Mushrooms After Drought

Last summer it rained nearly every day. That resulted in a rather spectacular crop of mushrooms in Menotomy Rocks Park and I had a great deal of fun capturing their forms and colors using my super macro camera.

After a very dry summer this year, fall rains have started again. The reliable orange and yellow bracket fungi, Chicken of the woods, did not disappoint. I noticed a few other mushrooms, mostly in shades of white, tan and brown. Perhaps the mushroom season is just getting a late start. If so, I may add additional mushroom closeups below.





















Chicken of the Woods: A Remarkable Mushroom

Besides tasting like lemony chicken with a great deal of protein, chicken of the woods has many health and medicinal benefits. It is both hard to miss and relatively easy to identify but as with all mushrooms growing in the wild, it is best to seek expert guidance and to prepare them carefully.

With so little rain this year, I did not expect to find the variety of amazing mushrooms that sprung up all over the place in Menotomy Rocks Park last fall. But I was able to capture photos of several emerging clusters of chicken of the woods mushrooms before they were taken by foragers.












The last photos below follow a new protrusion as it evolved over the course of several days. Someone cut off its front edge before it became quite dry.







Rock Arrangements

Arlington Heights, Massachusetts, USA where I live, like Boulder Colorado, and a number of other places, has rocks in all sizes. In fact, a major reason I bought the house where I live is because the turtle-shaped top of a large glacier-scraped granite outcrop was visible through the kitchen window.

Once I found the courage to climb to the top of an outcrop in Menotomy Rocks Park, looking down I could see Hills pond through the trees. The contours of this secluded high up spot, with blueberry bushes and natural rock arrangements scattered here and there made it feel quite magical.

Any number of these rock arrangements could be the highlight of a Japanese garden, or for that matter, arranged in a bowl of sand for indoor viewing.



Longing for Ripples and Reflections

The ducks and turtles did not seem to mind the algae (first photo below), but I missed what the light could do playing on the pond’s once clear waters (lower photos). When I wrote about trouble at Menotomy Rocks Park a year ago, I felt sure my town would invest in maintaining the health of Hills pond. But the green scum kept spreading, and I began to worry.

This morning as I walked around the pond, I noticed a sign stating the pond had been treated. When I looked to see if the waters were indeed clearing, a bullfrog croaked as if in confirmation.


Ice Opportunities: Sounds & Images

Once I came across a child beating icy Hills pond with a stick. It made a most appealing bonging sound. Later I heard haunting chirps and zinging at the same pond. Since I was the only one there, I had to assume the ice was making those sounds all by itself.

Searching online, I found Jonna Jinton’s videos with the other worldly, yet peaceful sounds and the visual beauty of the crack patterns that ice can make as it first freezes. Fascinated, I decided to review Jonna’s numbered vlogs.

Such vivid aliveness, and joyful creativity! And with deep appreciation for the changing seasons in her unspoiled part of the world. At the same time, Jonna makes clear that living in northern Sweden with few other people around involves sacrifice, a great deal of hard work and a willingness to accept dark times – quite literally unavoidable in winter that far north.

Jonna’s online business selling silver jewelry, photo prints and paintings grew to support several family members and friends in a part of the world where jobs can be scarce. She started it as a means to allow her to live on land that her family has owned in northern Sweden for 400 years.

Her videos allow us to join her as she plays with her pets, renovates buildings, paints using pigments she makes from local materials, celebrates with family and friends, sings to the cows, and travels to various locations, along with breath-taking footage of nature in its many moods. Jonna says she hopes her videos can provide those living in apartments a measure of the beauty and inspiration of nature. Rather than causing envy as you might expect, how she shares invites us to figure out and go after what would be optimal to have in our own lives.

As for me, I am grateful to live near a pond where children make bonging sounds as the ice freezes. The pond was singing by itself again this morning as I went looking for ice photo opportunities inspired by Jonna’s passion for them. The photos below are some of my favorites taken this and last year winter:

Woodland Magic

It is natural to notice a muskrat chasing quacking ducks, but the woods can have a quieter energy – There is a lot going on, but it is easier to miss.

Trees with their roots wrapped around granite outcrops or buried beneath fallen leaves and mounding needles are the backbone here. Warm beams of sunlight suddenly illuminate the all-embracing living wonder while the woods in winter has its own forlorn kind of peaceful beauty.

Imaginary Creatures in the Woods

As we walked along the trail, a friend told me that her grandchild loved pine needles. He also liked looking for hollow logs that would make good houses. My friend seemed to share her grandson’s delight in the magical quality that can be sensed just below the surface in many forest settings.

Perhaps because children can be particularly sensitive to the intelligence of other species, or because of their vivid imaginations, looking for or constructing “fairy houses” seems a perfectly natural thing to do. I thought of the troll that my Aunt brought back from Norway at my request. I promised my friend that I would take photos of him in the park.

Indeed, this eager little fellow seemed to be quite at home in these woods far from his native land.

A Boulder Around the Seasons

A boulder perched at the edge of Hills Pond when I started the photo series. It became an island as the waters rose. Then ice linked it to land again. In spring, geese and ducks perched on its strong back. There were signs of trouble as algal bloom sullied the water and all the birds left.

Waiting unperturbed, the boulder bore silent witness to ducks returning as brilliant colors in shades of yellow, orange and red mixed with the greens. Though all of this, the boulder sat with perfect equanimity. It had me wondering whether I could be more like that. Probably not, but that I could appreciate (and hopefully remember) its still presence seemed to count for something.


A Bumper Crop of Edible Mushrooms

When I was out taking mushroom photos, I came across two people with a basket full of hen of the woods as well as a bag of honey mushrooms they had gathered from the base of oaks. They told me that the number of edible mushrooms you can collect in Europe is limited so as to leave some for others. Here there are no such limits and they had gathered so many mushrooms they would need to give some away. As they explained, the best way to learn which are safe to eat is to go out with an expert local guide, although books and online resources (like this one) can be helpful.

Like many, I find fungi’s beautiful diversity and complexity fascinating. In addition to their use as food and medicine, mushrooms can have profound cultural significance. Those with psychotropic properties are used in healing rituals. A lovely jade pendant (below) bears witness to the significance the Chinese place mushrooms that play an important role in traditional medicine. The Maya carved wonderful anthropomorphic mushroom stones.

Fungi support the health of forests in a variety of ways. They can survive fire and have been used to control insect pests and to clean up plastic and organic waste. No doubt our appreciation for what fungi do for us will increase as we learn more about their many roles in various ecosystems.

Mushrooms After Rain

Nature is constantly shifting and not just with the normal seasonal changes these days. This early fall, I would certainly welcome some quiet green time on my morning walks in Menotomy Rocks Park (Arlington, Massachusetts, USA), but nature had its own ideas. After abundant rain all summer, amazing fungi were popping up everywhere and calling out to have their portraits taken.

I sometimes moved into contorted positions to capture the fascinating diversity up close, and in one particularly lucky shot, spores falling from a cluster (last photo below). My walks extended to two or more hours and I was off on another adventure, discovering how important fungi are to us as well as to so many other forms of life on this planet.