"May you live in interesting times," goes the well-known Chinese curse. We now hope for a bit less interesting 2014 than 2013 proved to be.
Ubiquitous work boats filled the waterways
of the Mekong Delta.
The year started out interesting enough. A trip to Vietnam, a spectacularly beautiful country that had been on our "bucket list" for years, was more than interesting enough; we traveled all over the country, seeing aspects of it that we suspect folks who go there on packaged "tours" miss entirely. We came away with vivid memories and a real affection for these people, who welcomed us as graciously as if our two countries had been staunch allies for centuries. The scenery was varied and astonishing, the history fascinating and the foods were absolutely scrumptious, as well as beautifully presented. Markets, which we were drawn to, were especially interesting, full of all kinds of exotic foods, including many different types of mushrooms, of which we recognized exactly none. In general, the cities were beehives of activity (Ho Chi Minh City, as an example, has roughly 10 million people and about 7 million motor scooters, most of which appear to be in use at any given time; traffic is simply chaotic, with the motor scooters careening madly about like Harry Potter and his chums playing "quidditch!"). Looking back on what we saw, we have little doubt that these industrious, hard-working people are well on their way to prosperity and modernity.
Vietnam was a beehive of activity 24/7!
As with most travel these days, the "getting there" part was predictably unpleasant. Why do airlines bother to advertise, when they then proceed to do everything they can to make the experience as unpleasant as possible? It's a mystery to us. Nonetheless, once there, the country was worth all the travails of modern air travel; we highly recommend it as a destination.
The rest of our travels were shorter trips; they included a lovely May trip to Crescent Lake in Central Oregon, where our hoped-for encounters with Morels and trout went largely unfulfilled. It was beautiful, however, with an evening lightning show over the lake for good measure. From there, we headed south to explore around Klamath Falls, with hopes of seeing (and photographing!) the unique mating dance of the Western Grebe, of which we'd seen films but had never witnessed. Wonder of wonders, our timing for this turned out to be perfect, and we saw a number of displays of their crazy, synchronized dance and even managed a photograph or two, making the trip for us. We never really expected to see it.
What's more beautiful than a morel?
A trip to Mount Hood in early June led to the best day of Morel gathering we ever had. It was so much fun to encounter this often elusive species in numbers, and we confess to a bit of greed on that foray, although I hasten to add that none of them went to waste!
In late spring we had begun to plan in earnest for a big trip in the fall, so it came as something of a shock when a routine annual echocardiogram - I'd had a slight heart murmur for years - suggested to my outstanding doctor (who specializes in reading "echos") that the time had come to actually do the surgery that we'd all known was eventually coming. Tests were run, plans were made, and the surgery was scheduled for mid-September. Now things got interesting, in the sense the Chinese imagined when they originated their famous curse.
Conditions for a fine fall mushroom season seemed to be in place. I regretted my bad timing as August transitioned to September and we started to find Chanterelles in numbers on our property; it seemed inevitable that we would miss most of a great season, after a poor season in 2012. Timing.
It's hard to believe for those of us on the downhill side of 60, but these surgeries are now so common that they're almost "routine;" almost, I say, because when you are the subject, there is nothing "routine" about it! Nevertheless, I was calm as the day approached, confident in the medical team that would operate on me, opening my chest cavity, handling my heart, replacing a defective valve and performing a bypass while there. I'll confess, though, that my outward calm gave way to some internal jitters as the hour approached.
A happy day for both of us,
the surgery now behind me.
My lovely wife (and the best mushrooming partner a man could ever ask for) was with me every step of the way, sleeping in a chair in my intensive care unit room (which was too small for a more comfortable "bed" for her), and on a cot when I was moved to a regular room. She could not have been more loving or supportive, and I can't imagine how I could have made it through those dark days without her; I will never forget it, or lose the profound gratitude I feel.
The surgery was completely successful, albeit with a few not-uncommon complications. My doctors tell me that I have a long and happy life ahead of me. And that life, shared with my beloved wife, has new meaning; after this experience, I'll appreciate it even more, and the time and adventures we'll continue to share will never again be taken for granted, as they may occasionally have been in the past. Our lives are precious, and we must live them accordingly.
Not everyone was happy in 2013!
As soon as I was up to it after the surgery, we ventured back into the woods. By then, however, the season was well past its peak; dry weather, followed by a cold snap, took care of that. We had a good outing on Mt. Hood at our "secret spot" for Matsutakes. On our own property near Port Orford, we found some more white and golden Chanterelles, although not in any real quantity, and on two occasions, Mary happened upon cauliflowers, unfortunately one of which was well beyond its prime. We did find a massive fruiting of Oysters on an alder tree down the hill, and a couple of weeks ago, had an outstanding day gathering Hedgehogs, but that has been the extent of it. We'll await next fall's season with great anticipation, and will be ready to really devote ourselves to it.
Good luck and good health to you, dear readers, in 2014 and the years that follow. No one is more appreciative of the value of your time than we are, and we will do our best to reward the time you spend with us with good and interesting information about mushrooming, and occasionally, life in general. If you think of a way we can improve our efforts, please let us hear from you!
And, who could resist including
this charming Vietnamese baby in their post?