spring: bear and mushrooms

After a slow damp start, spring has finally arrived on the west coast of British Columbia. The belligerent junco is still tapping on the chimney, though infrequently;  his body language speaks of weariness, which is understandable.

On our walks on the Malaspina trail, we’ve seen lots of bear sign, the scats electric with chlorophyll.  I saw two bears last week as I drove back from my singing lesson, both of them feeding on sweet new grass and clover on logging roads off the main highway. I pulled off the road and watched one for about fifteen minutes. Its coat was very black and glossy and there was a scattering of chestnut brown around its nose.

Yesterday I returned from visiting a book club (a group of intelligent and congenial women who’d been reading The Age of Water Lilies and who invited me to their end-of-the-season luncheon on a sunny deck overlooking Oyster Bay) to find John waiting to tell me about the bear who’d visited our place while I was gone. It was a large one, and was utterly indifferent to his attempts to scare it away. He discovered it was around when he heard a bang on the front deck and when he looked out the window, he saw the bear on the deck, having just turned over a bench holding flowering plants by the front door. Then the bear took a bag of dolomite lime from the carport where I’d been potting geraniums. After abandoning the lime under a cedar down the bank, it lifted a lid off a garbage can and delicately removed the bag inside. We don’t put anything in our garbage that might attract bears so I can’t think what this one found so tantalizing. Wine corks?

Later I discovered that the gallon jug of fish fertilizer that I’d carelessly left on top of the compost box that morning before I left for the book club luncheon had also disappeared.  I’d intended to use it again that afternoon to water young cucumber plants and I honestly didn’t think a bear would arrive during broad daylight to take it away into the woods. We normally don’t have bears around our place this time of year. They come in the fall to eat crabapples at the top of the driveway or to drag pears, boughs and all, from the trees down in the orchard.  And we see them, or their scats, near the blackberry patch on the Klein Lake trail in late summer.

And here’s a photograph of the oyster mushrooms we picked on our walk this morning. They were growing up the trunk of a standing-dead maple tree. How delicious they’ll taste in risotto this evening, with shavings of Parmesan cheese and some lemon thyme. I think I’ll dry some as well, for winter soups. The kitchen smells of them now, as I type.

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