Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reprint: Magical MUSHROOMS

Assiniboine Forest a great place for fungi (and I don't mean that naked guy)

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
by Ariel Gordon

Assiniboine Forest is my favourite place in Winnipeg, even though there's a man who likes to walk its paths wearing hiking boots and socks. And nothing else.

Assiniboine Forest is my favourite place, even though the first and so far only time I ran into him was with my mother.

Assiniboine Forest is my favourite place, even if it is stalked by dogs whose preferred form of greeting is jumping on people.

Even though you can never tell, in the moment before they jump on you -- muddy paws ranging up your thighs, the owners shouting "Sorry, s/he's friendly!" in the background -- if the dogs ARE friendly or lunging for your face.

Assiniboine Forest is my favourite place, even though my partner and I are often stopped there by people unwilling to get lost and unprepared for Charleswood's mud.

And could we PLEASE show them the way out? Like NOW?

It's my favourite place because the soil and mulch and water on the forest's paths are what create optimal conditions for mushrooms.

All kinds of lurid, beautiful, subtle, ugly mushrooms I'd never seen before I started to go on long walks in the forest.

That now find me frequently crouching in the understorey, wearing hiking boots or rubber boots or even hip waders, squinting at the LCD screen of my camera.

I'm not a very good photographer. But I AM determined.

And because I've persevered over a decade of walking in the forest whenever and however I could manage it, I have a lot of photographs of the mushrooms, moss and lichen that grow in a never-before-developed stretch of aspen parkland.

I've been half-crazed by a happy corona of buzzing insects.

I've misjudged my footing and gone knee-deep in ice-water puddles.

I've even eagerly - and unknowingly - sat myself down in patches of poison ivy, all in the pursuit of things almost too small to be seen (or at least to be seen well) by the human eye.

Beyond the impulse to document the rise-and-fall-in-a-day fungi, I also appreciate how the forest teaches me, year in and year out, how every year is different.

How varying amounts of warm and cold, wet and dry, make for an abundance of one plant and a scarcity of another.

I won't say the forest has taught me to see, because I think I brought that to the forest, but I think the forest and its fungi have filtered and sharpened that ability.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer. Her first book of poetry, Hump (Palimpsest Press, 2010), was recently nominated for two Manitoba Book Awards: the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book and the Aqua Books Lansdowne Prize for Poetry/Prix Lansdowne de po├ęsie.

No comments: