I come from a family of naturalists. The birds were basically instilled in me at birth, (as I’ve previously mentioned,) and the animals came all on my own when I discovered “Mammals of the Central Rockies,” by Jan L. Wassink. In the third grade I obsessed over that thing like other kids obsessed over comics. It was why I insisted on being a pine martin in all my play.
Anthony and I try and get out to the woods at least once a week, and these walks often feature my stopping to listen to a bird song, or peer hopefully into undergrowth hoping to identify whatever it was that rustled the leaves and caught my attention.
As he grew accustom to this style of walking — the stopping, the listening, the watching, the appreciating — Anthony began to develop a naturalist instinct all his own. Right away he showed a particular talent for spotting frogs, and more recently he has begun photographing mushrooms.
He sends these photos to his brother, our resident mycologist, to see what he thinks they might be. (And also, we must add, to further entice him to move out here.) Tentative identification emboldens the spirit, and it wasn’t long before we would see clumps of what Anthony thought “might be food.”
When you mistake, say, a ruby-crowned kinglet for a hutton’s vireo, there are no lingering side effects, no risk of renal failure. With mushrooms, however, I need more than just a hunch. And so on his brother’s advice we joined the Oregon Mycological Society which offers, among other things, classes for beginners.
So it is that we’ve found ourselves, once a week, heading to the Multnomah Arts Center to look at slides with a handful of beginners such as ourselves.
The class is a nice range of about twenty people — people who know nothing (like me), people who know a little but not enough (like Anthony), people who hunt regularly for one or two varieties but want to grasp a more general picture, people who want to eat mushrooms, people who don’t want to eat mushrooms, retirees, young people. Any Hobbit that wants to learn more about mushrooms is welcome to take the class.
Most of the class seems like it will be “how to use your guidebooks,” which could seem redundant but for the fact that fungus is alarmingly complex. Positive identification seems to rely on something like eight characteristics, and diagnostic features can be subtle, or prone to natural variation that I don’t yet have an eye for. So it’s nice to get help from a man who’s been hunting mushrooms for over thirty years in this area. If anyone knows anything, I think he will.