We sit, resting on the beach of Great Island, after walking slowly and quietly through the dune woodlands of oak and pine. The sandy forest floor holds a blend of lichens, moss and uva ursi, cushioned with gold-brown pine needles and fallen dry oak leaves. We feel autumn’s dryness underfoot as we wander, several yards apart, seeking edible mushrooms, hoping to find King Bolete aka Boletus edulis. Noted as “Choice” in our mushroom handbook, we remember last year’s harvest when we discovered this mushroom to be delicious, sweet and tasting of earth, sand and pine.
So many other species of mushrooms dot the ground, some pushing up bunches of pine needles, still others melting into the soil. Though the number of tree species is few, basically oaks and pines, there is a richness here, a diversity of easily recognized plants and fungi along with a few shy plants, including spotted wintergreen and round leaf pyrola. We recognize beds of reindeer lichen, a lone bayberry shrub and wee pink flowers on slender stalks that I cannot name.
The sunlight plays on the branches and under our feet; it fills the space around the trunks, branches and needles of the pines. It shifts and highlights, glows and caresses each plant and tree. As we wander I feel surrounded by the light, immersed in its clarity and its dreamy quality.
The sounds of wind in the trees, the waves beyond the dunes, and busy nuthatches short, quick cranking tones blend with the crunch of pine needles and dried lichen underfoot. Our senses are caressed, filled, heightened, and we feel one with this place. We do find three King Boletes, marveling over each one- noting the similarities and the differences in color, size and overall appearance- delighted to find these edible treasures. We will soon be savoring the fragrance as they cook, the flavor rich as we taste each morsel, taking in the wildness of the land, the light and sounds, all the richness of the woodlands~ knowing we are in the land and the land is in us…
The rains that fall, the morning dew and evening fog…the onshore wind, the clear light, the acid, sandy soil, the calls of seagulls…the elements woven into seashore magic!