Marvelous Mushroom Magic
Wowsers. My daily dog walk, a familiar loop traveled easily hundreds, maybe even a couple thousand times, is suddenly a wealth of new and delightful discoveries. Practically every color in the rainbow, ranging in size from a handful of millimeters to a couple feet, the treasure is everywhere. What are these amazing new woods dwellers? Mushrooms, of course, pushing out of the moist earth after weeks and weeks of drought. It’s astonishing to see how much diversity has emerged, quite literally overnight, and how much change happens each day.
I am not a mycologist or even a forager. There are fantastic mycological resources here in Maine if you are interested in exploring mushrooms in this way. (I’d start with the Maine Mycological Society–I don’t know any of them personally, but their website is mainelymushrooms.org and that’s just silly enough to be satisfying.) We are also lucky to have plenty of foragers in our region offering classes and walks appropriate for newbies and more experienced folks. Fantastic Fungi is a truly astonishing movie all about mycelium. The time lapse photography that documents how different types of mushrooms emerge is stunning. The scientific explanations of the power and reach of mycelium is equally amazing. (I will not do justice to the wonder of mycelium in this blog post. If you’d like to learn more, anything by author and mycologist Paul Stamets will be a great resource!)
Okay, but aren’t you a therapist? What does all this have to do with emotional well-being?
So true. I am not a scientist; I am a person who spends my days immersed in the experience of being human. And surrounded by countless new mushroom companions these days, my therapist mind goes to what these incredible creatures may help our human brains understand in this moment. One of the most delightful things about fungus for me is that the vast majority of their being is hidden from our sight. AND they exist and do amazing connectivity work under the soil all the time–not just when we can the see mushrooms. (If you haven’t heard of the wood wide web, now is a good time to watch a two minute video explaining this miracle we literally walk on top of every day.)
Did you just go back to science?
Whoops, I did. Sorry–mushrooms really are amazing from every angle. Returning to therapy! Often, a beautiful and vibrant piece of someone emerges during therapy. That piece may have always there, buried just underneath the surface. But for all sorts of reasons, the conditions weren’t right for it to show itself. (As I’m writing this, I’m not sure if my clients would appreciate being compared to fungus. I’m going to trust, though, that they know this comparison comes from a place of great reverence and appreciation for both the mycelium world and them!) Anyway, I love those moments when we get to see a new mindset, belief, skill, story, or attitude appear.
Sometimes, like the little tiny mushrooms pictured above that could be so easy to overlook if not paying attention, clients won’t even notice the treasure as it emerges. I love to slow them down, notice it with them, and reflect together on what this new thing looks and feels like. Noticing and reflecting on growth is a vital part of the process of growth.
Mushrooms don’t last long (here is where the metaphor fails a bit, as human growth surely does!). So I’m going to take these few mid-summer, post rain days to really slow down and appreciate all the fantastic fungi that are showing up in the ways my limited human senses can actually register. Like a little treasure hunt, I can spend some mindful time each time I go outdoors, seeking what is new and amazing in the fungal world. I’m also going to pause and appreciate wonders of what is underneath my feet; the complex web of mycelium connection, community, and conversation happening out my sight. While I’m out there, I’ll take some time to reflect on and appreciate human growth, too. Both the tangible growth and the foundation that lies underneath that growth. Maybe I’ll even think about what I really want to be nurturing in myself to generate growth. What conditions I need to cultivate in order for hidden parts of myself to emerge. How about you?