Wanderings

It was an odd day, but it got a lot better. There are some days when thoughts that ordinarily trickle through the humdrum domestic suddenly swell, careen, scour all before them down new paths thrown open with reckless abandon. Rather than give the torrents all their own way, and especially given an unexpected reason to have to take a half day from work and the equally unexpectedly good day, I took myself out, first to Charleville and then to Clonad wood.

The light had an unmistakable warm, slanting quality that adds that Heraclitean glow to everything. Even though there is a surprising amount of green still around, the paths fell open around me, glowing in leaf embers and shadowflickers. Catastrophes of my imaginings gave way to the familiar tugs of different parts of the wood; the pleased content of the midsummer oak, still wreathed in green, the otherworldly separation of the divided oak, alone against the rhododendrons, and the mellow observances of the field oak as corvids, full of unusual purpose, flew in small bands like training warriors, framed by its branches.

The calmer I became the more textures began to reassert themselves, subtle colours shifted into my attention and breathing deepened.

I think my favourite discovery for today was a broken branch with dying leaves of a deep reddish brown, probably flung down by the recent storms. Trapped in a wavering sunbeam it glowed brilliantly, the sunbeam flickered in the passing moments and the leaves smouldered, glittered, blazed and blackened. This version of wordpress doesn’t let me even post the poor imitation video I recorded, but it was a truly lovely thing. [EDIT: I’ve created a very bad animated gif from the video, still doesn’t do the job properly but will give an idea.. ]

As I headed back to collect number two son from school a conversation about the nature of flame from last night popped into my head, how cooking with flame instead of electric hobs seems to add something. I mused about the hot, fast, long flames of fast cooking, yellow, clean, decisive, ruthless with ingredients – do it right or lose them! Then old, nodding flames, rich, many coloured, forgiving, drawing flavours and textures with persuasion and experience.

Youngest son decided a spin out to Clonad wood suited him very well. A pinemarten chased across the road ahead of us as we started through the trees to the clearfelled spot, now planted up with young spruce and birch and oak and still staked with impossibly tall, thin misshappen hard wood trees, dragged fast up with no time to thicken and settle. Once we hit the pine the incredibly plentiful fungi called to us from the forest, though by now I was content to merely walk and observe, chatting instead of recording.

One cool thing to note for today: This is wood hedgehog fungus, which I’m delighted with myself for finding today because it’s edible and easy to identify. The cap looks a little like lightly toasted marshmallow, can be uneven, and the underside has the very, very distinctive spines that can run down the stem a little bit. The stem is often not central in the cap.

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