Saturday, October 3, 2009

Rättvik, Sweden, Part 3; 21-28 September, 2009

In my last entry from my month in Rättvik, I shall deal with a few scraps. During this time, I was able to make some progress on my various writing projects, but most significantly, I began to become an amateur mycologist.

Mycology Made Easy

Dangerously armed with the little knowledge I gleaned from Ylva and Göran, I began to scour the local hills for mushrooms. Thanks to meticulous attention to sensory detail, and careful deductive reasoning, I am able to impart to you the best and safest methods of mushroom identification. This first method is called “chomp-and-wait” and involves uprooting any suspect mushroom, making sure to get as much of the fleshy foot as possible, using your trusty mycologist’s brush to clean off any nasty debris, and then taking a massive bite.

Here I am, having a taste of the fly agaric, the mushroom supposedly eaten by Vikings to inspire their berserker sprees… At this point in your process of enquiry, ponder your situation. Are you feeling faint, vomiting, feeling the need to sack and pillage and/or bepelt yourself in bear? Can you actively feel your kidneys being eaten from the inside? These are generally bad signs and tell you that you should move on to other mushrooms. I actually found one of these “bad signs” near a trail.

The most failsafe method, however, is, as with quality cleaning products, to look at the label. Here, I demonstrate the inky cap (Coprinus Cominus) mushroom, also known as the lawyer’s wig. As you can see below, it earns its name, and it doesn’t take long to know that this one is A-Okay!

Follow the advice of Alice in Wonderland and Weird Al Yankovic, and just eat it. Here, you can see my mushroom harvest from one of my trips.


I also found one last bit of graffiti for the file: this, so simple, so friendly, on the main strip of Rättvik:

The Ladies

During one of my hikes out to the Bysjön, a lake not too far from my stugby, I came across these signs along the trail.

Finally, I would achieve my secret goal in going to Sweden: to find the mythical Swedish Ladypath, which would of course lead me to the mythical Swedish Ladies. Sure, we hear the tales, whispered over campfires when we are young; we joke about it in the locker room, belying our burning adolescent hopes; everyone learns in their History classes of Svenrige the Unwieldy, who withdrew Sweden from the Union of Kalamari with Denmark and Norway during the Great Squid Famine of 1523, to conserve his resources and and yet maintain the official policy that stands to this day, the right of all Swedes to roam the countryside freely, to camp wherever one is not being offensive, and on any land that is not farmland or someone’s garden, to pick berries, mushrooms, wildflowers, and mythical Ladies.

Well, after so much anticipation, I had stumbled across the mythical Ladypath. I followed the signs (while adjusting my coiffure) saw some footprints showing evidence of recent activity, checked the fewmets—nice and fresh—and knew the Ladies couldn’t be too far off. In and out through the winding paths, bouncing from spongy moss to spongy moss, over the liver and through the goods, I followed the signs…but all to no avail (I found out later from Göran that the occasional snickering I heard was probably the mythical deadly hooded snickering Swedish mushroom, not, apparently, a close relation to the mythical Ladies). Perhaps the stories I had heard were just that: stories, invented to placate itchy young men.

[note: later, the Sundmarks enlightened me as to the meaning of these signs. Apparently, this is the symbol for a mine, though why it is identical to the female sign was beyond our ken. Anyone? Anyone?]
[note #2: still later, I heard from Björn, who told me that the symbol was specifically for copper, and it is associated with Venus]

On 28 September, after a month in Rättvik, I had to say goodbye to my cottage, my mushrooms and lingonberries... On to Malmö for my last lecture!

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