i had every intention of going back to retrieve the dead man’s foot. but instead, the following day, i went for a walk with my mother on a different trail. no sooner had i said to her to keep an eye out for this particular fungus than we found one poking up out of the hardpan of the dirt road in front of us. i didn’t have a bag to put it in, as i’d forgotten to bring my rucksack. i just had to carry it aloft so that i didn’t bump it against my thigh as i walked. we rounded a bend in the road and there were two older folks riding horses and leading a yearling. they paused to let us go by. my mother whispered to me, “oh no! they’re going to think you’re carrying a…” and i whispered back, “horse shit? yeah, i know.” and i’m sure they did. they both nodded and their eyes immediately went to my hand. the woman said, “well, that looks much better for you than this is for me.” she was referring to walking versus riding, but i momentarily thought she was referring to the fungus. they were very polite, but i’m sure they went home thinking they’d seen some weird woman collecting road apples. half a mile down the trail i found two more giant dead man’s feet. i collected the unblemished one and left the other to spread his spores.
last year i thought that i’d found a huge clump of jack o’lantern fungus near a pine stump, but they never did phosphoresce. they were quite old when i found them. caps were melting. i figured they were just past their prime. but i walked by the same stump recently and they were back. some were in button stage. i brought a clump of more mature specimens home and i’m pretty certain that they’re actually big gyms (gymnopilus ventricosus). i’m definitely not a mushroom expert though. something to aspire to!
in other news, i’ve developed a love affair with costus root. i’ve smelled it many times before in l’air de rien, but i didn’t know that’s the note that i was detecting. apparently, it mimics the odor of animal fur and the human scalp. i reckon that’s why i find it so appealing.
preparing to go find myself a ghost pine from which to prune some yule greens. their sap smells like oranges and balsam and scotch tape. not very pinelike at all. but we so often had ghost pine as a christmas tree when i was small that the odor is no less christmas-y to me.