Last weekend, I went Mushroom hunting, on two distinct trips. One was on the outskirts of Kunming, China, with my hiking group. The mushrooms were like colorful skittles sprinkled on the top of a brownie. Bright as egg yolks, vivid red, a few rustic; others a swampy green or a dusty black.
There were even a few the size of pizzas.
The landscape was sprinkled with things you’d only see in China: old temples from the Qing dynasty and an occasional sofa. Lord only knows how a Lazy Boy knock-off ended up there. I didn’t take a photo. However, I did snap a few of a temple.
There were also sheep and a more shades of green than a box of Crayolas.
After hunting for mushrooms, our group brought our fungal bootie to a local restaurant to cook. The locals knew the ones that were poisonous or just bad tasting.
It was a fun escape for a day. No, the crumbling brick structure is not the restaurant.
The other Mushroom hunt I went on was for my cat, also named Mushroom, otherwise known as my fuzzy couch potato.
He waddled out of my apartment with the help of my black cat. I keep my door propped open this time of year, as there is no ventilation and the muggy heat has been stifling.
But as the breeze came in, my fat Mushroom snuck out, which surprised me, as he is the ultimate scare-dee cat. Mushroom was missing for two long days, days marked with monsoon-like rain. I was for certain that he was gone, but I had no idea where.
I live on the eighth floor of an apartment building in the Nine Summer Clouds xiao qu, pronounced show as in shower que and in cue. It’s a Chinese word residential complex, my building being one of eighteen, er uh, clouds. Now this residential complex is small on a Chinese scale. I had a friend whose massive residential complex had close to a thousand buildings, reminding me of one of those domino mazes you watch on YouTube.
Now if I got lost in one of China’s massive neighborhoods, I have a phone with GPS to navigate my way out of the maze. But if you’re a one-eyed cat with a chubby butt? Good luck!
I was heartbroken with Mushroom’s disappearing act and so was Peter, my black cat. He pawed at the door, our glances meeting, his yellow eyes conveying guilt.
Peter cried by the door for two days while I got up at four in the morning to mushroom hunt. According to cat websites, that’s the best to search lost felines because it is still, and you can wake up all of your neighbors.
I felt guilty for the sadness I had, considering the other disasters happening in the world: the fires in Maui, the death of a friend’s mom, the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine. And what do I waste my tears on? A feline that leaves hair everywhere. I wasn’t going to waste God’s time with such a stupid prayer.
Instead, I made a sign for my cat in simple Chinese. I posted it in my elevator.
Low and behold, my artwork worked.
I got a call on my phone, and not from the COVID police or a Chinese telemarketers–which there are plenty–but an excited man. As he spoke rapid-fire Chinese, the only words I recognized were māo (cat)– and my unit’s location, the eighth floor, 八楼 bā lóu.
A few moments later, there was a knock on my door. It was the man from the phone call. He lived two floors below, in an apartment identical to mine. Mushroom got confused and ran into his apartment, hiding under his bed between old boxes and huge spools of wire.
I retrieved my chubby Mushroom.
The hunt is over.
And no, this variety of mushroom is not edible.