Happy Imbolg! This ancient Gaelic celebration falls halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. It’s traditionally a time of divination – of weather in particular, watching to see if serpents or badgers emerge from their dens (the basis for the American Groundhog Day). It also marks the beginning of the growing season, the lighting of candles and fires representing home and hearth, and the power of the sun as the days grow longer. At this beginning of spring, when the Earth begins to wake up from deep within its wintertime slumber, B. and I celebrate fifteen years together at Salt Point State Park.
In these woods, all the senses are engaged: citrusy scent of coast redwood and evergreen mingling with earthier fallen leaves on the forest floor; ocean’s roar all the way down the hill; pecking of a woodpecker glimpsed through a clearing; riot of texture and color in leaves, branches and bark, pine cones and acorns. Amidst Douglas firs, oaks, rhododendron, huckleberry, and other local species – not to mention various wonderful lichens and mosses sprouted when December’s rainstorms lashed this area, although it hasn’t rained since – we did find some Sonoma County gold:
Ivory-stemmed, red-capped russula emetica, the Sickener (no, we didn’t eat it!). A vivid yellow (possibly a gilled bolete). A lovely pale lavender (cortinaria?). Endlessly amusing puffballs. “Little brown mushrooms,” discarded because we couldn’t identify them (many such mushrooms are highly toxic; spore prints are the best way to positive ID). Then B. spied our jackpot under a low underbrush of huckleberry bushes and oak: hedgehogs, chanterelles, and black death trumpets (non-toxic, they’re black chanterelles, and delicious).
Note: please be respectful and tread lightly on the land, and ONLY forage with experts like a local mycological society or if you’re absolutely sure of the mushrooms you identify.