In the scorching heat of the European summer afternoons, after the rain sprinkles it’s last luminous drops of refreshing water, the young people in Poland (at least in the mountain village my mother’s family lives in), grab their baskets and quickly make their way into the woods. To “gather mushrooms”.
At least that’s what they tell their parents…
I can still remember the first time I went “mushroom gathering”. My cousin and I were cooped up playing poker in the bright yellow kitchen (I was losing miserably), and she kept pulling aside the delicate white lace curtains and sighing at the rain.
All of a sudden, she grabbed my wrist and yanked me up, “Grab your sweater,” she whispered, and deftly maneuvered me through the maze of rooms to avoid running into anyone, stopping only to primp in the enormous hallway mirror by the front door. “Here,” she handed me her tinted lip gloss, I remember it was a subtle rose color. Innocent. I followed her example and quickly put some on as she kept tugging on my arm.
Announcing, “We’re going to gather mushrooms!” – to no one in particular -she grabbed a couple of wicker baskets piled up outside the front door, and shooed away a few chickens who were curious and staring at us with their beady eyes, before carefully closing the door behind us.
Again she pulled my arm and dragged me in the direction of the dark forest.
“Ssshhhhhhh….” was her answer each time I asked her where she was taking me, “we’re going mushroom gathering.” She said that with a look that made the answer burn into my brain. Which was perfect, because, well, later on, I would depend on that burn.
We walked through the lush woods – the soft, wet leaves and pine needles crunched with a wet slurp beneath my sandals. Shadows became characters in tales I had heard from my family – of princes and dragons and castles that had long disappeared, only the handsome ghosts searching for true love in this magic forest remained.
A bird’s loud whistle came out of nowhere. My cousin’s long, blond hair whipped from side to side as she tried to figure out the direction the sound came from, and when she did, she surprised me by whistling back.
Pulling me in the direction of the noise, she marched me through a thorny thicket until we emerged into a clearing. Pushing aside some overgrown branches, we came upon about six of her friends sitting on felled tree trunks. A blanket in the center had all sorts of foods on it…ser (cheese), buleczki (rolls), czekolada (chocolate), maliny (raspberries) and best of all, homemade wisniowka (cherry brandy).
Spreading out our sweaters on the damp logs, she quickly took the two juice glasses full of the cherry brandy held out to her by her friend Maciek, and handed one to me – chinking hers into mine with an obligatory “na zdrowie” before taking a healthy gulp of hers. I had to laugh to myself how this sneaking into the woods and chugging liquor was totally out of character for my puritanical cousin. Completely normal for me – way out of character for her.
As one bottle of wisniowka was drained and another opened, my senses became heightened and I could hear whispering and giggling and loud yelps from all directions around us.
Maciek sat down close to me and began telling me that because of how small the houses in the village usually are, it’s hard for young people to hang out together and let loose. Not wanting to upset the strict parents, going to “gather mushrooms” together after it rained provided the perfect alibi to meet up and hang out for a while without parents, little brothers and sisters and extended family eavesdropping.
It was a time for flirting, first kisses and private conversations.
The only obstacle really was to actually remember to bring back some mushrooms.
Oh, and finding your way home.
I don’t remember what time my cousin, her friends and I stumbled home that night. I do remember that we got lost. Several times. And at one point we got so hungry that we broke into a farmer’s apple orchard and ate about 5 apples each, climbed up onto his hunting platform and made wishes (I still remember mine) on the bright twinkling stars before disappearing back into the forest. We spooked ourselves in our slightly inebriated state, pointing out ghosts and sounds that did not sound human, and clung all together in an exciting type of fear.
I know we were loud when we got home. I know this because as we got close to the house, all the lights flew on and I could make out my aunt and my mother standing in the door way, both with hands on their hips.
“Mushroom gathering”, I remember saying to my mom as I walked by her…extremely grateful my cousin had coached me.
I bring up this little adventure of mine, because I have been lucky enough to again be awarded The Versatile Blogger Award by the very talented Sandra, author of Just Me. Thank you SOOOOOOOOO much, Sandra!!!!!
I started on this blogging adventure as I started on my adventure into the forest that day all those years ago – not knowing where I was going or what to expect. I started it because of my sheer, deep, passion for art – in particular the art of writing. The art of “painting with words”. The art of whisking someone from their chair to another place, another adventure, another emotion with pure, simple words – mere ordinary letters strung together, infused with feelings and an eagerness to share my love of life all around me.
I get the same heady, intoxicated sensation when I am nominated as I did from the cherry brandy on my trip “gathering mushrooms”.
Rules for the Versatile Blogger
- Thank the person and/or blog for the nomination!…
- Share 7 Facts about yourself
- Nominate 15 Blogs/Bloggers that I follow
Seven Facts About Me:
- I was named after my maternal grandmother who was named after Queen Victoria. My five daughters are all named after princesses/queens, as well.
- I can do backbends, flips and push-ups, but no matter how hard I try, I CANNOT do a single sit-up…UGH…
- I like chocolate sprinkles on my grapefruit halves.
- I enjoy practical jokes immensely.
- I am an only child and that is the saddest thing in my life.
- In my “spare time” I am studying for my certificate in gemology.
- I believe firmly in guardian angels.
I am going to honor one blogger a day so no one gets lost in my list of 15…please MAKE SURE to check back daily and see if YOU, or maybe someone you know or follow, has been nominated!
italy with grace I LOVE the way she transports me to Italy and let’s me taste what life there is like. She is a very gifted writer. Complimenti!