The cooler than usual summer has me thinking of the mushroom camps of British Columbia, working for $40 a day at a little roadside table, under the hemlock shade, listening to a cheap mono boombox as we sold to passers-by in the September migration; college kids heading back from Alaskan cannery adventures, retirees and their Recreation Vehicles - second homes as large as a Dakota schoolhouse - bikers, vets, hippies, Army families, and all sorts of assorted gypsy types I never could have imagined back East, sitting on the barstools of my youth.
The sun sets so much earlier than only a few weeks ago, and still the evening mellows for hours and hours, shadows moving east and slowly, stretching over the forest floor, the buckets, vats of pine mushrooms, bound for Japan, the morels, and the chanterelles - all surprisingly cool to the touch, smooth in your hand, earth become flesh.
And the tents. Four rows of four, Judy strung up lights between so as to resemble the tiniest of cities, jolly and glittering, we all sit around the picnic tables, around the little tape player. We had eight tapes; two Grateful Dead bootlegs, Hot Rocks by the Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground and Nico, some REM thing, a Nina Simone mix, and our favorite, Elvis Presley's Christmas album. And there we'd sit after a hard day, in the early autumn chill of the Great North Woods, under a string of lights, beside our precious tent city, listening to "Blue Christmas," simultaneously feeling as happy as elves and homesick as hell.
When the lights went out at eleven or so, you spent two weeks (and only two weeks) coming into my tent. Standing there in my memory, backed by the firelight we never let die, your skin was the exact color of the golden chanterelles we'd spend all day handling. Pushing into my sleeping bag, like a spade in the black earth, the smell of fungus so strong on us both, there was no way to tell which of us was which in the dark.