product protects fragile things – including the environment.
With 140,000 viewers, I watch artist Jae Rhim Lee’s TED talk,
“My Mushroom Burial Suit.” Lee designed “ninja pajamas” infused
with “infinity mushrooms,” fungi that are bred to compost the body,
toxins and all, healing the earth with each death.
Alone, I stream writer Michael Pollan’s radio talk, “The Trip Cure,”
about the use of psilocybin mushrooms by cancer patients. Through a
single, guided cosmic experience, participants transform their mortal
fear into connection, serenity, and joy.
What is this intimacy we share with mushrooms? I find Ari
Rockland-Miller, 30, seasoned mycophile, guide, and writer, through
his website, The Mushroom Forager. At their home in Brattleboro,
his wife Jenna Antonino DiMare appears with a bowl of morels,
pocked and fragrant, from the weekend’s foray. Rockland-Miller
begins with the growing certainty of where, how, and when to hunt.
There’s the morel rain, maitake rain, and the chanterelle rain:
the rain that summons the season. You develop the intuition and
then the anticipation. To follow the passage of the mushrooms, I
read the landscape. Pattern language is also part of it: for morels,
an ash tree, a transition, plus the month of May. Patterns involve
ecology and timing, and the nuances of a specific place.
I crave that sensation. Mushrooming is different from birding. It
is a similar pursuit of a wild, enigmatic organism. But with
mushrooming you often end up eating it, so there’s literally, the
merger of mushrooms and your body. There’s that intimacy.
You’re solely in the moment, almost becoming wild yourself.
Even with species I forage year after year, there’s a calling.
Is it the mycelium calling something inside of me? Why do they
taste so good? Why do they entice us and draw us in? Maybe
they want to be consumed, maybe they want us to spread their
spores. Who knows? A deep-down, primal part of me enjoys
foraging. Maybe it’s an evolutionary-interconnection, but there
is something very rewarding about getting back in touch with
that hunter-gatherer mindset.
In 1989, I highlighted “fruiting body” in the Audubon field guide
because the metaphor confirmed my theory: there is always more
to life than meets the eye. Invisible alliances and communal labor
nurture each choice mushroom and invention. I’ve foraged language
far longer than fungi. I walk the forest deep in conversation. Still the
fruiting body of a poem emerges as a little miracle – “chanterelle: trill
of the thrush made edible.”
Verandah Porche is a poet and writing partner based in Guilford, Vermont. Her recent work
includes Sudden Eden and Shedding Light on the Working Forest.
From the top: The first morels of 2017. Bioluminescent Jack O’Lanterns. A lobster on the