Thursday, September 30, 2010

At the Bottom of the Garden

When I was little I knew there was a bear at the bottom of the garden. Probably a grizzly. Huge. Scary. Big claws. Big teeth. My mother, oblivious to the peril she was in, would wander about the wilder bits of the garden - it was fairly wild in those days, with the remains of an old air-raid shelter - with apparently no fear of being eaten.

And she never was eaten. The garden, however, was tidied up over the years. I expect the bear moved out, and was replaced by dahlias.

However, yesterday I saw that a little bit of wildness had crept back in and here it is:

Something's been eating it a bit and probably has a stomach-ache by now, if it's what I think it is, which is a fly agaric, because they're poisonous.

Here's another one that's nearby, which has also been nibbled a bit:

They are quite large - several inches across. I can see why they feature so largely in fairy stories - they look slightly unreal, surrounded by all the autumn green and brown. They're like a strange, plastic toy that dates from thousands of years before the days of plastic.

I like a bit of wildness in the garden. Though I'm glad to remember the old poem:

"There are no wolves in England now, nor are there any bears.
You could not meet one after dark upon the nursery stairs."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a theory that fly agaric mushrooms are the source of the Santa Claus story. In pre-Christian Lappland shamans used to eat them, the poisons in the mushroom producing first a coma and then strong hallucinogenic effects, which is said to be the origin of flying reindeer. When Christian missionaries arrived they assimilated these myths into the legend of Saint Nicholas, using the red and white of the mushroom's cap as the colour scheme for Santa Claus.
So now you know.

9:02 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

Wow, Ailsa, what a great story - I didn't know that but will retell it for ever now! Thank you!

9:04 pm  

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