The Morel of the Story

I’m disgusted with myself.

I’ve heard about mushroom hunting all my life and morels have always been renowned as the most desirable. Like ginseng or slippery elm, they’re sought after in secretive locations and sold for a high price at farmer’s markets. Most never make it to market and a good hunter never gives up his honey hole. Good stewardship to each year’s harvest, similar to hunting ramps, is absolutely paramount to the next year’s crop.

If you’ve never tasted a morel, well, you’re missing out. It has a nutty flavor and a meaty texture. Culinary experts will tell you a thousand ways to eat them, the old timers know butter is best. I’ve only tasted morels twice in my life. They are well worth the search so I’m told…

I’ve only ever found one and it was a singular cap alongside my Granny’s old driveway.

Which brings me back to my disgust. Morels have apparently come out a little earlier than expected this year and my news feed has been flooded with pictures of their highly coveted caps. I’ve been looking forward to this time of year since, well, last April…and the April before that and the one before that. I’ve scoured the woods, different areas each year, using different suggested strategies. I’ve found countless other plants, flowers and trees and become pretty proficient at identification of common and some uncommon plants. I promised myself this would be the year. At this point I have another week or two of peak morel hunting before I’ll have to hang up my quest for another year. WHY CAN’T I FIND A MOREL?

My frustration as I walked another stretch of woods today made me think about a similar story of frustration and unmet goals and I thought I’d share it with you. My cousin from Virginia used to drive through the night to KY to come fish Cave Run Lake for muskie. As soon as he got his license and a car, the hunt was on. He had spent his childhood summers fishing on ponds, pay lakes and creeks all over KY. I was always too little and impatient for his kind of fishing but he would come back to our grandparents with fascinating tales of the one that got away. He was and still is one of the greatest story tellers I’ve ever known. He would animate the whole scene, pretending to hold a rod and reel and fight the beast at the other end or retrieve his favorite Rapala lure from a treacherous branch in deep water. I would listen, partly amused, mostly in awe of his adventures. He was an incredible and experienced fisherman, fishing the waters of the Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay and North Carolina’s rivers and streams when he wasn’t in KY. He had caught some of the most beautiful and difficult to land fish with the expertise of a professional but he could not seem to conquer the Muskie capitol of the world.

As the years slipped away into adulthood, he didn’t make it down to KY as often but when he did, he resumed his quest with a feverish obsession, a primal thirst for slaying the elusive muskie. What once was a childhood hobby had become a family joke. The muskie slayer had slain more rods and lures than fish in his time on Cave Run Lake.

To this day, I’m not sure he has caught a muskie. It doesn’t really matter to me. What he lacks in taxidermied trophy muskies, he makes up for in character. He conquered addiction a few years ago and now has a home, a wife and the most beautiful baby boy to show for it. He converted to Islam despite the current political and social environment and has found purpose and passion. He is the epitome of perseverance in most everything he does. He never took the easy path, he never lost his zeal and it has paid off in spades.

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook all the things we are great at and focus on the one thing we haven’t done and easier still to misunderstand how interconnected our quests are. For all those times my cousin sat on a bank and waited for a bite, he was being taught the patience and stillness that escaped him in other tasks. I imagine he learned how to sit with his thoughts and sort through a lot of what drove him in his younger, more reckless years. Maybe he learned how to continue on a quest despite adversity and failure. Or maybe he just learned how not to catch a muskie.

Sometimes it’s about the moral we find instead of the morel we were searching for.

Peace, Love and Cheesecake!!!

3 Replies to “The Morel of the Story

  1. I have never had the opportunity to lay my eyes or mouth on a morel. But I’m sure the day will come and it will be delicious. This is great. I love the tie-in to both stories and how you lead out to show that it isn’t the result but the continuation in the face of failure that creates wonderful surprises. Happy to see you writing again.

  2. I’m glad that your cousin is doing so well in his new life! And I hope that you are able to find morel mushrooms someday…I too have had trouble tracking and finding the elusive morel!

    I would love to have you share your post on Farm Fresh Tuesdays!

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