A walk in the woods - a story in pictures.

pgriz

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It’s been dry here, just like many other places in North America. However, recently we’ve had some rains pass through and while not enough to replenish the months of missing rainfall, did bring some relief to the landscape. Late summer, plus rainfall, usually means the start of mushroom season. Now mushrooms are very fickle creatures – too dry or too wet, too cold or too warm, and they refuse to fruit. Even places known to have them, often go a year or more without them showing up. So going to look for wild mushrooms, is an optimist’s walk. You’re hopeful that you will find some, but you never know. And if you find them, there’s the matter of timing. They don’t last long, and are food for many insects and animals. So if you are lucky, you get to them before most of the other things that want them too.

I go into the woods partly because my 90-year old mother has been a life-long gatherer and forager for mushrooms. But at her age, going for a walk in the woods is a serious undertaking, and her ability to clamber over rocks and fallen trees is definitely declining. She jokes with me that each trip out may be her last, but with each year that passes, those jokes are getting closer to reality. That is both the blessing and the curse of living – sooner or later, we all pass on, and what is left behind are skills taught to others, insights and memories.

So these walks in the woods are treasured moments. We tell ourselves that we are really going for the walk, to see the trees and birds and to enjoy the fresh feeling of moist and earthy aromas rising from the leafy and moss-covered mulch of the forest floor. But in our hearts, we are hoping to get lucky and find that perfect specimen hiding from us under a leaf or fern.

A friend of ours who lives in the forest not too far from us, alerted us to the arrival of the mushrooms. She doesn’t know them well, so couldn’t tell us what kind they were, or their state. We arranged to come by and explore with her. I took my camera along because I really hate coming home empty-handed.

The woods near our friend’s place are mixed, with new growth and old, with areas almost inpenetrable with fallen wood, to thick leaf-covered ground, to areas with heavy moss or fern cover. A place with variety and some challenge. And so, we went.

I saw that many of the undergrowth leaves were showing signs of stress, probably due to the dryness and the heat that we experiences the last few months.

$Image_8724_Leaves.JPG


We found a number of places where the Crown Tipped Coral (Clavicorona pyxidata) grew. Very delicate, and lasts only a few days before it start to brown and die. It was dark where I found it, and I didn’t have flash modifiers with me to soften the light, so I decided to shoot handheld in natural light. Yes, there is a bit of handshake, and the DOF is thin. It is what it is. The fungus itself is considered edible, with a peppery taste, but since we don’t have experience with it, we’ll just enjoy the appearance.
$Image_8721_Coral.JPG

The next one caught my attention because it was neatly split in two by a falling branch. It appears to be a Platterful Mushroom (Tricholomopsis platyphyla), a species which is listed as “edible with caution”. Thanks, I’ll pass.
$Image_8726_Platterful.JPG

While puff-balls are generally non-toxic, (but also with little flavour), this collection found growing on a rotting stump appear to be Pigskin Poison Puffballs (Scleroderma citrinum) – good to look at, but not recommended for eating.
$Image_8730_Pigskin.JPG

Also pleasing to the eye, but inedible, are the Turkey Tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor). They are delicate in appearance, but woody in texture, and found in clumps on fallen wood.
$Image_8735_TurkeyTail.JPG

Mosses and lichens are the carpet of choice when you are furnishing your forest. Soft underfoot, and a pleasure for the eyes.
$Image_8745_Moss.JPG
$Image_8741_Lichens.JPG

Red or brilliant orange is a colour that few mushrooms have, but this tiny specimen seems to just glow among the leafy debris. It appears to be a form of Red or Orange Mycena, but my identification book does not seem to describe this particular specimen very well, so I am not sure about its identification. Had to use flash (on-camera because I didn’t bring the gear for off-camera usage) because it was ‘way too dark to do it any other way.
$Image_8782_Red_Mycena.JPG

After several hours of walking around, we ended up finding a few that are edible, but it was clear that we were too early – we’ll just have to come back later, maybe in 2-3 weeks. In the meantime, it was time to go back, somewhat tired, but happy to be in a place of beauty. That’s my Mom with our friend in front of her.
$Image_8780_Walking home.JPG

So, live life and enjoy all the moments. You may get lucky and have a long and healthy life, or you may have a different script to live out. But while we are here, let us count our blessings. For we are alive.

(and apologies to those who find long text and streams of pictures hard to get through. I'd give you the five minutes back, if I could. For others, comments welcome, as always).
 
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Desi

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Thanks for bringing me along on this virtual walk with you. It is hot and dry in Southern California and these greens just don't exist this time of year. I enjoyed your pictures and the story. I go salamander hunting with my daughter.......I hope when I am 90 she will take me to the stream.
 
