Jul 22, 2011

Forest treat circles

The three of us skulked along the shoulder of a nearby gravel road and squinted through the greenery and grays at the margin, seeing only a few stragglers here and there... Then we heard the shots in the distance, what sounded like a .22 target practice session... And we pretty much knew: Wild strawberry season has ended in the northern wilds. We stopped at a few more spots but the story was the same... The jagundo berries had disappeared for the summer.

I ate what was in my cup and we headed back to camp for the rare combination of burrito night, badminton and a twilight jump off the dock.

While the arc of strawberries has closed for 2011, the forest has many new treat circles that are only now just beginning, especially with the epic rains we received a few days earlier. Strawberry season had been good to us Clearwater pickers, with plenty in the freezer for jam-making, and soon enough, heaps of blueberries will spring up throughout the burn areas, another example of the circles all around us. Where the old-growth forest once stood, new growth like berry plants erupt from the ash-altered, sun-soaked soils. In the northern wilds the forest and burn areas - pines and berries - are continually dancing around the igneous rocks. Smokey the Bear told as children that we could prevent forest fires, and I will always be careful, but I don't think we can prevent them, and I doubt we should. The forest needs to burn, and it's much bigger than us. The other day we had hazy skies - a result of a massive fire in north-western Ontario and north-western winds. The Canadian radio said citizens were calling resource managers to complain about the haze... People are funny. The forest wants to burn, so it will burn. And the berries want those sunny open areas, so they will grow there when the fire had done its job.
One thing I am trying to learn more about this summer is plant and animal (and fungi) identification - a daunting task for a non-scientific mind. But I'm keeping my eyes peeled as I wander. The other day I spotted a cluster of bright yellow Amanitas near my cabin. These are not recommended for consumption and may lead to temporary blindness and/or insanity. But they are cool to look at. I really missed Morel season back in Wisconsin, and have only seen one false morel up here since spring, so the recent boom in wild mushrooms this July has been enjoyable, even if I can't eat most of them. The baby cabin also has a few Boletes and what I have concluded is a Destoying Angel as neighbors. There is also a Turdus Migratorius that thinks my truck is his enemy. He shits on my mirrors and flies into the windows until his little bird brain bleeds, and I try to deter him with the BB gun but it shoots unpredictably. At night I listen to the Swainson's Thrush up the hill, with its beautiful maniac song.
And then I sleep. And I wake up. And all these days blend together and I dance around the igneous rocks.