Kirie C. Pedersen

A perfect day for chanterelles


“The female tends to pick the same mate year after year….” –Daniel Mathews, Cascade-Olympic Natural History


In the combination of autumn warmth and recent rain, it was a perfect day to hunt chanterelles. With my golden retriever and collie, I headed up the trail. At the fork, I found fresh scats: a cluster of fur and toenails, the remains of vole or shrew or feral cat. From hours and miles of forest walking, seeking to soothe the recent warp of my parents’ deaths, I was tuned to the dogs on some atavistic level. We had become a pack. A few hundred feet up the trail, when the dogs’ hair stood up, their ears full forward, I snapped both dogs onto one leash. The coyote directly above me on the trail was tawny and strong, ears erect. In the Olympic forests, I’ve spotted red fox, bobcat, deer, elk, mountain goats, cougar, and myriad smaller mammals. Twice, on trails or while bushwhacking, I’ve encountered bears and cubs at close range. Although I’ve seen coyotes many times, they tend to avoid humans, and this was my first direct encounter. For just one moment, she stared into my eyes, and then she leapt off the trail into the huckleberry and salal. When I returned to our tent, my harvest of chanterelles tied to my belt in a cloth sack, Matthew touched my forehead. “She’s your new spirit guide,” he said. “Maybe there’s hope.” He laughed, and then I laughed too. The sound surprised me. In that time of ravenous grief, any laughter was medicine.


Kirie C. Pedersen lives on the saltwater fjord of Hood Canal in Washington State, where she’s spent much of her life wandering trails and rocky cliffs. Her writing appears in literary magazines and journals.