Elfin Saddles and the Thinning of the Veil

It's mushroom season in Oregon.

It's a full-blown festival of mycelium and caps, and gills and primitive gills, and volvas and veils, and rings and spores. It's the fruit that comes after the rains. On Sunday, the Day of the Dead in many cultures, The Machinist and I took a quick trip to some nearby timberland for an hour or two of foraging. We found three rather poor looking Chanterelles and we came away with photos, wet knees, soaked shoes, a lighter step and lungs full of fungus enriched air.

Also yesterday, in the Northern European tradition, marked the beginning of winter.

We're just past Samhain, the celebration of the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the dark half of the year. The time of year when the veil is said to be thin, and we might communicate with our ancestors; those who have recently passed and those whose blood lines we may be connected to through the ages.

Mushrooms and darkness. Rain and remembrance.

I've been (quite informally) studying, observing, and casually foraging mushrooms for years. They're just so much a part of western Oregon's flora, fauna, and fungi that it can't be helped if you go out into the woods at all. But recently my appreciation for the significance of mushrooms has bloomed. Their importance to forest health cannot be overstated, and what fascinates me are recent studies and research into mychorrhizal associations between plants and fungus. Mushrooms facilitate a very real kind of forest internet which provides communication networks between plants and trees, can boost immune system responses, and even engage in "cyber crime" and sabotage. Read about it for yourself here on the BBC website: Plants Have a Hidden Internet.

Fungi have also been discovered turning pine trees into carnivores.

It blows. my. mind.

This weekend I spent some time in meditation on those who've been close to me who have died, recently and in the past. There is certainly sadness as a part of this meditative process, but when one puts our lives in the context of a world in which mycelium transmit information through underground networks in the soil, another possible world also opens up in our minds and imaginations in which we might be able to speak to our ancestors, however fanciful that notion is. 

And makes me think of how much is out there that is still a mystery, and how I'm happy to let the mystery be.