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.