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  • Writer's pictureFern

Mushrooms and Memories

To blog or not to blog, that is the question. It is tempting for me to post a glut of photos, memories, maybe Christmases past, recent drive by photography shots, etc., in lieu of a substantive, structured, well thought out blog, replete with hints of humor and pathos. I have become lax and lazy about this blog. For those of you who read it, I apologize. Sometimes there’s so much to say, I keep it to myself. Easier for everyone, I opine.

Mostly, it’s hard to connect the dizzying dots of recollection, adventure, joy, pain, memories, observances, envy, silliness, aches and pains, appreciation, gratitude, hunger, thirst, desire that crowd into all our days, like two dozen clowns in a Volkswagen. Images and memories may flash before us at least once a day, in some winsome, fleeting, meandering, form. Recently I read about the Nobel Laureate prize winner French writer Annie Ernaux, then watched a YouTube interview of her; she is brilliant, in my estimation. She talked about the urgency she feels in writing about her interior images. How, at eighty years of age, she recognizes that the images she holds in her mind will be gone forever, lost, when she passes. She wants to put them on paper, so others will share them. Makes sense to me. I look forward to reading her books, now that I have discovered her.

Do you think that is what writing is all about? What photography is about? Painting? Poetry? Of course, it must be so. Getting the images out of our heads and making them permanent in some fashion; sharing them.

The other night I was cutting up button mushrooms to add to a dish that I make when I don’t know what else to do with ground turkey. I call it Mexican lasagna, for lack of a more creative name. Sauteing the meat with onions and peppers and garlic, sometimes mushrooms. Laying burritos on top of enchilada sauce in a large glass dish, laying in the meat mixture, refried beans, more burritos, lots of cheese, you get the picture. I digress.

The fragrance of the small mushrooms on the cutting board brought back a sensory experience from decades ago. A 2014 study showed that we can distinguish at least 1 trillion different odors — up from previous estimates of a mere 10,000. Mushrooms were not a part of my childhood. In point of fact, my mother had never met a mushroom. So, as a young mother in my early twenties, I began to branch out, steering away from the interminable ham, potatoes, the mushy canned peas, into the fresh vegetable arena. I commenced to slice and dice accordingly.

And here I was, fifty years later, literally feeling myself in that first kitchen of my own, in Lincoln Park, NJ. At the counter, next to the old stove. As brief and fleeting as the memory was, how did those tiny mushrooms call back something that felt so tangible? Was it merely the smell? I felt myself inhabit corduroy jeans, snug fitting, and the proverbial turtleneck. It was a transitory experience...oof.

So think about keeping, not just your eyes and ears open, but your nose too! You might be visited by a pleasant olfactory flashback.

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