Sunday, December 12, 2010

I'm a Fungi. I mean a Fun Guy.

Each day the web of life becomes more sacred and more amazing to me.

I’m convinced that the lowly fungus may be not only the largest, but perhaps also among the oldest and most intelligent life form on Earth.

Here, from Wiki:

“Is this the largest organism in the world? This 2,400-acre (9.7 km2) site in eastern Oregon had a contiguous growth of mycelium before logging roads cut through it. Estimated at 1,665 football fields in size and 2,200 years old, this one fungus has killed the forest above it several times over, and in so doing has built deeper soil layers that allow the growth of ever-larger stands of trees. Mushroom-forming forest fungi are unique in that their mycelial mats can achieve such massive proportions.”

—Paul Stamets, Mycelium Running

Under our feet in the forest are vast mats of fungi forming fecund soil in ever deeper layers. This soil grows trees. Trees produce food and oxygen for parasitic animal life—our kin—that fascinate us so. Is it not accurate to call animals parasites?

What do the fungi know? I suspect they know a great deal. I know that fungi can undo some of the toxins and compounds that our chemical engineers concoct and render them useful to life again. According to Wiki:

“One of the primary roles of fungi in an ecosystem is to decompose organic compounds. Petroleum products and pesticides that can be contaminants of soil are organic molecules. Therefore, fungi should have potential to remove such pollutants from the soil environment, a process known as bioremediation.”

Though I haven’t experimented personally, others report learning things from eating psilocybin mushrooms. According to Wikipedia, again,

“61% of subjects reported a "complete mystical experience" after their psilocybin session, while only 13% reported such an outcome after their experience with methylphenidate [Riralin]. Two months after taking psilocybin, 79% of the participants reported moderately to greatly increased life satisfaction and sense of well-being.”

Is the fungal genetic code vastly larger than our own? I don’t think anyone knows, but I suspect that it is.

(We know that trees have more genes than humans, a lot more. See my post, “Why I Listen to Trees.”)

Are fungi our truest Mother? Are trees her dendrites?

Here’s a poem my friend Sandy shared at our Meeting:


how long ago
is the voice you hear
stopping in silence
among their big
weights rising

how thousand
the breathing years
& years
the damp rolling
off their trunks

misty cloud
in the light
of a millionth
green moss

how old the fingers
that weave
the bark
red gray ridges
swirling & fraying
higher higher

how vast the hands
that cup the
sheltering needles
into sky & hold
through merciful
breezes & violent

miles & miles of clouds
racing the globe
drop their stories
in the web of
sky spidering
green always

the redwoods
drop the stories
from far away
with the wet needle
drip of close
close fog

mingle them with
billions whispered
under their shade
told by tender tracking
roots conversing
with mycelium acres

tiny human
when silent
among the fire resistant
trunks attended by
fern & lichen & sorrel
you can hear the forever
of past joking with

the simple
call of jay or
fugue of raven
flash of bolete or
shimmer of tan oak
in the skittering

becomes significant
as the first ever

eloquent as the
very last word

a salvation
unto itself
& all our

—sandy eastoak

Let me give Rumi the last word here:

Love is not condescending, never that,
nor books, nor any marking on paper,
nor what people say of each other.

Love is a tree
with branches reaching into eternity
and roots set deep in eternity,
and no trunk.

Have you seen it? The mind cannot.
Your desiring cannot.

The longing you feel for this love
comes from inside you.

When you become the Friend,
your longing will be as the man in the ocean
who holds to a piece of wood.

Eventually, wood, man, and ocean
become one swaying being,
Shams Tabriz, the secret of God.


sandy eastoak




Ruth said...

Dan, I've been in love with mycelium ever since reading Paul Stamets a couple years ago. I blogged about it. This organism, that can clean up the worst pollution, is beyond imagining. The potential has to be fantastic, and why we aren't using it more, I don't understand. I wonder if Janine Benyus has explored it in Biomimicry.

As Ms. Eastoak's beautiful poem implies, we tiny humans might come and go, even permanently at some point, but the ancient earth will recover itself.

My husband is in the process of slicing discs of an old dead ash tree for his 4th graders to decorate into Christmas ornaments. Such dense wood, brought down by the emerald ash borer. He plans to pause a while with the students before they paint them, to look at the wood and contemplate the age, etc.

steven said...

nature as a whole - of which humans are one small part - is one vast mind. there are no levels or greater thans, no more importants or better thans. there are thoughts and knowings and understandings that sustain the allness of everything.
the poems are exquisite dan. you keep talented and insightful company. i know they think the same when they think of you in their lives!! steven

Ruth said...

I see you added the Rumi after your original posting. Trees. And their spirits. Have much to teach us.

Dan Gurney said...

Ruth, I have only read excerpts from Paul Stamets book. Perhaps I'll read it in the coming weeks by the fire. I join you in the feeling of awe toward this particular life form. And, yes, as for trees and their spirits: they do have much to teach us. This I feel quite plainly.

Dan Gurney said...

steven, thank you. I agree with you that the comparing mind misses the lessons nature wishes to teach us about the actual nature of life's web. It's all connected. Everything is important.

Paul C said...

the redwoods
drop the stories
from far away
with the wet needle
drip of close
close fog

mingle them with
billions whispered
under their shade
told by tender tracking
roots conversing
with mycelium acres

How I enjoy this poem especially after experiencing these rain forests this last fall. Wonderful post.

Dutchbaby said...

2,400 acres of fungi? Holy mackerel!

I do believe that old trees exude a grand presence. There is a very large, old California buckeye on the path that my husband and I walk every weekend. I have taken countless pictures of it because it changes every time I see it. I posted a picture of it for Thanksgiving 2009, but one day I hope to do a more complete post of this beautiful tree.

Dan Gurney said...

Yes, Paul, that's right, you were in our neck of the woods last summer. And you're the sort of person who stops long enough to hear the wisdom/music of the redwoods as they are! I am amazed by Sandy's poetry. It just sends me.

Dan Gurney said...

I love buckeye trees! They're among my favorite trees, partly because of the fact that they blossom so enthusiastically just as summer is about to get underway. I'll go have a look at your TGD 2009 post.