The Mushroom Hunt

The Mushroom Hunt

By Jenna Pollock

It was 2 am when I crawled awkwardly out of bed and made my way to the washroom. I noticed the tiles below my feet were colder than normal and made a mental note to put  on socks the following night. By the time I got back Eric was sitting up in bed, lamp on, relieved by the silence. 

“Just pee. The morning sickness seems to finally be subsiding,” I told him with a smile as  I lowered myself back onto the mattress, exhausted. 

“That’s great,” he said. “Maybe tomorrow we can go for that mushroom hunt we talked  about.” 

The phrase mushroom hunt sounded childish but in a haze of sleep, I wasn’t prepared  to make this a conversation so I agreed. 

“Tomorrow it is.” 

8 am came quickly. Quicker than I had remembered it months ago. Pregnancy hadn’t  afforded me the luxury of late lie-ins and beautiful nights rest anymore. As I grumbled and  stammered towards the kitchen I caught the hint of fresh coffee as it wafted through the  air, calling my name. Eric was sitting at the table when I arrived, clearly well past his first cup and bursting at the seams to share his thoughts. 

“I’ve been talking with the boys for weeks about places to find chanterelles. Here, this is  our best bet,” he said as he zoomed in on a logging road just outside of town and turned  his laptop in my direction. I wiped the sleep from my eye trying to catch up with his  excitement. 

“Looks great, I suppose. What are chanterelles?” I asked while simultaneously  remembering the words we had exchanged just a few hours before. “Oh right,  mushroom hunting!” 

At that moment I thought it best to let him continue as I turned my attention back to the  smell of coffee. As I reached into the cupboard to find my favourite mug, the sound of  typing filled my ears. He was googling pictures as he invited me to the couch knowing  my back at 18 weeks was not in the mood for sitting in a chair. As I carefully carried my  coffee through the kitchen and into the living room he rose gracefully and kissed me  sweetly good morning. I relaxed into it, ready to start my day with my man, my coffee  and my bump. For the next hour we settled in and talked about the different types of  mushrooms and how to best recognize them. By size, by shape, by colour, the list went  on. It was a talent that came easy to him after years of working in fine dining but I knew  next to nothing. As early morning crept into early afternoon we made our way in and out  of the kitchen for food and coffee and then into the bedroom. By the time we left the  house it was some time after lunch. 

It wasn’t raining but it was wet. Everything in late October felt that way. I looked down at  puddles left over from the day before, glad that I had chosen my waterproof hiking 

shoes over my runners like I had initially planned. After all, they fit my swollen feet  better. A fog settled on the treetops as we drove down the highways and the headlights of  cars showed themselves later than they would in summer. I leaned my seat back and rolled down the window, as Kings of Leon blasted the anthem of our lives. It was 25  minutes before I heard Eric announce we had arrived. I propped my seat back and  looked around. It didn’t look like anything special. The road was gravel and there was a  clearing to the left of an otherwise untouched forest. 

“Let’s go,” he chirped eagerly as he jumped out the car and raced around to help me. I  climbed out and stood in silence for a minute. 

“Okay, let’s go,” I heard myself say, matching his enthusiasm while staring up at the  trees. By the time my eyes reached the ground again he was rummaging through the  back of the car for the supplies he wanted. A knife, a canvas tote, a book on  mushrooms, a handful of snacks, water and, of course, bear spray. He tucked everything  into a backpack, flung it on his back, grabbed my hand and whisked me through a small  gap in the trees. It was like entering another world. I took a few steps in when I noticed  the ground below my feet was soft and moss covered and that dew had created a soft  glitter that made my heart skip a beat. It was like a fairytale, only quieter. 

In the distance I  could hear the faint sounds of a brook. And amongst the trickle of water there were  birds that sang. As we walked deeper into the forest the light from the road began to  disappear and the trees grew even taller. So tall in fact that I felt dizzy looking up at  them and I completely forgot why we were here as I tried to find my balance. I was only snapped out of it when I heard Eric’s voice. He was calling me over to see his  discovery. There between a green log and a large fern stood a small family of golden  mushrooms. Chanterelles. I quickly pulled out the canvas tote from the backpack and  opened it up as a gesture for Eric to pick them. He scooped them up and placed them  delicately in the bag. 

“That wasn’t too hard.” 

I nodded excitedly as I watched him skip ahead of me through the woods. Before we  knew it our tote was half full, the snacks had been eaten, and the sky was officially  turning to dusk. We called it a day and walked back to the car, my back aching and my  steps much slower as I squeezed Eric’s hand. He smiled and squeezed my hand tighter  as he slowed down to meet my pace. Soon enough we found ourselves back on that not  so exciting back road. The sun was just beginning to glow a magnificent orange as we  loaded our gear back into the car, when I looked back one last time at the forest. There,  right in the middle of the path we had just walked on was a chanterelle so large that I  thought I was seeing things. I felt the baby kick, like “what are you waiting for?” and I  wondered to myself how we had missed it. As I got closer I realized it was 4, maybe 5  times bigger than the others we had found that day. I gently plucked it from its home  and squealed for Eric. I held it up to my belly. 

“Look, it’s nearly as big,” I said as I posed.

He laughed as I quickly exclaimed that I needed a picture of the two together. From his  back pocket he pulled out a phone and graciously took pictures of my bump and my  mushroom. I knew I’d keep these forever. 

We stayed on that dirt road until the sun went down and the sky was dark talking about  life. And as we turned left back onto the highway he looked over at me and winked. 

“I never knew mushroom hunting could be that fun.

 

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