Friday, July 21, 2017

Life lessons learned from a mushroom. Insight by Lorraine Glowczak

I participated in last Saturday’s Mushroom Discovery Walk, hosted by the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust at the Black Brook Preserve. (See article: on the front page.) I learned quite a bit about mushrooms that day and the more I discovered, the more I thought how uncannily similar the life of a fungus emulates the life of a human. The following are a few bits of “mushroom wisdom” I received:

Lesson 1: Diversity is beneficial.

Each mushroom with its different colors, quirky imperfections and purposes contributes to the health of the forest. Much like humans, diversity is the engine that propels the success of the woodland areas. 

Despite our own individual quirks and cultural backgrounds, we each offer something that serves the whole. According to Scientific American, online magazine, being with a diverse group of individuals makes us more creative, industrious and diligent and thus contributing to the success of all involved. Even though it’s uncomfortable and challenges us sometimes, diversity is needed in our lives just like that of a mushroom.

Lesson 2: Symbiotic relationships are important

Lesson one brings us to lesson two: Mushrooms and trees have a special interaction in which they feed one another. They provide the balance needed that can only be achieved by working together and one cannot survive without the other. 

Similarly, we are told that if a newborn does not experience human touch, it can die. A 10 year study has suggested that friendships contribute to longevity. Even Chuck in the movie, “Cast Away” needed the volleyball to feel alive. So it seems humans also have a symbiotic relationship, needing each other for survival. This lesson might come in handy when we feel frustrated or angry with friends and loved ones. I’ll try to remember this lesson on certain frustrating days with my husband.

Lesson 3: Even parasites are good.

Symbiotic relationships also include parasites. In mushroom ecology, parasites are a positive contribution because they latch onto a tree that is unhealthy or dying which helps eliminate the tree and prevents the disease from spreading to other trees. I don’t really have much of a comparison on this subject, but the thought crossed my mind that we might judge too harshly those we deem the “dregs” of society. Maybe those we judge have positive contributions we cannot see.

Lesson 4: Is it worth it?

When we dove into the subject of edibles, one question the Naturalist who led the group always asks himself regarding foraging for mushrooms to eat is, “Is it worth it?” Is it worth the time and effort? Others may have this question down pat in their own lives but it’s not a question I ask myself enough when faced with a huge “to do” list. So the next time my list is a two-pager and I have to choose between weeding the garden or spending a day on the lake with friends, I’ll ask myself which is worth the time and effort. I suspect symbiosis

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