Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring's Surest Signs

What could prove the progress of spring more than morels? Those beautiful yellow mushrooms are now standing tall in the woods and in that special place known to only two people on the planet. I am always startled when I first see them standing there amid the dry grasses of last fall and the shining seedlings of spring.

They are often curled beneath a twig, unable to lift the weight and so grow gnarled and crooked. I turn the leaf litter over, move a few branches out of the way, and the treasures are exposed to the light of a gorgeous spring day.
I always carry a small plastic bag when I go to the woods now. I pinch each mushroom off near the earth and bring it home with pride. My mother slit each of them lengthwise, breaded them with cracker crumbs and eggs and fried them carefully. What a meal is this! It is so much the better for its exquisite rarity. We will not have more until next year; the season is surely over. But what a wonderful time I have picking these gems, enjoying the songs of birds while I stoop, cursing my old spine all the while. I am repaid a thousand-fold for my pain.

And the robin - a new one at that - canvasses our north lawn looking for the early worm. I watch as he darts his head earthward, pulls the worm to an enormous length and eats it on the spot. It is a cruel world. How could we have evolved to eat our fellow creatures?
The robin never fails to amaze me with that rusty breast. Overall he pails to the male cardinal and yet he is stunning with that vest of tiger-orange. "Robin red-breast" we would say as children. Do they learn that any longer?