Friday, July 2, 2010

Mountain Morels

The morel season is really a personal odyssey. If I am restrained here in New England, it lasts a few scant weeks in mid May, but this year I managed to get out to the Sierra Nevada in mid June where the snows were not entirely gone. Here and there around my cabin, elevation 6500 Ft., remnants of old snow banks made driving up the road an adventure.
In the western montane region of North America, morels tend towards the dark side, that is to say, instead of the tan-yellow of the Eastern variety, they are camouflaged in black and brown hues, looking very much like the small pine cones that litter the forest floor.In a word, they are very hard to see, and you can easily walk right by them or, worse, ON them.
The steep slope behind my cabin reaches up to the cabin of my friend John, and over the course of several days, I traversed it frequently; almost every time I found a morel or two. By the third day maybe a dozen were collected, and eaten. The incidences of morels scattered out over time and space reminded me of the music of Morton Feldman where events, made special by their scarcity, can grab your ear and assume a kind of gravitas.Yes, I know that mushroom analogies ought to be reserved for John Cage, but I find the resemblance to the music of his cohort more apt.

And another thing-- the harder you look, scouring the forest floor with eagle eyes, the less you find. You have to have a relaxed, open visual field, alert to what you seek, but not too rigidly focused. Again this reminds me of some of Feldman's music: don't listen too hard!

SOUNDINGS: Listening casually to the new Nonesuch CD of "Alarm Will Sound" Arhythmia I find the hidden gems (or morels?) in this sea of off-kilter motor driven vessels of high energy pulsation to be the transcriptions of Conlon Nancarrow. Now there was a true maverick who still boogies.