Shrooming It in TN – A Story of Hidden Beauty

“There is nothing ugly; I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may, light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful.”
John Constable

“False” chanterelles…pretty but not for eating

Shrooms can bring to mind a wide variety of thoughts from exclusive tastings of  musky and odorous tuber melanosporum (French truffle) to psychedelic experiences of the fungal kind . As a politician might say, while I may or may not have participated in the latter activities in my youth, this story is more about finding the hidden beauty in small things.

As a photographer I always love the changing form of light and how it can alter a landscape.  On bright days I seek the big views, on heavy evenings the sunset and on misty mornings I look to the small things. It often amazes me how the mere dimming of light can bring an almost luminous glow to everything underfoot. And so it was, one thick morning with the moisture of dawn baking off from a TN stream I suddenly found myself surrounded by mushrooms. The perfect combo of a week of rain followed by sun had coaxed these elusive fungi from the earth and created a bloom of beauty right at our footsteps.

It’s enough to make your average mushroom hunter wild with excitement, and quite an event it is. Mushrooms are actually the fruit of hidden fungal organisms and it takes just the right conditions to get them blooming. Amateur mycologists avidly seek the most elusive and tasty varieties keeping their locations a closely guarded secret. It’s a historic and noble pursuit, needing an experienced eye to distinguish the poisonous ones from the others. As a child I used to hunt in the Danish forest for shrooms and always had a good nose for the sport. I’m no longer an expert, but I still enjoy the wild and fanciful curves and colors of the many types. As they say, it’s very groovy, baby and I don’t need no psychotropics to see the beauty in that view.

Possibly a tasty treat…possibly not
Blooms on decaying bark
Layers and light
Just the right light for a luminous glow
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  1. Beth says

    I live in northern California. The rains have not yet begun, so our mushroom season awaits us, however, I did find some Pisolithus arhizus (aka Deadman’s food or dog turd) which has been described as ugly by some. It hardly looks like a fungi, but is used in China medicinally.
    I like your quote from John Constable.

    • libertatemamo says

      Lovely to meet someone else who loves these things as much as me! Wish I knew more of the local varieties. I just adore wild shrooms! Hopefully you’ll get those rains soon.

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