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pgriz

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Thank you, Desi for looking in and reading. I was wondering if this type of post would be of interest, or would go over like a lead balloon. Guess we have our answer.

Yeah, getting old is something that someone who is young just doesn't think about. It's so far away and so unreal - until you realize that it is getting closer and closer. The transition from not old/old is marked by the body and brain not working as they used to, a process with no clear beginning. I am very fortunate that my mom is still around and is active at her age - most of her peers are long gone. As you, I hope that if and when I get to that age, my kids would do something that I used to do so easily.
 

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That was an awesome narration and visuals!! How wonderful for your mom to still be taking treks out there at her age!! I wanna grow up to be just like her!
 
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pgriz

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Thank you, MLeek. The lady makes a point of walking at least 1/2 hour each day, starts the mornings with calesthenics and eats a very healthy combination of veggies, grains, fruits, nuts, and only occasional meat (usually fish). Grows some of her own food in a backyard garden. Continues to live completely independently, and still cooks occasional family meals. To keep her mind working, she's been taking written French lessons twice a week (the grammar is very particular and filled with specific rules), and she continues to actively participate in her church. During her life, she became fluent in six languages, and she continues to read in each language to retain her ability, although she's complained that due to lack of speaking practice, she's been forgetting stuff. She's an inspiration to the rest of us.
 

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I missed this yesterday, but I enjoyed it tremendously! The story reminded me of my grandmother, who lived to be 98 and even six months before her death was still helping cook meals, clean house, and taking walks. She lived alone until she was about 92, and the only reason she moved in with my parents was that she was afraid that if something happened to her, nobody would know until the next day when I came to visit.

And that woman really knew her gardening stuff! I think about her every time I go out on a walk and wonder what a particular flower or tree is called. She would have known, and been able to tell you how to identify it.

My own mom is now 86 (at the end of this week) and going strong, despite having been in congestive heart failure for nearly 20 years! Since she turned 80, she has been focused on marking things off her bucket list--she's been on a cruise, taken several trips to places she's always wanted to visit, rode on a motorcycle, went white-water rafting, flown in a helicopter, taken hula dancing lessons, and this year wants to go zip-lining!
 

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Images can be made not only with photons but with words, sometimes with more vividness; and you know that job very well...and what a wonderful journey with you!!!! all those images are really wonderful.... only one desire is hanging... to see your mom's image (not the one in which she walks away... that is melancholy)
Regards :D
 
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pgriz

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Thank you, Sharon and Nandakumar. Your visit and comments are appreciated.
@ Sharon: strong women like your grandmother and your mom are inspiring. I've a feeling that you will continue the tradition. It is a blessing when we can do well even as old age (tries to) slows us down. It is unfortunate that in our youth-worshipping culture, we tend to forget the wisdom and achievements of our elders. In the end, it becomes our loss.
@ Nandakumar: I'll post her image at some point, in the right context. Thank you for asking.
 
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pgriz

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Hi paigew... Thanks for looking in. This trip, I focused on the mushrooms and fungi for the most part... next time it may be something else. You've got quite a variety of interesting things where you're at - I remember seeing quite a few interesting formations and structures when I was in your part of the world (I assume you are in Texas).
 

rexbobcat

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Do you know of this guy? My uncle is a biologist/botanist and knows him personally. He's pretty well known among mycologists for his mushroom photography. It is ALL that he does.

http://www.taylorlockwood.com/
 
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pgriz

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Do you know of this guy? My uncle is a biologist/botanist and knows him personally. He's pretty well known among mycologists for his mushroom photography. It is ALL that he does.

Taylor_Lockwood.com Home page

Thanks! I recognized many of the edible varieties he showed on his site. And also the toxic ones. But I was not familiar with him and his photography, so this is really great!
 

invisible

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During her life, she became fluent in six languages, and she continues to read in each language to retain her ability, although she's complained that due to lack of speaking practice, she's been forgetting stuff.
I'm already forgetting stuff, even with speaking practice, and I'm less than half her age :)

Other than the fact that it made me feel lazy in comparison, I thoroughly enjoyed this thread.
 

PixelRabbit

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Images can be made not only with photons but with words, sometimes with more vividness; and you know that job very well...and what a wonderful journey with you!!!! all those images are really wonderful.... only one desire is hanging... to see your mom's image (not the one in which she walks away... that is melancholy)
Regards :D
I would echo Nandakumar's thoughts here.
Thanks for taking us on the walk with you! I really like threads like this, especially when we learn about cool people like your Mom :)
 

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