Grandpa and I hunted for mushrooms; he knew how to discern the poisonous ones from the edible ones. There was no way to photograph my finds as cameras were out of the reach of the proletariat. Few could afford or were able to buy a camera. When they did, then film was hard to find and developing it was equally expensive. It was not a hobby for the poor masses which was most of us.I loved the red colored poppies which could be found on the edge of the road and, in one particular case, I stumbled upon a wheat field which had a large crop of poppies in the middle. Unbeknownst to me, the crop of poppies and the field of wheat were guarded by a man with an ax. I am not sure if he was placed there by the communist party comrades or he did it on his own. All I remember that, as soon as we waded waist deep through the prickly field of wheat to reach the poppies, the axman appeared out of nowhere, started yelling and shaking his ax menacingly. We did not wait to talk to him, we ran away as fast as we could absolutely frightened to death.
Photo: Ileana Johnson 2016
As a child, I never understood Frank Baum’s reference to poppies and sleep in his book, The Wizard of Oz.
To this day, on our walks through the woods, especially after a soaking rain, I stop every time when I find a fascinating mushroom I’ve never seen before and photograph it, to the desperation of my husband who sees them all just as they are - a fungus among us. But they are more to me – they are medicinal cures, potential food, possible poison, botanical beauty, and fragility, waiting to be explored and admired.