Monday, August 07, 2006

This is a short story about mushrooms, but you have to wait for it. As Paul would say, "Only one kind of mushroom can be cultivated, the rest cannot be tamed." A mushroom is still mysterious. It grows where and when it pleases. It grows at its own pace and on its own time.

I'm not sure what it is that convinces the human heart to follow its dream; nor what implores us, in the presence of fear and obstacle and anticipated loss to push onward and liberate the personal magnetism of the soul. I'm not sure why some do and some don't, likewise, why some can and some can't. No more than I am aware of what properties come together which actually ignite the dream of the individual. I do know, however, that for me it was as obvious as a leaf on a tree. I knew what was missing and I knew that I would ultimately suffer tremendous sadness if I didn't at least identify the heartbeat of my dream and then take it seriously enough to listen to what it was saying.

I was twenty five when I came to Europe for the first time and apart from the deluge of the physical and visual unfamiliarity, I remember the parallel feelings of weariness and relief as one might experience from having been away on a very long journey and then the return home again. I can't possibly know to what I should have attributed this overwhelming sense of harmony, I just know that when I witnessed the old woman as she walked upon the cobblestones with her sack of groceries, I was watching myself. I saw myself in the cheese shop, at the fishmonger, in the deli, at the bakery, in the pub and at the wine bar; I saw myself by the sea and on the hillside, in the smell of the freshly baked bread and the fragrance of homemade soup that calls one to lunch, I saw myself there and it took a fast hold where it has come to settle in the green pastures of Scotland.

Never could I have known the magnitude to which the old woman on the cobblestone path would have manifested in my life, even though I was keenly aware of how inseparable we were. Still, had you described to me five years ago my life as it is now, I would have thought you were reading a chapter from a novel. I would have suggested it might have been something summoned up by the Bronte sisters to keep themselves amused and warm in the dead of winter. I would not have imagined that it could have been me off to the docks in Aberdeen to hand pick the fish, to come home and make the soup, to gather the herbs from the garden, to bake the bread fresh, to ride my bike to market, to walk among the fox glove and the wild raspberriesā€¦but so it was on a warm summer night some weeks ago in Scone while I was staying with Rose that Paul came to visit and we took a walk in the wood.

I had never seen but a few mushrooms scattered around, here and there, and certainly wouldn't know how to differentiate the poisonous from the edible, but Paul has told endless stories about them since I met him. Kieniewicz folklore. The Poles teach their children how to identify a mushroom in the open before they teach them how to read. Then they teach them how to clean and cook them. Poles are very covetous when it comes to their mushrooms. They will never disclose the whereabouts of their haul, in fact, the most you might get out of a successful hunter is when asked where they found such delicacies they'll raise their arm in the direction of no place identifiable and assert, "Over there." Well, where over there, the amateur persists. "Over there," it comes again until you realize that is all you're going to get.

Paul is always on the look out for a good crop of mushrooms, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago when we went up the path behind Rose's house known as Lactarius Lane that my understanding of what makes the mushroom hunt so exciting would awaken even though I was cautioned it was too early for mushrooms and I shouldn't expect any (important to note here my already secret envy of these stories, especially the way he would describe them with such animation and his reference to fairies and the unconscious really stimulated my longing to stumble upon the pot of gold, nevertheless, I was convinced I'd never see more than the few scattered around, here and there, as I sensed you had to be born into this secret society and that "by marriage" alone would at most make you beneficiary of the story, but nothing more), still "one should always take a bag into the woods, never go there unprepared." (This, according to the Paul K. manual of mushroom hunting).

So were the circumstances when I spotted my first row of mushrooms. They were never ending. "There's one," I shrieked. "And another, and another." I could hardly contain myself. They were everywhere. "Paul, look at this one, look at that one, what about this one?" After about an hour and a near sack full of mushrooms, we decided to leave some for the fairies.

We got back to Rose's house late. After ten. She was up reading and when she saw the bag of mushrooms, she too got excited. Soon, we were all in the kitchen cleaning them, drinking red wine and the echo of Polish folk tales resounded everywhere. It was July 22nd, the day that Henry (Paul's father) was buried. We had gone to mass earlier in the day and then to the grave side where the roses were blooming in abundance on and around the head stone. Then came the mushrooms. Rose was convinced that the flowers and the luck in the wood were Henry's doing.

The next day I took the large, succulent caps and fried them in butter. Then I toasted white bread, a humble pedestal for the noble mushroom and we feasted. I must say that I now understand, not through anything I could describe in words necessarily, but I understand why Paul sometimes looks longingly to the woods and simply says, "So, shall we go for a nice long walk?" and then grabs a bag on the way out the door.

Thank you Henry for bringing us Paul and thank you Paul for being the all of you that you are and thanks to the old woman on the cobblestone path who guided me to this side of paradise.

I dare a sacriligious feeling of posting yet I must..filled with
the tears of joy as I celebrate your happiness and my heart spills over as my smile breaks wide with the recognition of the peal of your excited laughter at each discovery of the next mushroom
ahhhh - thank you my dear friend
xox Me
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