Some of my earliest memories center around time spent outdoors with my parents and my four older siblings. Growing up on a farm, outdoor time was an everyday occurrence, not necessarily a special event. Taking time away from chores and farm work, now that was a special occasion! Morel mushroom hunting just so happened to be one of those.
On such occasions, I can recall my parents calling out to us kids to get ‘ready’ for mushroom hunting. Getting ‘ready’ would entail changing into the proper mushroom hunting attire; long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and a pony tail (for us girls) or throwing on a baseball cap. This mushroom hunting gear was essential to avoid scrapes from prickly bushes and thorns as well as to help prevent taking home any unwanted critters (a.k.a wood ticks or deer ticks).
We would load up, grocery bags in hand, to spend the next several hours roaming the woods looking for the elusive morel mushrooms. So many memories come to mind thinking back to those early years walking in the woods with my family. We would all spread out, each of us eager to be the first one to find a morel. Once the first one was found, the next contest was to see who could find the biggest one, followed by who could find the most. Each little contest we played among ourselves had great rewards, tasty morel mushrooms for supper!
I remember the gathering spot on my grandparent’s farm, which was a meadow in the middle of the woods that had an old foundation near it and some pretty neat fallen trees to sit on. My sister and I would sit and play there when our little legs got tired of walking or our short attention spans got tired of foraging the woods for morels. It was a win-win as this allowed Mom and Dad and the big kids the time necessary to keep looking for mushrooms while still being within earshot range and it allowed my sister and I a chance to let our imaginations run wild among the fresh green grass and the fragrant pink apple blossoms.
Some years were better than others as far as the bounty was concerned but I always remember finding morels. And always among the dead elms and mushrooms we would also find ourselves sharing a story, a smile, a song, or a laugh or two.
As with all things, time passed quickly. We moved to town and one by one my older siblings graduated high school and went out into the world to begin their own lives. Being the youngest, the time came when it was just my parents and me partaking on these mushroom hunting adventures. I no longer needed to stop and frolic in the meadow and I now found myself exploring the woods more and more. I fell in love with the land and cherished these quiet, peaceful moments.
It is no surprise that I ended up marrying a nature lover and that our wedding took place in the spring time when the apple blossoms and the lilac bushes were in full bloom. We took a small honeymoon to drive up north to fish and hike but made sure that we were back in time to go morel hunting that year with my dad.
Each year now I go back to the old mushroom hunting grounds and I can’t help but remember all the wonderful time spent here. My husband and I will spend the early part of the season scouting out the perfect spots and when the time is right we call to the kids, “get ready, its mushroom hunting time.” I love seeing the joy and excitement on their faces as they race each other to get to the next morel. As they pass by the trees that I so lovingly grew up alongside, those old memories flash in my mind just like a slide show, projecting the images of a time not so long ago that I was their age.