Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Well, there's no place like home... and just like Dorothy, I learned the hard way.

There may be Paris in the Spring, Florida in the Winter and Tokyo at Cherry blossom time, but for me, it's Indiana during mushroom season.

My parents are both country children, raised in a great depression. They grew up as hunters and gatherers. Fishing and foraging the forests was a prime source of food for their families. Well, as least for my mother. She was raised dirt poor, with an old and sick father unable to support his large family, but on the edge of a huge state owned forestry. For her family fishing, hunting, trapping and gathering was nearly their only food source. My father was raised by his widowed mother on the edge of a small town. Dad's hunting and gathering included stealing vegetables from farm trucks that came to the cannery near his home. Anyway, my generation was also taught to fish and hunt mushrooms.

For all you non-'roomers, I'm talking about the tasty and uniquely shaped morel mushroom that looks nothing like a toadstool or flat topped mushrooms you find in stores.

As an adult, every Spring, I would load my four kids into the minivan and head south from Chicago to southern Indiana to have Spring break at Grandma/Grandpa's and hunt mushrooms. I would drag my inner-city kids, complaining, cringing, and crying in fear of meeting bugs, spiders, ticks and snakes, into the woods nearby to learn to find mushrooms. They would pair off in adult/child groups with my sister Elaine and one of my parents, and off we would go. My kids learned to enjoy the forest inspite of bugs, spiders, snakes and ticks. They found flowers, feathers, grapevines to swing from, land turtles, toads and frogs, birds nests, bones, pretty rocks and occasionally... mushrooms. (Not to mention, poison ivy, ticks and snakes, - all part of learning the forest.)

The best part of 'rooming is getting out into the woods in early spring when the wildflowers are in bloom, it's cool, quiet and a wonderfully soul nourishing experience. In fact, when I'm not selfishly praying to find a really big mushroom, I'm running a mental monologue praising God for the beauty of his creations. There is the sound of the wind in the trees, the sharp staccato of woodpeckers tapping away, the gentle and mournful call of doves, the rich smell of dead leaves and earth. There are beautiful birds to see flitting from the treetops, turtles to find, snakes to avoid and the rarer sightings of deer, owls, turkeys and other woodland creatures.

Of course mushroom hunting isn't always mushroom finding, but when it is, that's something wonderful. It's wonderful to find enough to make a meal of the tasty morsels fried when served on a sandwich or as a side for scrambled eggs. The years I don't get to Indiana in the mushroom season, we commemorate the event wherever we are in the world by "Country Brunch" That is a huge country style meal of homemade buttermilk biscuits and jam, omelets, fried mushrooms (tinned mushrooms substitute for the real thing) and another Hoosier delicacy, fried green tomatoes. It's a celebration of my Hoosier roots.

I guess I've passed on the 'rooming bug to the next generation. When I emailed my daughters Abez and Owl, Owl replied ,"Oh you're so lucky to get to go mushroom hunting, I have many dreams when I am mushroom hunting." I didn't know any of my children (Chicago city-slickers that they all are) had dreams of mushroom hunting. I have such dreams every Spring. Finding mushrooms is like finding manna from heaven. 'Rooming dreams are wonderful dreams of fulfillment and peace.