Gazing through the frosty glass, my eyes fixed on winter's gray gloom. Beyond the snow-crusted stubbles of yesterday's corn, black and naked trees clawed at the sky desperate for the sun. Day-dreaming in the fading twilight, my thoughts turned back to the dawn of last spring; sunshine and showers brought rainbows to the hills where May apples sprang up like leprechauns' umbrellas. A lightly scented breeze whispered through the budding trees, and the distant hum of bumblebees lent music to the rare balmy air.
At the edge of a trickling brook, violets bloomed in carpets of moss and delicate young ferns uncurled in the soft morning light as the tiniest snail, awakened by the warmth, moved slowly through their midst. I leapt across the brook and landed next to a long, black snake basking in the sun near to where I stood, momentarily frozen with fear, then I hurried along as fast as I could while stumbling headlong into a butchering gauntlet of wild rosebushes waiting in ambush for a bumbling clodhopper like me. I paid for my haste with bits of cloth and bloodied skin from waist to shin.
Moving on, undaunted, I began to recognize landmarks from last year: that majestic old oak and those daffodils – lovely, yet so domestic for such wild woods. There must have been a homestead here, many years ago. Oh yes, there are the remnants of a picket fence.
Trees of all kinds were coming to life, swaying in the breeze like sensuous mimes dressed in spring pastels of spring: light green, yellow, white and pink, with lavender redbuds mixed in.
Then at last I saw the twin hickories, gateway to my field of dreams. Through a tunnel of swirling vines, I crept like a predator preparing to pounce. Deeper into the woods I went, where fantasy and reality intertwine. Is that a buck, or a scraggly branch? The shadow of a hawk swooping down low over me, or a fast-moving cloud blown by the breeze; a robin hopping through the brush, or a wood nymph in a rush? I wondered out loud. Shhh, hush. If anyone were listening, they'd think I'd been drinking. The power of suggestion is strong. I sat on a log and drank a beer, put the empty back in my sack and moved on.
Treading softly, I sensed they were near. My nostrils flared. I could smell them, I swear. Suddenly one appeared, glowing like gold in the sun, then another, then more and more, morels galore protruding from the spongy turf, symbols of perennial spring – plump and supple and oh, so scrumptious. No chanterelle or mud-caked truffle could compare, contraire.
"Michael, time for supper!" ...sinfully delicious earthly delights
"Hurry up, before they get cold!" ...sizzling in the skillet. Did she say time for supper? "What are we having tonight, my dear?"
Please hurry, spring.
Mike Shepherd is a freelance writer who is addicted to hunting elusive morels every spring. He doesn't always find them, but he keeps on looking.