Conditions to Thrive
Fungi desire a particular set of environmental conditions in which they thrive and expose their fruiting bodies that present in every color and shape. These conditions can be replicated in mushroom growing operations, sometimes using caves, cellars or just incredibly climate controlled industrial spaces. In natural landscapes these conditions are the result of changing climate, weather, light exposure and so many more micro-conditions to list here which are the results of the continuous miracle and renewal of nature. When contemplating a massive hole in a tree that is now and will be a nest until the tree is felled or falls, what machine of mankind could match the digestive abilities of fungi.
Knows no Boundaries
As these conditions become closer to perfect for fungal fruiting, the fungal family starts to show up throughout the spring, summer and fall months. As these conditions shift with changing seasons around the world, waves of growth persist. It’s easy to imagine a network of vast roots systems where many times the amount of apparent organisms are thriving together unseen and mostly undisturbed by surface life. Information passes throughout these systems and send messages and genetic material far and wide. Since the fungal reproduction is not as cut and dry as male and female binary, it is easy to imagine that spores get shot through the stratosphere surfing through climate zones and weather to land on an unsuspecting food source that another similar enough organism has also made home. The fast growing track of identifying new species could be a documentation of evolution in real time.
Traditional Knowledge in the Instant Information Age
Knowledge of the fungal world is a trait that is traditionally passed down intergenerationally. A global world with migrating populations is a threat to this traditional knowledge, especially considering that some mushrooms like Gyromitra Korfii has been known to be prepared despite the danger its toxicity poses, so you need to know how to identify and how to prepare in many cases. The matsutake as described in The Mushroom at the End of the World by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing is a description of this commoditization playing out. The matsutake is cherished and valuable in Japan, however in the places that become to fulfill this demand, the mushroom has to pass through the hands of pickers, dealers, retailers and customers all within an extremely limited time window. Tsing describes the pickers as South East Asian from Cambodia, whose interaction with the mushroom is entirely economic opportunism. In this way, finding a mushroom beyond the obvious of where to search is a serendipitous endeavor that brings one to a crossroads of interest, space and time. Some of the more haughty may discount this approach and claim that any mushroom can be hunted if the hunter has the knowledge. I would agree, yet knowing where to look never guarantees a over ripe insect infested specimen, which happens all too quickly. The best antidote for the loss of traditional knowledge is a curious mind and pride not easily damaged.
Moving Across the World
The privileged experience of the globalized world that is accelerated by technological advances is one of endless consumption or goods and services. Food, clothes and travel have all become amenities that the privileged have become accustomed to. Fungi can do this without all of the fuss of the Anthropocene and in a way that has sustained their establishment throughout the globe. Some studies have emerged expressing that fungi’s method of reproduction challenges the basest concepts of compatibility and genetic exchange. As species move around the world on epic journeys or as stowaways or deliberately traded as international goods there is always an effect on where the life form ends up, for better or for worse. Invasive species that crowd out endemic or niche species pose a threat to how we understand and organize our wild lands and natural landscape. It is however the hubris of humankind that does not trust in or allow the ecosystem to readjust and recover. Intensive management practices that dominate the world over are filled with well placed intentions of respected professionals within the limitations of their budgets and understanding. What would happen if the management perspective was protection and preservation rather than intervention? How can one fix a natural system?
The power of a seedling to take hold in concrete is a reflection of the pride of the Anthropocene. The march toward human driven climate change is self-evident and presents threatening prospects in real time. The change is happening and it is here, but the power of nature to regenerate, recycle, self-regulate is underestimated in the debate because of the serious consequences for the lives of humans. It is easy to imagine a bleak future in which civilization is collapsed because of ecosystem collapse, and the image of the plants growing through human cities is uncanny. I imagine an alternate future where nature has taken over with people snuggly tucked into their ecological and communal niches. The imaginative exercise is limited by the culture that drives the behaviors of excess consumption, dominion and destruction, but the sustainability utopia is fun to think about. Now, from my own myopic perspective, the Anthropocene is the only version of the world I have ever known, and I imagine how life would have been in ancient times when this process was in its nascent stages.
Time-Lapse Photography reveals something about organic matter that is striking from this unique perspective. Everything is in a process, a plant moves with the direction of light, a piece of fruit decays as it waits in a kitchen to be consumed. The perspective of occupying time does not allow this perspective to be easily observed but with a tool, we are able to grasp this truth. The process speaks to the dynamism of constant and relentless change. As we move through the physical sphere and pass the time that changes us, it may be more difficult to discern what is happening in a particular moment rather than the sum of many moments. To get stuck in the moment is to have anxiety, and to move through the movement with awareness is to be in the moment. There are so many methods that help to achieve this fleeting perspective, meditation, yoga, exercise, altered states of consciousness and travel, there about as many as there are people. This flow state of being is one of pure faith. It is worthy to seek.
It Can Be Found in a Mushroom
Aside from the obvious, the inspiration extracted from the life form and style of the fungus world is one of adaptation, diversity and variety, ambiguity, macro and micro and without a doubt beauty. One of my pursuits in these diatribes are to inspire one to get outside and open their senses to the world around. There is so much the is skipped over just by not engaging the senses. Next time you bring yourself into the natural landscape, shift your focus from one sense to another and follow any impulse the you may have whether physical, emotional or spiritual especially if it involves sound. Find spots that resonate with you and draw you in. Stay there for a while. As the senses adjust and sharpen, the vision may be expanded and the experience of the place enhanced. Try to attain a sense of home right where you are. If successful then that sense of home will persist in any new place or community.
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