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Searching for Mushrooms

IMG_3526Around five o’clock this afternoon/evening, I went to the woods hunting for mushrooms. I drove to the bottom of our hill, and then walked into the woods from there. Well walking into the woods isn’t exactly correct, first locating a spot to enter the woods was necessary, then I had to push my way through tangled, thick groves of sumac. I hadn’t been in the woods for a couple of months. It looked different. Leaves had already begun to fall, opening it up. The undergrowth was no longer as thick nor as green. Last time I came to the woods, the mosquitoes were so thick it was quite miserable. Today, there were no biting insects to create misery and it was rather quiet without the hum of insect wings. Even the birds were quiet, though I heard them moving about in the trees. My passage through the woods was sadly far from quiet, it sounded like I was crashing through, which is perhaps why the residents were silent. I cringed every time the leaves crunched underfoot and branches holding me snapped as I pushed through. Surveying the hillside for edible mushrooms as I walked, I didn’t go in a straight path but meandered halfway up the hill and back down again, checking the dead trees.

IMG_3529Pausing a few times here and there, I took in the peace of the wooded hillside. I was awed by just how different the woods appeared now. I came to a spot with exposed rock on a steeper part of the hill above me; I’ve always found this spot intriguing. I paused to admire a long tree root snaking down over the rocks.  Then, I kept walking in my zigzag pattern. Stumbling over branches lying on the ground, being grabbed and poked by branches still attached to small trees, and ducking under some, it seemed my progress was slow. My feet slipped and slid, the loose dirt and debris gave no sure, solid footing. Before long my ankle was aching. And yet I kept pressing on, searching for mushrooms but only finding inedible ones. I marveled at a beautiful spot where it was quite open under the trees. It was hard to recognize where I was, the woods were so different and I had ventured further than I did the last time. A deer was sauntering many feet behind me. Seeing me, it turned quickly and ran away, white tail waving. It seemed like before it ran, it paused to observe me, but I only glimpsed it through the trees.

IMG_3535Finally, I found a dryad saddle but it was so small. I was hopeful another, bigger one would be nearby but there wasn’t. Soon afterwards, I began climbing the hill to search towards the top. I had suddenly come upon small, dead pine trees, which was the southernmost stopping point for this trip. The return to my vehicle would be along the top of the hill with a slow diagonal decent. I lingered beside many an oak tree to admire it, leaning my head back to revel in its height. Some of these were quite impressive and therefore stunning. I figured out where I was and then found my “dryad tree” but was disappointed to find no fresh dryads.

IMG_3532Not far beyond this tree, I began my decent. The downward progression was a bit precarious; some places were extremely steep with loose dirt and rocks. I had to reach between trees to keep myself from sliding down the hill on my backside. (Of course, my whole walk in the woods was made tricky with my camera dangling from my neck, and being mindful to keep it safe.)But even in these places I was enjoying the excursion. It wasn’t until I was just about out of the woods that my enjoyment was dissipating. A small branch smacked my eye, then another and another as I was fighting my way through the sumac. My hurting eye and empty bags could have made it easy to think I had wasted my time walking through the woods. But even if all I had gained was an hour of exercise it wouldn’t have been a waste. It was so much more than that though. Time spent with trees is always refreshing, and soaking in the beauty of creation that brought refreshment to my soul.

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