Mind of a Mushroom Hunter

Standing with both feet planted on my backyard patio, I breathed in the fresh air and began listening to the audio provided by our professors, trying to calm myself into a meditative state. As I wiggled my toes in my shoes, I could feel the soil pushing up on my feet, a subtle reminder that we were built and supported from the ground up (pun intended). I was standing in a place between our worlds, as our professors put it, a place between the past that came before and the future that I was yet to uncover. With that, I began to hunt for objects that would symbolize our connection with the mycelium, and thus each other.

Something strange that struck me about mycelium was how they seemed like Nature’s trailblazers — always the first to welcome new life into a world previously ravaged by natural disasters, or the first to welcome a departed soul into the afterlife through decomposition. Although my backyard contained no fungi (it was rather dry) I spotted a lone sapling, crawling its way through the barren soil, that fit this description. It was the first and only of its kind, taking instant control of a land completely devoid of life to spin new stories and support new generations yet to come.

Prompted by the recording, I then set out to find objects that would symbolize our vast branching connections to each other. I found this in the mesmerizing veins of some planted vegetable leaves, as well as a fluffy weed I could only describe as a bottlebrush. In both cases, the complicated structures that dazzled my eyes stemmed from the very bottom of the plant, where the origins were grossly inconspicuous. While the bottlebrush looked aggressive with its pointed tendrils and prickly nature, the leaf seemed to exude an air of peace and even wisdom as it waved in the breeze. There was so much to discover within these interconnected networks. Each was so different, but yet felt related whether by design, shape, or identity. I instantly felt connected to these two objects of interest. The vegetables were something my mother often prepared as a side dish during meals, and the bottlebrush was a natural plaything I often plucked as a child and used as a dart due to its unique aerodynamic properties. As I gazed at these plants, waves of old memories came flooding back — memories of me throwing the bottlebrush darts for my dog to chase after, and recollections of me enjoying the red-veined vegetables. I felt like at that moment I was truly at a point between the past and the future, and interconnected with the roots that had formed my life from the start.

I decided to end my journey with a trip back to the present by taking in one of the things that rooted myself to the present day. This took place in the form of a trip to my pet rabbit’s outdoor cage where he often enjoyed the fresh grass that grew at his feet as well as the soft embrace of the sun. As I watched him excitedly nuzzle my hand, I was reminded of the relationships that connected me with my family, my pets, and those around me. This was a touching end to a mystical adventure about the unseen bonds that connected us to each other, nature, and beyond.

The intricacies surrounding this week’s topic took me completely by surprise. Never had I thought of mushrooms and mycoplasma as anything beyond growths of plant flesh that were sometimes invisible to the naked eye, sometimes poisonous, sometimes deadly, and yet sometimes delicious. But this week’s lecture and exploration challenged me to think deeper past the surface-level understandings we all have for our mycelium-based friends, to the roots that connect us all together as one.