I received a package in the mail Saturday which led me on a merry little goose chase of no consequence. In the padded manila envelope was a copy of Alaska's Mushrooms by Harriette Parker. This slim volume contains basic information on 35 different mushrooms commonly found in Alaska, many of which are edible, some of which definitely are not. There was no accompanying paperwork in the envelope, and the return address was for someone I'd never heard of in Rockford, IL.
I assumed it had been sent in response to my recent blog post in which I mentioned that I didn't have a book about mushrooms. My friend Mandy had sent me an Amazon link to this book with the thought that it might be a good birthday present for me, but my birthday isn't until December, so I didn't think it was from her.
Thane and I did an internet search for the return address, and came up with a 73-year-old man in Illinois who was retired from something I don't remember, and whose e-mail address matched the "name" in the return address on the envelope. A scary amount of information given that all we had was a street address! A lot of information, but nothing that helped identify the sender since the man's name rang no bells for me.
I enjoyed speculating for a while on who could have sent the package. It was amusing and gratifying to think that someone had read my post and spontaneously decided to send me a book. Indeed, this is what happened, but it wasn't the stranger of my imagination - it was dear Mandy. The gift is no less sweet for having been sent by a friend, but I have to admit that acknowledging I didn't have a secret admirer was a bit of a let down. Silly me!
It was fun to receive an anonymous gift, however, and it's making me reconsider an action on which I haven't yet decided. It wasn't a big plan, just a thought of anonymously sending a small monetary gift to a friend in need. I wasn't sure if doing so would be appreciated or would be insulting. Certainly the latter would never be my intent, and I would hate to make this person feel diminished as a provider for the family. I would like to help, though, since I am able. Dilemas and decisions.
In general, in this world of Facebook and e-mail, I don't think any of us get enough real mail. Bills and advertisements definitely do not count! I'm as bad as anyone about sending a quick happy birthday message on Facebook rather than sending a card. I've pretty much given up on Christmas cards, even ones with photocopied here's-what-we've-been-up-to-this-year letters. Every once in a while I tell myself I'm going to start sending cards or postcards to friends just for the heck of it, but then I decide they have to be handmade with one-of-a-kind watercolor paintings or something and the whole thing just becomes overwhelming. Again, silly me! I'll try to do better.
On a side note, if you're looking for a book about Alaska's mushrooms, this is not the one I'd recommend, especially if you're interested in harvesting edible mushrooms. A quick perusal of the recommendations on Amazon showed that many readers agreed with me. The book simply does not contain enough information to allow one to definitively identify the mushrooms, especially if there are edible/inedible species that are similar in appearance. It's great if all you're looking for is a quick, general ID of common 'shrooms, though. Luckily for me, this weekend also brought to my attention that one of my acquaintances is an experienced 'shroomer, so I'll have to take advantage of her expertise sometime soon.