Photo via Wikimedia Commons Chanterelle

Chanty

From Passages North Issue 37, Spring 2016. Excerpt below.

Lift this cup and drink the scent of apricot and mud.

Of wet California winters in the rambling woodlands: red-berried toyon and blue hound’s tongue, madrone and bay laurel, oak and poison oak.

Cut through, the flesh is firm and white, the aroma also slightly peppery.

In profile, a fresh slice of chanterelle might remind of a horned skull, bleached in the desert, in a rain shadow, far from its natural clime.

Or Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowers: those intimate lines and pastels, which suggest unfolding. A mushroom is a likewise a fruiting body.

Most often, mushrooms are likened to male anatomy. Perhaps the chanterelle, more elegant and freeform, suggests the limits of metaphor.

That a chanterelle is a chanterelle is a chanterelle is a chanterelle.

No: It invites metaphor, and they multiply. As if by spore.

The Ancient Greeks made a wide, footed drinking vessel, the kantharos, with looping handles that rise above its lip; on the vessel’s side, human figures were often painted in black and orange, as if in procession around its curve.

Helmeted warriors with ornate shields and drawn swords; women in robes, pearls in their ears; pipers and harpists.

Above the lips, I mean. Meant to be held with two hands, carefully. Fired at a thousand degrees, thousands of years ago.

Many, many more.

Chanterelle, the French diminutive: “little cup.”

They’re found on every continent except Antarctica. More than ninety species, several of which exist on multiple continents.

Anzutake, in Japan: apricot mushroom. Pfifferling, in Germany: little pepper. In the Valle de México, the Nahuatl say xochilnanácatal: flower mushroom.

The nude sporocarp, of course, is only temporary, an offering of the buried organism, the near invisible mycelium running through the soil with filaments known as hyphae.

From the Greek huphe, “web.”

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