Here's what we mean: mushrooms are cool these days. Lots of people are reading lots, learning lots. Yay. One of the fun facts you can read is this: basic fungal physiology reveals that what we take to be an individual --a single button mushroom for instance in a baseball field--is the fruiting body of a vast underground symbiotic web that makes up "the fungi".... there really is no "individual" until you take your mushrooming knife out and slice it free of that mass of vitality it is being oozed up from at a shocking rate after rains. There are rumours of "the biggest single organism" in the world being a single "honey mushroom organism" (Armellaria) that basically runs underneath the entire state of Oregon. An organism....But more to the point of successful hunting, and an even bigger mind fuck is this: even that ooze of fungal webby acentric vitality that we call "an organism" is not "an individual." fungi are always a part of a chunk of nature interstitial connectivity with dozens of others beings... beings of weather, bird life, forest life, water flow .... so entwined and in tune that it's likely more accurate to talk about mushrooms as 'osmotic becomings.' No beginning, no end and no purity of type: everything is crossing the species "barrier" and the biological-physical system barrier: spilling and burping and decomposing and hijacking and farting and flowing matter, energy, colour, singing.
To know that is to start to be able to "find" your dinner. All mushrooms are embedded chunk of livingness. And that chunk of nature is very very precise to each sort of mushroom. We could say it is a living signature. The ongoing relationalities of a given type of mushroom is its signature. If you can learn to read an ecological signature, you can find mushrooms anytime, anywhere.Mushrooms always "happen" on or in or near or with clusters of other natural phenomena with an incredible regularity of patterns of relations. This is the second truth. In a mushroom guidebook, you'll read something like this: "X are found on standing sugar maple." "Y are found on newly downed sugar maple". "Z are found on decomposing sugar maple." That's not incidental information, padding the book with useless nods to beloved sugar maples: it's actually information about X, Y and Z. So the first rule of'shroom club: If you want to find mushrooms, learn your trees. The tree that a certain fungi is found on turns out to be a key identifier. If you want to know: is that sexy little orange bonnet thingy growing on that stump an X!!!!? The answer will be a definitive yes or no if you know what kind of stump that is. Better study up on bark in its standing state and its newly cut state and its highly decomposed state. You're going to need to use your hands and your nose. Be a forensic examiner! Get close to the forest. That's just how it works with mushrooms.
Same thing with soil types. Same thing with the timing of entirely different plants that might live, oh, a hundred meters away. You asked: When is it time to get in your car and drive to that spot from your happy mushroom childhood in Owen Sound? We answer: not a calendar date. It's not as though we mushroom people say to ourselves: "May 24th is International Morel Day" May 24th one year might be balmy and the next year we are still wearing Sorels. When is it time to look for morels? When the Lilacs are in bloom. When the manitoba maple keys that have inundated your lawn are at the 2-leaf stage. That is true. We are simply passing along true and important lessons.
CAN YOU THINK OF ANY OTHER KIND OF BEING THAT HAS ANOTHER BEING, FAR AWAY, EVEN FROM ANOTHER KINGDOM, AS ITS RELIABLE IDENTIFIER?
Imagine if your high school biology classes weren't about naming the parts of a thing within the boundaries of its cell wall or flesh or bark (oh gawd, those pithed frogs!) but were about naming the parts of the world around that particular thing, when it was alive? What are the main features of wild pigs? Apples! Cold water! Clay soils! What are the main features of nebullae? Elephants! Black ant hills! Salt. What if you learned from your old man that the best time to buy a new car or microwave was not Black Friday but when the moon was waning? Imagine if, when crossing the US border at Fort Erie and the customs agent asks you your name, where you are headed & the purpose of your visit? You answer by describing the purpose of cantilevers in the Peace Bridge you are driving across + the reasons given by your parents as to why they named you what you are named + the angle of the polarizing light due east along the Niagara River?
Absurd, nutty, the theatrical ravings of a hallucinating mind? Well, no. Not with mushrooms. Those are the sorts of answers to the questions you stop and ask us about mushrooms. Mushrooms are about other things. Other things are about mushrooms. If we get up reallyreally close to that weirdo thought and squint even harder maybe we can glimpse and start to absorb the deep bedrock ecological insight that "mushrooms"are these other things. Mushrooms teach us what "collective" is, means, sounds like, smells like. "Where" collectivity happens.Is this what the incredible Lauren Hill is singing when she sings out with her immense pounding joyful fury: Everything is everything.