Naw, not really so sad – I’m just depressed. Truth is this was a lousy summer! Took forever to get started, and then it never really got hot! Where the hell is global warming? It’s enough to shake one’s faith. I should change the title to, “How sad the death of summer’s promise!”
Slowly, and surely, our southwest Oregon weather is shifting to a winter pattern, and my depression is rising right along with it. I am relatively famous for my frequent pronouncement that all things considered, this tiny corner of the Northwest offers the overall best year round climate in the U.S. But, I’m also the first to admit that our winters are certainly the low point each year.
Yeah, our heating bills may be minimal (we cut down a few trees each year to augment the infrequent use of space heaters) due to the “moderate” winter temps, but I think what I dislike most is the dreary aspect of the season – and the fact that it drags on so each spring. I’m such an optimist that I simply can’t seem to learn that the annual turn from winter to spring is a looong, slooow process – every year, I make the same dumb expectation about March being the time when it’ll start getting warm and sunny. And then I shift that feeling to April, and then to May, and … and this whole process leaves one in the wrong frame of mind for the real start of summer, when it finally does make its belated start.
I think the other thing that’s adding to my depression this year is that we will not be going down to west Mexico this year as we have been doing the last few winters. I’ve completely shut down our IRA withdrawals while the U.S. economy heals, which negates any things like trips to better climes – for god’s sake, I don’t even know if our current cash flow is sufficient to make it through this thing! So, I guess I’ll just suck it up and make the most of it – and begin thinking about winter activities.
A default activity is of course, reading, and god knows my pile of unread books is laughingly high. That alone should satisfy any normal soul looking for something to fill one’s time in a warm, cozy room on a dreary, wet winter’s day. And of course, there’s baking and cooking to keep one busy and distracted. Is it any wonder that winter becomes the time when pounds are added so easily? But I’m also planning to add another winter outdoor diversion this year, something I’ve avoided primarily because I just hate going outside when it’s wet and cold. But I think I’ll finally teach myself the fine art of truffling – and by that I mean, of course, the process of going out into the woods and digging truffles from the duff around Douglass fir trees.
I find it somewhat surprising that truffle gathering is not more popular here in Oregon, not only because of the relatively high prices they bring at the mushroom buying shacks, but because of the mystique surrounding them in general. My guess is that the winter cold and damp during the prime season is a factor. But, a few years ago, a truffle festival was begun in Eugene that immediately became an overnight success, even with ticket prices between $500 – $1,000. (There’s also a Sunday Marketplace event, evidently for the commoners, with a $15 price tag.) Yes, I think this is all proof positive that truffles are one of those rare products that interestingly link the Haves with the Have-Nots in a strange, symbiotic way – the Have-Nots are willing to brave the nasty winter elements to find these fantastical objects, so the Haves can pay big bucks to come together in play, around one of nature’s more unique creations. And I’d guess there is even room for an occasional interloper such as myself, to sneak in and pick up the crumbs left over.
As you may know, there is a good deal of controversy over the way truffles are hunted. The purists (def. depends on which end of the purist scale you’re on) use a combination of looking for rodent digging (rodents love truffles even more than chefs! Think Ratatouille) and/or duff bumps, and then only use either their hand, or a small hand rake, to gently raise the duff and poke around for their truffle, and gently return the duff over their intrusion. On the other end of the gatherer scale are those who go into the woods armed with large rakes, with which they wholesale rake up all they possibly can, leaving the area stripped of any fungal potential for the next foreseeable future! I shall attempt to apply the former process to my searches, in the hope of doing no harm to the land for future forays.
This is rather like trial by fire for me, and given my track record, perhaps a bit aggressive. For me, a good way to ease into this would have been to try “mall walking”, or some such less demanding and less climatically shocking thing. But then, what if I’m fantastically successful? Won’t that trump all the discomfort and misery? OK, so I can’t think of any other similar outcome – that doesn’t mean this can’t be a first, does it?
We’ll see – right?