Spring is doing her typical thing – arriving
fashionably overly late, then being coy and warm, and then cool and rainy, and then seasonably pleasant but crisp, and then snowing two inches in mid-May, and then blue skies and pleasant again.
That’s right, I said snow in May. And not just a flurry. Last Saturday, while we were attempting to track down our beloved, short-lived fungus, it snowed.two.inches. Since the weather behaved similarly poorly on Sunday, Tony and I opted to treat it like a Monday and took off work yesterday instead and enjoyed an entire sunny day of morel hunting.
So, if you’re not in the loop, lemme splain myself. Tony and I – and my parents, and scores of other seemingly normal folks – become obsessed with hunting mushrooms in the spring time. We keep a careful eye on the weather, watch for indicator species to sprout, and traipse countless hours in the woods, seeking morels…which I am sure sounds a lot like “We spend our whole spring looking for shrooms so that we can spend our summer high.” Or something like that. Or at least it just sounds weird to a lot of people. I know this because I’ve gotten the polite and slightly apologetic you’re-a-little-off-aren’t-you look more than once.
Here’s the deal: morels do not get you high. They are a delicious species of mushroom that grows for a brief period in the spring. They are associated with various species of trees (ash, elm), but don’t grow predictably from the same place annually like daffodils. And, they don’t advertise their presence; you have to hunt them.
Thus, each year we watch impatiently as new plant life emerges after winter, guessing based on their presence when to start the hunt. We go out too early each year, but it’s nice to be out after winter, and we like to get a feel for “how the woods are doing.” Eventually we find the season-opening morel. And then the addiction strikes. I realize that it doesn’t sound particularly addictive, but you get a little adrenaline boost every time you spot one – or even think you spotted one. It’s like the world’s best (and did I mention tastiest?) Where’s Waldo? or Word Find.
You find them in little clumps or clusters. (Don’t ever walk away from a single mushroom; they truly believe in the safety-in-numbers myth.) Then sometimes, you walk smack into a patch and your “I’ve got one” announcement morphs into “Holy $h!t come over here!” (This happened word-for-word yesterday when Tony stumbled upon a patch of 38.)
And since you might be just steps away from the next mushroom – or even a patch – you kind of never want to leave. Even when the hunting isn’t great, the springtime woods is a lovely place, and if you go with friends and family like we do, lovely conversation fills any space left empty by unfound morels.
Not working yesterday was good, but spending the whole day with my best friend doing one of our favorite things was great. And then we capped the evening off with a serene sunset in Traverse City, three blocks from our friends’ just-purchased home. Perfect.