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The appropriateness of appreciation

2014 August 29
by Rachel Turiel

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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.

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Fading corn husk lily. Follow that man with the basket!

The kids pile out of the truck, each in their own sensory memory immersion. Rose bends her back to the earth, hands aiming for wild strawberries. Col immediately finds the hook on a string he left here last August, its use as cryptic as ever, though “sister-taunter” is investigated as potential application. By nightfall, the children are in our laps, between the fire and the insulative power of a parent’s body, watching the Perseid meteor shower flash above our heads. (Although in the truest meaning of irony, the kids beg to go to bed, while we beg them to stay up for the rarified astronomical display). Coyotes howl in the middle of the night, lifting us from our dreams, a PSA from the wild world.

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Boletus edulis perfectionus AKA porcini

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Go forth and appreciate this weekend. xo, Rachel

Related posts:

all abuzz
how to hunt for mushrooms
If you get 24 hours to go backpacking


14 Responses leave one →
  1. August 29, 2014

    Rachel – I’ve always enjoyed your blog! And now I nominate it for the One Lovely Blog Award: http://www.halfmoondenver.com/one-lovely-blog-award-im-honored/

  2. August 29, 2014

    My husband wanted to name both our girls Pyrola (one ended up with the middle name Aralia, which she says is bad enough). I am sniffling from a cold, feeling incredibly, uncomfortably, housebound these last weeks of summer, as my husband works too much and my kids complain every time we leave the yard. It has been a long letting go, and a bit of a shabbat season for us. Any time you want to pass along the words of the rabbi, or anyone holy-ish, really, it is a good deed indeed. I’m noticing and appreciating it, in any case.

  3. Bree permalink
    August 29, 2014

    It’s amazing that even though I think I live this way most of the time, noticing more than just doing, I still often need the reminder that it matters. That is what your words did for me today.

  4. August 29, 2014

    Oh wonderful. Colorado is so beautiful. Yesterday we were up on the mountian here in Tucson and there were mushrooms everywhere. I took pictures of them all so I can study them and find out what they are. I’d love to take a class in mushroom hunting/identification.

  5. August 29, 2014

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  6. August 30, 2014

    Good day! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok.
    I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

  7. Susan S permalink
    August 30, 2014

    You’ve commented before regarding your ambivalence about your ability to take glossy-magazine foodie pictures. Wanted to say that the picture of the platter of mushrooms is easily glossy food mag quality. Just beautiful! :-)

  8. August 30, 2014

    Rachel, I’d just like to give you a big hug right now. For many reasons (all positive :o)

  9. August 31, 2014

    I cried when I read this: allowing the beauty of the present moment to eclipse our worries for the future. Thank you, Rachel. I needed to hear this right now. And yes, right now, is really pretty beautiful and perfect.

  10. September 2, 2014

    This is my first time visit at here and i am truly pleassant to read
    everthing at one place.

  11. Melissa permalink
    September 2, 2014

    I loved Augustus very much. And also what you shared about Shabbat. I just read 3 posts in a row so forgive the mixing and matching in my comment here.

    I love Rose with her guitar. So sorry about Martha’s babies, but I do admire how you all processed the experience.

    And I feel compelled to share that I just signed up for a pre-high holidays day-long w Sylvia Boorstein at Chochmat! It’s not exactly the yoga retreat in Tulum I also had in mind but likely more my speed as the baby is only 10 months old.

    xoxo

  12. September 2, 2014

    Nice blog here! Also your site loads up fast!
    What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate
    link to your host? I wish my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

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  14. October 21, 2014

    So true, about the noticing. It’s so hard, here in the suburbs/city, with our crazy schedule, to just Notice. Oh, and I’m glad you got to see the Pyrola!

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