april 9/RUN

4.5 miles
ford loop
49 degrees

Ran/walked the ford loop with Scott. Sunny and warm with a bright blue sky. Wonderful. Stopped at the 2 overlooks on the St. Paul side. Heard and saw rowers on the river! The first time this spring, I think. Also heard someone playing guitar on a rock below the Monument that juts out over the river. Heard lots of birds, encountered lots of walkers, some runners, a biker or two.

Right after we finished our run, as we walked by Becketwood, I saw something flash in the trees. At first I thought it was a squirrel jumping, but Scott said it was an owl! Excellent. It took me about a minute to see it, but when it flapped its wing, I did. My favorite part: the owl was facing the other way, but they turned their head to check if we were still there. What an awesome head swivel!

before the run

Although Entangled Life never lapses into polemics or preaching, the book has an evangelical message all the same: humanity is neither innately special nor truly dominant; rather, we emerge and are sustained by a web of interspecies interdependence and diverse kinship; and our human notion of individuality is chimeric. The book is a call to engage with fungi on their level. “Is it possible for humans, with our animal brains and bodies and language, to learn to understand such different organisms? How might we find ourselves changed in the process?” Like fungi, “‘[w]e are ecosystems that span boundaries and transgress categories. Our selves emerge from a complex tangle of relationships.”

The Mycophile’s Plea: On Merlin Sheldrake’s “Entangled Life”


The underlying questions of Entangled Life, and other mycophilic media today, are: How can we be more like fungi? How are we already like fungi? How can we, as Paul Stamets puts it, ally ourselves with the fungal kingdom? How can we mycologize ourselves and our world? How can we break down our waste for fuel and sustenance, rather than let it accumulate in garbage dumps, oceans, and bloodstreams? How can we organize ourselves flexibly and responsibly so each part of the social web gets what it needs? If we fail and our own species does not survive the next few centuries, we can at least trust that a resilient species of fungi will evolve to consume the copious remains of our civilization and renew the planet again.

The Mycophile’s Plea: On Merlin S

Written in my Plague Notebook, Volume 11:

The need for new understanding, metaphors for working together (and living together) — and NOT as individuals. Beyond Darwinism and survival of the fittest and competition. Survival of the fittest/dog-eat-dog world are dead metaphors.

Plague Notebook, Vol 11/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Found this video from the BBC about the “wood wide web”:

Near the end, the voice-over says: “scientists are still debating why plants seem to behave in such an altruistic way.” Why are these collaborations and symbiotic relationships and networks understood as altruism? Looking up altruism, I found these definitions:

1unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of otherscharitable acts motivated purely by altruism
2: behavior by an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself but that benefits others of its species

definition from Merriam-Webster

Plants and fungi are not being selfless, if selfless means doing things for others that don’t benefit, or maybe even harm, you. I dislike the term altruism, btw. This is not sacrifice of individuals, or individual groups, for the good of the whole. The idea of altruism is tied up with the old, outdated understanding of us as individuals who either act selfishly or purely selflessly.

during the run

Tried to explain some of this stuff about mycelium to Scott. Also ranted about altruism. Mentioned how the discussion about the wood wide web focuses more on marveling at trees and how they communicate, and much less on the amazing fungi network and the cool stuff fungi do. Trees are the actors, with fungi only the medium. But, fungi are actors too, just in a way that we don’t see or understand as easily. Also ranted against TED talks and how formulaic and forced they seemed. Scott got distracted when I asked him what scientists who study trees are called. He couldn’t think of it. The particular type I was trying to remember was: forest ecologist.

after the run

Mushroom Hunting in the Jemez Mountains/ Arthur Sze

from The Glass Constellation

Walking in a mountain meadow toward the north slope,
I see red-cap amanitas with white warts and know
they signal cèpes. I see a few colonies of puffballs,
red russulas with chalk-white stipes, brown-gilled
Poison Pie. In the shade under the spruce are two
red-pored boletes: slice them in half and the flesh
turns blue in seconds. Under fir is a single amanita
with basal cup, flarinannulus, white cap: is it
the Rocky Mountain form of Amanita pantherina?
I am aware of danger in naming, in misidentification,
in imposing the distinctions of a taxonomic language
onto the things themselves. I know I have only
a few hours to hunt mushrooms before early afternoon rain.
I know it is a mistake to think I am moving and
that argarics are still: they are more transient
than we acknowledge, more susceptible to full moon,
to a single rain, to night air, to a moment of sunshine.
I know in this meadow my passions are mycorrhizal
with nature. I may shout our ecstasies, aches, griefs,
and hear them vanish in the white-pored silence.

mycorrhizal = entangled