Mushrooms, Ruins, and Autumn Color
I’ve said about a million times that there’s no more beautiful place to be than on the Isle of Man when the sun is shining. Usually what I mean by that is that I love the island in the summer but that it can be a dark and desolate place in the winter. Around the solstice there are less than nine hours of sunlight and I have friends that can only survive the dark months as a sane person with the aid of a SAD lamp. November is usually the first month that the darkening days and chill begin creeping in, but after a warm and sunny summer we’ve been blessed with a beautiful Autumn. We couldn’t waste it by staying inside!
I like having an objective when I’m out on a walk and I can explain the feeling best as the excitement of following a treasure map. It could be trying to spot wild Wallabies, hunting for sea glass, or taking pictures of wildflowers, but whatever it is, it seems that the journey itself becomes just as special as finding that X really does mark the spot.
So over the weekend I asked two of my friends if they’d like to join me for a mushroom hunt near Sulby. Just a few days previous, other pals had found dozens of Ceps (Porcini mushrooms) and I was eager to see if there were any left. I’d been out recently with a foraging friend so we headed into the same area that I’d been introduced to have another look.
A few Boletes, and scores of mushrooms I can’t name popped up fairly quickly but we also found surprise treasures. A tiny sprig of moss growing out of a pine cone, the black charcoal from a campfire and a nearby survival shelter, a magical wood where the fairies definitely live, and the quiet remnants of an old homestead, both ruined and perfect.
I loved the ruins. It was solemn yet beautiful to see the walls built to separate humanity from the wild being reclaimed by the forest. One of the buildings was once a traditional Manx cottage – two rooms up and two rooms down and with a chimney at either end of the house. The fireplaces were still as solid as they must have been when people sat by them in the depth of winter listening to the wind howling outside.
There’s something to be said about the beauty of Autumn. It can be both silent and stormy, barren and bountiful, dying yet alive in colour. Through sharing the above photo on my Instagram account I learned the fantastic word Anthocyanin. It sounds like something out of this world but is used to describe how leaves change colour at the end of their life cycle. I also found out that the more intense the colour, the sunnier and warmer the days were before the leaves begin to fade away. I hope that when it’s my own turn that I go as a bright red leaf filled with memories of warmth and light.
We found a few less than perfect Ceps on our walk and more than a few mushrooms that couldn’t be identified. A bit disappointing but in the end we all agreed that it was a fantastic day spent exploring a part of the island that sees little traffic. The fresh air did us all a load of good and the walk downhill to the car was relaxed and good spirited. I should have known that eagle eyed Brook would spot something at the very last minute. Thanks to him I was able to throw together rich and creamy Cep Noodles when we made it back home. What a perfect ending to a perfect day.