The appropriateness of appreciation
We arrive with our lowland shorts and t-shirts into a different world. This is our fifth trip here during mushroom season, and the land is like a historical record of how we’ve grown and changed. Contained in the tawny, decaying corn husk lily are a scrapbook of memories: napping bodies steaming in a sauna of a tent, coaching the kids through squatting and pooping in the woods, reminding the children not to insert sticks in the fire and then wave them, hot and burning, around each others’ faces. Okay, some of this we’re still working on.
Fading corn husk lily. Follow that man with the basket!
Boletus edulis perfectionus AKA porcini
In the morning we search for mushrooms. The pace, slow and meandering, suits the children, plus there’s just enough uncertainty in the hunt for meaty fungal treasure to make it irresistibly challenging. We weave through the trees, parallel to each other, trying to cover the most ground before the children inevitably end up velcroed back to my side. We feed each other wild strawberries, each red jewel a love offering.
Mid-afternoon, I recline in a camp-chair, finishing the morning’s coffee, trying to do nothing more than allow my senses to fill with this place. Rose nails sticks into mud with a hammer; Col swings his hook-on-a-string through the meadow, liberating seeds from ripe grasses. We don’t bring much in the way of toys (see above: hammers and hooks on ropes). And it’s not that my kids are welcoming of the emptiness, or that they’re on hands and knees, studying subalpine insect life, dutifully recording data in homeschool journals. No, they wouldn’t mind an entertaining blast of Disney right about now. But, I know the quietness, the space, the pause in their modern, busy life is taking hold somewhere in their hearts.
Pyrola rotundifolia. After nineteen years of roaming these woods, getting to know the wild plants, I meet this one for the very first time. Greetings little wintergreen!
At a recent Shabbat service, Rabbi Eli explained that on Shabbat, in addition to not working, we stop doing, stop trying to figure out, fix, get ahead, create, follow through. Instead, we rest, celebrating the miracles that exist right here, right now. This liberated my heart in an instant: sometimes the appropriate thing to do is to enjoy, allow, appreciate; to simply receive the coyote’s howl, letting it sift into our human lives, allowing the beauty of the present moment to eclipse our worries for the future.
Chanterelles, which Rose, in her propensity to give nicknames, calls “shantis.”
On this trip I finish The Fault In Our Stars, blubbering in my tent while Col slumbers beside me. Without giving anything away, this novel, written from the perspective of a teenager with terminal cancer, is deeply moving. The character, Augustus Waters, says: “The real heroes aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention.”
How difficult this is! We want to make our mark on the world, to prove our capabilities and talents, to see ourselves reflected in the universe. But what if it’s the universe that needs noticing? What if this beautifully imperfect world can leave its mark on us? What if, just for a short time—say, the 24 hour period of Shabbat—it is enough, not to be known, but to be an astute, appreciative observer, to try and know the world?
A shadow flashes through the meadow – a hawk chasing a golden eagle – showing up as if to prove something about miracles. But it’s all awe-inspiring: our basket of edible fungus and their unicellular spores surfing the sky, the mountain plants fading out of summer-green, these children being imprinted on by the wild world.
Go forth and appreciate this weekend. xo, Rachel