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Monday, October 27, 2014

Drawing mushrooms

The schedule for our weekend mycology camp included a session Friday evening entitled “Drawing Mushrooms.”

For me, “drawing” falls into the category of “things I am not good at.” I haven’t picked up a pencil and tried to draw since the 5th grade. I remember sitting uncomfortably in art class, fingers feeling stiff and uncooperative, unused to holding chalk or crayon, charcoal or water colors. Furthermore, I sat next to Ron Bustamante whose pencil drawing of a Log Cabin Maple Syrup bottle  captured the three dimensional volume with intricate shadows and contours of its multifaceted sides - while my rendition of the same object was flat and distorted. Ron could also reveal a classmate’s face and within minutes you knew exactly who it was. My attempts at drawing the human form rarely advanced beyond geometric forms representing general body proportions: a circle for a head, trapezoid for a torso, rectangles for arms and legs.

I knew then that I had no talent. So why bother? And I have rarely tried drawing since.

Friday’s assignment: Stop and pick up a mushroom specimen to bring with you to camp. Taking a detour to check out a waterfall off of Highway 101, I spotted a clump of small, bright, yellow/orange mushrooms clinging to dead branches near the trail. I was captivated by their color and form. These look simple enough to draw - even for me.

I wasn’t very enthusiastic about being reminded of my weakness in the drawing department, but had nothing better to do on Friday evening. So I joined about 40 of my cohorts at long tables. I put the clump of mushrooms down on my sheet of drawing paper, ready to begin, when the instructor came by and recommended that I draw just one of the mushrooms. The whole clump, while more interesting, would be too difficult she counseled.

As I pulled one mushroom away from the clump, a little brown twig came away with it and fell onto the white paper. After a minute or two, the “twig” came alive and began to move – standing up on tiny hind legs as if looking around at its surroundings. It then put its “head” down and crept forward on three sets of skinny legs at one end of its body. It surprised me by drawing its diminutive body up into an arch and then extending forward. I was captivated. "Oh, it’s just an inchworm, nothing special" my neighbor said. I gently tried to move it to the side so that I could proceed with my drawing when it  immediately stiffened up, inert. Did I kill it? But no, after “playing dead” for a minute, it came alive again and continued its exploration of my drawing paper.

In the meantime, my drawing started to take shape as I started with rudimentary rectangles to outline the proportions of the mushroom.  I had to look really closely: What were the proportions of the cap to the stem? Was the stipe (stem) long or short; skinny, or fat and bulbous? And the cap – is it rounded or pointed or convex, slimy to the touch or even fuzzy? There is tremendous variation in gills when you look closely. What color are they? Are they flat like blades or spongy or tooth-like? Does the mushroom have spots or scales, warts, cups, or veils? I began to understand the meaning of the exercise; not as art, but as practice in discernment. 

I became absorbed in my mushroom drawing, trying not to look at my neighbor’s image which had much more complex volume and color than mine. I am still aware of my limitations as an artist, but it did help my powers of observation and identification. Hypholoma fasciculare - it’s a poisonous mushroom! I’ll remember it the next time I see it in the woods.
And my little inchworm? One moment he (or she?) was happily eating his way through a tasty mushroom dinner when he was suddenly kidnapped - awaking to find himself under a blinding white interrogation light and repeatedly knocked about by an enormous giant. . . .

I finally had pity on him and released him back into the wild beyond the cabin back door. I tried to find a welcoming mushroom home for him, but fear that it will take him a very long time to travel the twenty miles back to his home and family - one inch at a time. :-( My only hope is that he will find enough to eat so that he can spend the winter in a warm cocoon - ready to fly back home next summer on his new fuzzy moth wings. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cedar Creek Grist Mill

My Sunday photo expedition took me across the Columbia River into southwest Washington. My first stop was Cedar Creek Grist Mill, a working museum, showing visitors the inside workings of a grist mill originally built in 1876.
 My next stop was a ride on the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad

 Going through the tunnel was spooky!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mushroom season

I LOVE hunting for mushrooms. I've joined the Oregon Mycological Society which organizes educational presentations along with field trips to study, identify and collect both edible and non-edible mushrooms. This week we went hunting and found lots of lobster mushrooms and some chanterelles.

Chanterelles and bright orange lobster mushrooms
If once wasn't enough, I went hunting a second time with people I'd met earlier in the week. Today we found king boletes (also known as boletus edulis, porcini, or c├Ępes.) Yumm!
Quinn, our guide, with king bolete
 We found these gorgeous mushrooms near Mt. Hood, and I was able to get some more postcard photos.
Trillium Lake with Mt. Hood in the background

But even more than hunting for mushrooms, I love living near Rachel and Philippe. Yesterday evening we had dinner together and shared the bounty of my recent hunt.
Life is good.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Oxbow Park

The salmon are swimming upriver to spawn. This past week I drove to Oxbow Park just east of Portland to check out the Sandy River and to see if I could spot any salmon. I was hoping to take a dramatic photo of salmon leaping out of the water like this: (nope, not my photo!)

But I did stare at the river for a very long time searching for salmon.  

  And then I gave up and had a picnic in the shade of the giant trees

 and wandered through the trails admiring the ancient forest.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Columbia River Gorge

I love being retired! I can take off to go sightseeing whenever the spirit moves me. Earlier this week I explored the historic scenic highway along the Columbia Gorge.
Columbia river looking east
With several waterfalls within short hiking distance of the road
Latourell waterfall
 And stunning views of 5 volcanoes from the top of Larch mountain
Mt. Hood
As I returned to Portland at the end of the day, I stopped to enjoy the view from Vista Point where lots of other people were also waiting for sunset. The couple below were part of a crew filming a tourism video.
 They were good photo subjects!

 As were this couple waiting for sunset on top of their car.

Sunset on the Columbia looking west