...or tries to...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Among Us

Here's the source of my preoccupation with mushrooms:

As a teenager, I had a potted plant in my bedroom, an umbrella tree that had been given to me as a gift. It grew so fast and was so vital in its way that it seemed more like a pet than a plant. It popped a new branch of leaves monthly, turned to follow the sunlight as it moved across the room. I polished it. I talked to it. I re-potted it. It grew from knee high to shoulder height in two years. I took this personally. I loved this thing.

But vacation time came, a two week long trip this time. I had found a water-stained paperback book from the 70's, Living with Houseplants, the cover featuring a semi-hippie couple in bell bottoms surrounded by spider plants suspended in macrame. In it the nice semi-hippie couple wrote that the best way to insure that my umbrella plant lived through my trip would be to wrap it up in plastic, water it profusely, and let the greenhouse effect do its work. So I did.

And when I came back, my umbrella plant was extremely alive. But not just the plant. Inside the pot, outside the pot, were over a hundred little mushrooms. White caps, long stems, sprouting from the wet dark potting soil, gazing up at me, all leaning slightly like a crowd at a concert. My first instinct was the recoil, the ewww, the revulsion that accompanies any kind of excess. But after that, fascination took over. The idea of this. That these mushrooms had been there all along, sharing my room for over three years, concealed, dormant, patient. Waiting for the odd chance that conditions would change and their time would come. Their time would come and they would have their chance to bust out in all their tiny white glory, to, simply, mushroom.

They wind up, in paper version, in my work all the time. Quite often I concentrate on them when the real experience of my embroidered objects is beneath them, or behind them, but I won't let them go. The idea of something underneath, undiscovered, of something lurking, waiting, choosing its time to surface is a very important metaphor for me. It has parallels in the way our minds work, our bodies function, our environment behaves. And mushrooms and fungus, well, they're beautiful.

And wonderfully strange.

I found all of these at the Orchid Society, in the dark places along the walking paths.

Settling into the hollow trunks of chopped down palms,

Cupping rainwater,

Living among us.

(click above)


Sans! said...

What a strange and wonderful story a la Little Shop of Horrors:) With an equally strange and goofy song to match..teehee.

I have always thought mushrooms thrive in the wild and that they can never be tamed. I wish you have pictures of the shoulder height mushroom plant in your room . I simply can't imagine how that look like, Amy. All I see in my head is a giant soft umbrella with a trunk big enough to make rooms for mice.

Maybe you can create one for your studio (dollhouse) ? After all the deadlines of course.

Daydreamer said...

Fantastic Fungus Photos Amy!
I must tell you that only this past Monday I walked past a planter at work.... the kind of half barrel wooden tub for planting flowers.. a pair of which stand at the doorway... and one of them was OVERFLOWING with fungus that had sprung up among the flowers overnight.... all around the rim and in the grass at it's feet mushrooms had erupted! I spent several minutes taking pictures.... I had never seen such bounty in those planters before! I think they had recently replanted and used horse manure for the fertilizer. It has been wet up here this summer.... but it was astonishing! And they were all gone in two days!
The Variety of the ones you found is amazing.... those last ones are really strange.... like the eyes of some sort of Alien poking up from the Earth...!

Amy said...

Sans, Little Shop, exactly! My umbrella plant was a bit of an Audrey 2, when you think about it. I wish I still had it-I left it in the care of my neighbor when I moved away, it couldn't fit in the car, and the mover's van had to sit in a warehouse for two weeks. My neighbor loved plants, so perhaps umbrella lives still, lifting the roof off her house, twining around her chimney, growing up into the sky...

I love the thought of an umbrella in a terracotta pot, with mice sitting on the mushroom caps...

Betsy, we're living parallel lives, aren't we? I love that you took pictures, so many people cringe instead. They're such amazing things, and we share space with them, as if we're given a chance to see the microscopic hidden things for a few hours, grown larger for our consideration. The ones in the bottom-most photo is the only one I know the name of, bird's nest fungus. Great name, right?

If you're going to be a part of Hurricane Irene this weekend, please stay safe!! I'll be stopping by later to spend some time looking at your townhouse and tiny roses---

Daydreamer said...

Thanks, Amy! I am preparing for the Hurricane as well as I can! It is supposed to go right over us! We will probably lose power, but I am well away from Rivers and expect to be fine. Will keep you posted! And thanks for thinking of me! :)