it’s a bright morning after unsettled weather, I enter the Glen meaning to make contact with the birches as I have begun drawing a book on the first tree of the Celtic Calendar and of the Ogham alphabet, the magical white barked silver Birch is the tree for the first consonant, Beith. I have forced myself into this in the need to have ‘something to show’ from my time on the project, and as part of a correspondence with Bec down under. As well as marking my entry point into the Glen, the Birch tree signifies my winter beginning running from solstice to solstice. I approach my portal tree and pull back the bark a little, exposing its pink and tender inside and, peeling off its morse dash scroll, I find it still harbours life as an earwig drops out. Last January, when I did the same, it was a shield beetle who fell. Impatient, I stroll on to the bigger birch with her triskel of silver trunks. I’m looking for material to draw and as i stand here with that intention I can’t help feeling I’m forcing something. I stand here loving her long horizontal arms reaching out, spindly from the dividing trunks, I am here simply as witness to the way she stretches out and holds the light an invitation to simply do as she does, be here standing in the light reaching out, I feel a dance a song a whisper an urge to join in.
While here I catch a glimpse of something under the beeches, that could be litter, however, moving closer I see its a massive mushroom, with a wavy edge and I am delighted by its trumpet form. It smells pleasantly mushroomy and leaves a strong buttery scent on my fingers where I have touched it. I put out feelers and I am informed it could be the edible delicacy known as The Millar (Clitopilus prunulus) I am delighted with the name – so apt for one found here in the Glen of the seven mills. I look up The Millar online and hear about its distinct smell: doughy I am told on one website, or mealy or raw pastry…ah so… I find The Miller is also known as the Sweetbread Mushroom…. another website tells of a cucumber scent. My informant tells me to test it by checking for a pink spore print. I come back with a collecting box and gather up a broken portion of it. In my studio I make a spore print on green paper… just in case it really surprises me with a dark spore show. Then I forget about it until a day later and I find the spores have formed a thick slick ground which is not very obviously pink, and so I am wary of it. I have been informed that the Millar is often mistaken for the deadly Fool’s Funnel, (Clitocybe rivulosa) which yields a white print.