Sunday, 29 September 2013

Inside the woods. The woods inside.

Some days could be summer days, but for the breeze that rattles hoarsely through the trees that are already turning and the chill evenings with smoke on the wind. It is the season of jewel-like berries in wayside places, and of mushrooms glowing in the enchanted dusk of the forest. We have been out gathering and foraging. And we have been in drying and chopping and cooking and baking.

A little while ago, we went out mushrooming. Everyone set off to wander in their own direction, and when we all met up later to open up our sacks and present our findings to each other, my husband had not only a bag of mushrooms, but a full camera too!

Even in our best foraging haunts, it always seems to take a fair bit of walking aimlessly before any mushrooms can be found, before a sort of intuition kicks in and it becomes possible to feel and imagine where they will be.

Until then, there is the breeze and the thrum of the forest. Early in the mushroom season there are wild blueberries and raspberries. And then there are the rustling and jumping of the deer, giant bird nests overhead, and sometimes pheasants running by in a mad dash of colour. And always there are hypnotizing patterns underfoot.

And gradually, as the pleasure of being alone in the woods takes over, and mushroom hunting begins to seem less important, they start to appear....

...bright chanterelles, bursting out of the ground orange-coloured and smelling of apricots...    

...and rich, earthy boletes which are often enormous.

And there are certain parts of the forest that we wander to every now and again only because they are so pleasant to visit...

Though it is impossible to do it justice in a photograph, somewhere in the woods we often come across a great crater filled with strange and beautiful white mosses that contrast sharply with the green mosses all around it. It is stunning to stand and look down into it, and when you do, it feels like finding a miracle.

We never really want to go back home on days like these.

But when we do, the damp earth smell of mushrooms makes it feel as though the forest has stepped into the house.

Chanterelles are best eaten fresh, but boletes are for drying. So we sort them and clean them and cut them up.

Some of them bruise a rich blue when you touch their spongy undersides or cut into their stems. The bluing happens quickly, but fades away again after a while.

An evening was spent threading them together and hanging them up in the window.

For a week they bobbed in the breeze and at night they caught the candlelight and sent shadows dancing across the ceiling like wild geese flying overhead.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Inside is an imaginary place.

In spring, wandering round a lake and through a boggy forest (sometimes losing a leg underground), we came across this old stone boathouse. Growing up, I used to spend my summers on a lake island. The cottage was shabby, but it was only a place to sleep out of the rain. One year, the winter freezing and thawing of earth caused the ground to shift in just such a way that the cottage was pulled open, and a wide gap was left where the walls and the ceiling should have come together in a corner. It was then possible to lie on the dirty old couch and look up at the sky and watch the leaves of wind-tossed branches rocking and raking past.

Somehow this season of foraging for mushrooms and berries, strengthening winds, and darkening evenings makes me think on these broken apart buildings, where inside is outside and outside is inside. Night frosts have already started creeping into lonely glens, but hopefully there will still be time to camp in the mountains once or twice before the snows are on the mountain tops.