There are days which are long but not in the sense of drudgery. Instead the hours are lengthened by wonder. Time seems to still. Recently we had such a Saturday. A day of tall trees, blue skies smattered with cloud, and warm sunlight lighting green, green grass. Everything seems tall in Bavaria. The hills. The dense stands of trees which crown them. The lakeside houses with their soaring cornices which pierce the sky. And finally, the folk and their abiding respect and love for this dramatic rolling landscape, near the shores of Konstanz.
Up in the hills, close to the Austrian border, where the luminous grass is softly munched by bright eyed, glossy coated cows, we got to know a man of towering knowledge and strength but also of great gentleness and patience. Eckart, the hero of our story, reads the hills, counts the birds and forages heaps of porcini mushrooms (Steinpilze in this part of the world).
To see children get lost in the natural world, learn to distinguish edible mushrooms from toxic ones, and never once complain about the length of the trail, or utter the word bored is a great gift in an era of ever-shortening attention spans. Walking with a naturalist and his encyclopedic knowledge of our surroundings all desire for electronic entertainments or other distractions breaks down and is mulched by the wonders emerging from the fertile grounds. Imagination leaps like a frog.
With Eckart as a guide, we were initiated into the joys of gathering mushrooms. Not just a few random ones, heaps and heaps of them. Apparently the long dry summer has helped the forest produce a record crop of porcini mushrooms of both epic dimension and quantity. According to our guide there has never been such a year in his memory. Makeshift bags were created from jackets in order to lug home the bounty. We learned which mushrooms were dangerous, which were harmless, which would spoil the flavour of the others, and witnessed the transformation of the Witch mushroom which instantly goes blue once picked.
Once home, of course, the winnings were brushed and trimmed, prepared for consumption. The youngest generation were happy to pitch in, proud of their contribution in finding them, only too happy to assist in the preparations. Then, at the end of a deeply satisfying Saturday, the whiff of butter melting in the pan, hunks of crusty bread, a glass of wine, and a sprinkle of salt just before the Steinpilze are consumed. I can think of few better ways to end such a day of sunshine and exploration. We look forward to our next trek in thes hills around Bodensee. May it come soon.
Right now I am reading BARBARIAN DAYS A SURFING LIFE by William Finnegan, a really enthralling memoir and A JOSEPH CAMPBELL COMPANION edited by Diane K. Osbon which offers me some good philosophy on life in general. Thanks a lot for dropping in!
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