Expectations, Lucky Surprises & Mushroom Hunting

“Don’t go in the woods just to fill your basket. Like life, mushroom hunting is a great exercise in non-attachment, in letting go of expectations, because you never know what you will or won’t find.” – Alan Muskat via Sandor Ellix Katz

I came across the above quotation while in college through Katz’ book The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved. After copying it into my journal, it has stayed with me through the years, even though I hadn’t ever been mushroom hunting until recently.  Because I am someone who is slightly preoccupied with planning ahead and day planners, Google calendar, efficient use of time, and the like, this quotation has come to me on many an occasion when I feel defeated by negligent time management or reality settling lower than my lofty expectations. It comforts me not only for the message it delivers but also due to the resonance of loamy forests and dusty mushrooms it caries. Forests know that every moment does not need an assignment. Trees can only accept what comes at them, good or bad, and continue growing toward the light. Being in the Now helps me to receive life’s gifts and challenges with an open mind and embrace every moment.

“We can approach our decisions with fear or faith, when we live with love and trust, we may not be guaranteed that bad things don’t happen to us and our loved ones, but we will be better equipped to deal with whatever comes our way, and until a crisis occurs, we will not be spending our time worrying about things that may never come about instead of relishing the beauty or joy of the present moment.” – Barbara Wishingrad

“The journey is the destination.” – Dan Eldon

I recently had a long talk with a good listener while relaxing in the shallows of a peaceful, beautiful, tree-lined lake. I twisted the conversation around my feelings of aimlessness in life, how clueless I feel about the future, and the many uncertainties ahead. At the time I felt so lost, verging toward self-pity. Not feeling much better post-pity party, I realized later that I need to keep those emotions in check. I need to remember that there is no way to accurately predict the future or to prescribe exactly what will happen, that the journey is where it’s at and has great value in its own right. There would be no peace without instability preceding it. I wish I had appreciated the moments at the lake more, with the natural beauty and wonderful company surrounding me then. You see, my over-analytical thinking not only caused me to miss out on some of the tranquility of the lake cradling me, but is now causing me to feel regret and guilt. It is a viscous cycle. Lucky for me, I believe there will be many more lake days in the future. I wrote in my journal on July 2:

I had a vision the other day, seemingly from the future. I was able to look upon my life now, free and unattached and kid-less and see it for all its footloose splendor. It helps me to realize that I won’t always be this wandering, lonely, free being. In my effort to appreciate the Now, I need to realize I won’t always just have to worry about me, like I can now. So, whenever I begin to feel aimless, lonely or defeated, I try to envision myself as a future me might – courageous, deliberate, free, constantly learning, maybe a little reckless, young and vibrantly alive! I need to practice being and thinking “Vibrantly Alive”!

I guess I didn’t remember this sentiment the other day by the lake. But Thoreau says…

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

So speaking of mushroom hunting and letting go of expectations… Ever since I learned a few edible mushrooms at the homestead I was at near Gainesville, FL, I haven’t really been looking for them. I’ve had the lucky chance encounter since then to be able to help out a little at a bamboo farm in Groveland, FL, Beautiful Bamboo. While helping to build a chicken coop, walking around under some oaks at the farm, we came across a healthy bunch of Old Man of the Woods, Strobilomyces floccopus.

Not really looking for mushrooms, it was such a treat. Lucky surprises, large and small,  have been popping up frequently in my life lately. Unlike unrealistic expectations or worrying about the future, happy surprises can only be treasured. Some lucky surprises vastly humbled any of my expectations.

The sliced Old Man mushrooms, sauteed with onion and garlic, tasted riquísimo, much like portobellos.

What luck to find such a gem right at my feet, especially unexpectedly.

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