I had prepared by looking for wild blueberries, bilberries and currants the previous week roaming through forests closer to civilization.
I was a little nervous so I stayed close to my uncle -- seven years my junior -- as we began hunting. It was not until I separated and starting milling around on my own did I begin to see and find them -- hidden in the shadows, under leaves, below the grasses, the twigs, the roots. I found and got many of nature's most mysterious fruit. White with gills and a cap for a hat.
I was picking the most common of them all, apparently, although I found one yellow with deep gills and a trumpet for a hat. At this point, this was the most beautiful form I had ever discovered in a forest or in nature. The color, shape, texture and taste of them will forever be impressed in my soul.
Then, I began to discover what my uncle described as poisonous and inedible little beauties. I didn't find them poisonous or inedible as eating them was not the primary motivation for my hunting -- but curiosity.
We filled our baskets and after some time, went back to our car. We packed up and traveled farther down the long and narrow road. The trees were wider and lower. We got out and fanned out again. This time I was more alone. I found one that was bluish green. I called to my uncle. After a few minutes he appeared next to me. He took it from my hand said something in that ancient language that was wholly unintelligible and then impaled it on a small branch. This was an offering to the forest for such good fortune to find this very rare variety. He told me how lucky I was to find it.
Being alone in a giant forest halfway around the world from my own home without being in visual contact with anyone else was a little unnerving -- it became a little more unnerving when I'd call out to others and get no response. But I keep looking and finding and cutting. After some time we all wandered back into a group and called it a day. A day it was.
It would then not be until about four years later, in another forest, half a world away that the ancient and hidden world of the fruits of this subterranean life would emerge from the depths of the soil.
This hidden world would be made visible by a curious tribe. The tribesmen first evaluated me in the white man's world by taking me to a beauty pageant and evaluating me. I didn't know I was being evaluated. But I passed whatever tests were given. The second night we were deep in the forest. The tribe first introduced me to a little nomadic devil not from the forest but a faraway desert.
This is not a story about life in the desert, so I'll skip the details. But the tribe was impressed as was I. So, on the third night that I spent with this tribe up in the mountains, they introduced me to them. It required no hunting, no gathering, no cutting. I was offered what tasted much like earth -- like teas given to me by my Chinese doctor.
While the tribe was having a tremendously collective experience of agape, I was not. I moved outside into the cool night air. The forest was alive. The trees closest to the hut swayed in the night breeze and were talking to me. I looked down and the grasses whispered their secrets in the shadows of the moonlight.
I spent quite a long time alone out in the forest. I floated between the sky and the deep subterranean structure of life on the breath of nature's whispering song. Tribesmen came out to check on me and went back in. But the whispering song was a secret only I could hear. It was a secret that was haunting and alluring and devouring.
After quite some time, I returned to inside the hut where a fire was burning that kept things much warmer. The tribe was still having a communal moment. I found a corner and closed my eyes and prayed and wandered through the forest of my soul.
The next day I tribesmen took me out of the forest and off the mountain. I thanked them and bade them farewell. I returned home.
As life moved on, it began to unfold and unfurl in a level of complexity I had always been afraid to allow. And it has been well worth it.
Life is love.