a nature article about mushrooms

Roadside Mushrooms, a Vantage Point Closer to Earth & Poet Mark Strand on Our Obligation to Pay Attention to the Universe

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For the last few days, my daily walks have been slowed down to a desirable, blissful pace – thanks to these tiny, stubby umbrellas scattered everywhere in the grass along the sidewalks. It’s impossible to stop at a suddenly sprouted mushroom and not be enlightened in some way.

Mushrooms know when to show up. And more often than not, they pop up right after something goes awry. I am not talking metaphorically, nor I am referring to any superstition or folklore.

In its symbiotic life-cycle with a tree, when the host tree starts to die, the mycelium living under the soil below makes up its mind to leave that spot too. So it springs up the mushrooms to spread its spores and reach an altogether new destination.

When I learnt about this fascinating fact about mushrooms, I could not help but think about the poetic nature of this rather scientific factoid. All wild things display so much patience. Every little thing in nature has its own simple agenda and goes on with life with a tacit commitment, and quiet perseverance.

So remarkably determined to survive, but at the same time, showing no signs of desperation. The unique way of survival & growth of the mushrooms – whose unobtrusive blossoming on the forest floor look nothing but some random circumstances to us – and, their relationship with the ecosystem around them, is in actuality, so sophisticated, and impeccable. Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle (December 4, 1795 – February 5, 1881) said:


Nature alone is antique,

and the oldest art a mushroom.

Often when I spot a lone mushroom standing on the ground, I do this. I sit down and bend forward to bring my eyes to its height. I try to look at the world from the perspective of the miniature world surrounding it.

Bringing your vision at a mushroom’s level is a surreal way to retreat. As soon as you virtually enter that tiny space, the noise of life is blocked out and you hear its true, undeniable music, coming from some long-forgotten, faraway place of your existence. Looking out from within that Lilliputian field, the ordinary road that stretches out before – looks like a magnificent horizon. Suddenly, there is a fresh appreciation for that everyday road.

Pulitzer-Winning Poet Mark Strand (April 11, 1934–November 29, 2014) believed that one should consider their being born as a lucky accident. Lucky enough for one to feel obliged to pay attention.

In his book Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (September 29, 1934-October 20, 2021) quoted Mark Strand reflecting in these matchless words:


We are — as far as we know — the only part of the universe that’s self-conscious. We could even be the universe’s form of consciousness.

We might have come along so that the universe could look at itself. 

Being closer to the earth, an arbitrary, solitary mushroom by the side of the road, is a unique vantage point. It extends an uncommon invitation to bear witness to the universe and to fill an empty heart – that has tossed off everything that is part of one’s being alive as granted – with renewed wonder for the world. And gratitude, for being born with the capacity to respond to this world, consciously.

Article ©2020 Gyaneshwari Dave

Quote from “Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention

(Harper Perennial, 1997) by ©Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Feature Image: Anders Floor on Pixabay

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