Finding the fountain of youth in backyard
New Year's is a wonderful time, but -- like all such joyful things -- it has a particular sadness. Even in the heat of this year's New Year's Eve revelry, I caught myself frantically counting down years on my fingertips. "Let's see," I said, poin...
New Year's is a wonderful time, but -- like all such joyful things -- it has a particular sadness.
Even in the heat of this year's New Year's Eve revelry, I caught myself frantically counting down years on my fingertips.
"Let's see," I said, pointing to my index and my middle. "Two new years from now, I'll 20. In 12 (10 fingers and 2 toes), I'll be 30."
Is that really possible? I'll be getting old by 30, especially if I don't start slowing down my pace a little. What a horrible age to reach, the end of youth and nothing to look forward to but wrinkles and retirement and the inevitable helpless rocking chair years.
I woke up on New Year's Day determined to find something to stop time's wastage on me, or at least slow it down. A little Internet research told me that I wouldn't need to look much further than my own backyard, and no further than a neighbor's.
The fountain of youth, as it turns out, is not over the rainbow or in a mountainside or the stuff of fairy tales. It grows on birch trees and closely resembles a fire-burnt horse turd.
Chaga is a little known mushroom which packs many times the antioxidants of more famous (and admittedly, tasty) super foods like strawberries and prunes. It is often consumed as a tea, but some find it more palatable mixed into a liqueur.
I set out with my dad on New Year's Day looking for Chaga in a next-door neighbor's sprawling woods. Our eyes glistened red in the morning sun and we struggled with our skis and gazed into the forest, not dense and dark but bright with morning's glow and singing of magic and possibility.
The woods only became more celestially surreal as we made our way into them, frolicking between rays of sunlight like frogs on a lily pad. It was the type of scene, bristling with life and harp music and morning's warm energy, where a man feels that the bitter, cold days have been lived and situations are only going to get better.
These areas of the woods were surely inspirational, but they hardly brimmed with Chaga. We only scrounged up a few small chunks in an hour -- just enough to whet our appetite for more. We continued on the blessed trail for a while, only because the thought of being anywhere else was so depressing.
But we soon realized that in order to find anything worthwhile, we must ski into the shadows of the valley of death -- the obscure places reeking of wet leaves and deer carcass where the sun doesn't shine and the dirty fungi thrive. Such is life, I thought as we broke off the blessed path and headed downward, into the deathly hallows. Nothing productive ever happens in the pleasant areas.
Though my father and I could barely see, we soon found enough Chaga to fill our bags. And so we crept back into the sunrise and headed home to fill our cups with the elixir of everlasting youth. Will it work? I guess I won't know until I get old.
Nathan Kitzmann is a senior at Detroit Lakes High School.