This has truly been the worst year for mushrooms in memory. I kept waiting this Fall for that thrill of discovery that permeates one's very existence when coming across, say, a patch of boletes or a cluster of honeys or a white cascading "Old Man" or a barely visible troop of black and gray "trompettes de morte" but no, despite warmer weather and plenty of rain, October turned out to be no better than September or August; the fungi just weren't biting--no florescence!
How does this dismal scenario square with the photographs above? The bottom one is by Robert Adams, part of s series of forest images called, inexplicably "Skogen." (That's Swedish for "The Woods")It is a brooding, opaque vision; there seems to be a barrier between the viewer and the forest--do not enter.The other picture is by Jim Bengston my colleague and partner in mixed media crime, who has the most extraordinary eye for penetrating the Scandinavian forest he frequents. Jim's photo is luminescent; it invites you in, there is a slightly dark quality to his work but it doesn't prevail. It would appear that both of these photos have nothing to do with fungi (in actuality they do because trees and fungi live in extensive mycorhizal relationships under the ground. So even though thee are no mushroom "showing" in these empty forests, we know they are there
Thinking of all the walks I've taken in various woods this past year, with nothing (myco-wise) to show for it, makes me wonder what the real purpose or joy is in hunting for mushrooms.
The satisfaction of finding golden chanterelles year after year in the same spots is not to be discounted, but how much better it is when you aren't particularly looking for anything, and suddenly are struck by a flash of sunlight on a green lactarius or a red capped bolete, and the shock is real. There's something about the fortuitous find that trumps everything. The unexpected guest in the form of an unexpected; canterellus cinnibarius in the mossy back yard.
Its a little bit like the second movement of Gyorgy Ligeti's Piano Conceto where a very low bass note, just audible, underlying a series of bizarre flute and ocarina sighings, creates an edgy almost scary atmosphere, only to be shockingly interrupted by a blast of brass and percussion, just for an instant, and then again a bit later, but still a remarkable surprise. Even if you know its coming it doesnt disappoint.