Ari's first black morel of 2011

I am wandering through the spring woods, the soggy ground squishing beneath my feet.  Out of the corner of my eye, I spot the unmistakable honeycombed cap of a morel.  Bending down to take a closer look, I realize this morel is not alone. A second morel pops into my vision, followed by a third. My morel eyes are on now, and hundreds, perhaps thousands, begin to spring up as if to announce, “We are here!”

Suddenly, my reverie is interrupted. Like Miss Clavel from Madeline, I have a subtle but unmistakable feeling that, “Something is not right!” Within seconds, I am lying awake in bed, eons away from the holy grail of morels and sorely disappointed.

This recurring dream has been haunting me ever since the last of the snow melted in Ithaca. While the dream has yet to come true, I can finally say I feel satisfied. After weeks of tirelessly searching for morels, Monday around dusk I found a lone, juicy black morel when I was least expecting it. I don’t think a full second was able to pass before I let out a reflexive yelp, immediately followed by a howl. The mushroom was so pristine and beautiful that the idea of eating it sounded akin to consuming a rare orchid.

Ari gazes lovingly at his black morel

I could not help but wonder if my mind was playing tricks on me again, and I scanned the adjacent ground to check for the veritable flood of morels that had fooled me so many times in my dreams. For the first time in my life, I was relieved to see that there were no more mushrooms in sight, and I began to come to terms with the fact that this morel might be for real. Nervously, I plucked the mushroom out of the ground and raised it to my nose. The cool flesh, intricately webbed texture and earthy aroma confirmed that my find existed in the firm realm of consensual reality.

I did not come prepared with a mushroom collecting basket, so I unzipped my coat pocket and gingerly placed the morel inside.  I spent a few more minutes looking for morels to no avail; then, as the sky grew dark, I proudly marched back to my car, past a territorial mother Canada Goose who scowled at my barking dog. A few times on the walk back, I felt my pocket – just to make sure the morel was really there.