aged Chanterelles, tuck them carefully into a corner of the basket. I take a deep smell of the tempting and slightly peppery aroma, I close my eyes to remember that for later. My search is over. I will come back after the buttony babies have grown, maybe in a few days, weather permitting.

Chanterelle mushrooms illustration.

— Chanterelle —

The sun is slanting between the forest plants now, shafts of loud light disturbing the quiet of the woods. The short day is closing down. A squirrel is complaining to another one and they chase each other around a stem of a tall beech tree. The leaves rustle beneath my feet, tired now and heavy. The basket handle cuts into my arm, but it makes me just aware of my treasure. I pass up some more caps that I find, my basket is full enough. Next time is always in the future.

Then The Reward

In the late afternoon my black cat Meph, short for Mephistopheles, greets me from his favorite chair. I set down the basket and let him smell the forest preserved in this little container. He picks one of them and gets to eat it right on the spot. Then I spread out my forest jewels, all imaginable colors and shapes. A quick hot shower, no scents this time, I want the moist smell of the woods to linger in my mind.

Basket with mushrooms.

Then the reward. A meal just of mushrooms, fried up lightly in olive oil with a touch of butter for flavor, some garlic and fresh herbs out of my garden: marjoram, a touch of rosemary, some parsley in the end. With it a crust of the brown bread I had baked the day before. A glass of pungent red wine rounds out the meal which I share with my best friend: my husband.

My sleep comes easy, my face is flushed with wind burn and wine - what a perfect day.

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