All posts by Xora

The complex, yet simple connections between the microcosm and macrocosm boggle my mind and inspire me to explore life itself that much more.

The night I first saw bioluminescent mushrooms

Back in the day I was obsessed with StumbleUpon.

(In case you haven’t heard of this amazing website: you sign up, add all the topics you are interested in, and click “stumble” on the top of the page. This magical click shoots you across the interwebs one at a time to bring you to most amazingly random websites you could ever come across).

On one of this clicks, StumbleUpon revealed one of the greatest blogs I’ve ever seen. It was a post of organisms that glowed in the dark!

I recognized fireflies (who hasn’t) and some other insects, but there was one that was completely new to me: bioluminescent fungi.

Yes. Mushrooms (and/or mycelium for you fun-guys) that glow in the dark. These organisms have the ability to actually produce and release photons, little tiny pieces of light.

Now, this was also in my days of being fascinated with psychedelics, specifically mushrooms. (Side note: don’t eat bioluminescent mushrooms. It will not be fun!) Maybe this isn’t completely relevant, but it just made this new discovery THAT much more exciting.

psychedelic mushroom house in mystical landIt completely baffled me that mushrooms somehow evolved to light up in the dark. Someday, I promised myself, I will meet these in person.

Fast forward to 2012, I decided to study abroad on a teeny tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. While I was here, I had to find something in the ecosystem to do a research project on. Our professor took us all over the island to explore and learn more about all the plants and animals that lived here. The land was gorgeous, but nothing quite stuck out to me enough to study.

A month into program and days before I had to start my research, our professor took us to a giant BBQ party with locals that we had befriended so far. I was mingling with the crowd and overheard someone mention the word “glowing.” Well that sounds fun, I thought to myself and I detoured off my social wandering pattern and found a nearby chair.

She, a turtle biologist, was sharing the time she was at the beach and didn’t start walking back thru the forest to her car until later at night. On her path, she noticed something was lit up on the jungle floor. She told the story about how she first saw glowing mushrooms at the beach that we all frequently went to.

IS IT POSSIBLE THAT MY BIOLOGICAL MUSE COULD BE SO CLOSE?!?!

I got goosebumps. Truthbumps, as my friend says. Shivers as I was sitting in the tropics listening to her recollection.

This. Will. Be. My. Project.

…but wow! What a challenge to convince my professors over the next several days. I mean, they were stoked for me…but it always came down to “How are you supposed to research something that you’ve never seen?” Well…it’s possible in other fields, but not for an ecologist.

On multiple occasions, I actually got the help from my classmates and a few locals to go out searching for the elusive glowing mushrooms. They are glowing! How hard could it be to find them?! Apparently harder than I thought it would be. I felt so discouraged…and honestly a little embarrassed that I got SO excited at something so unlikely to actually happen.

That night driving home in the car I saw a mushroom-shaped cloud floating across the island. Confirmation bias? NO WAY! It was the mushroom gods telling me to keep going.

One of our friends who worked for the Department of Fish and Wildlife called me the next day and said that he wanted to take us to one more place that he thought would be a great location:

  • good rainfall = tells the fungi that it’s time to make mushrooms AKA baby-making time!
  • thick understory = captures humidity, cools tropical environment, and provides LOTS of organic matter for food (leaves, soil, logs etc.)

Off we went! This section of the jungle was THICK. The kind of path that asks for a machete if you have one.

It was humid and hot, just barely after sunset. We were all being eaten alive by mosquitoes. Bouncing headlamps lead my way down the path as several more were close behind me. I couldn’t tell how far we walked or where we were going. It was beautiful at nighttime, but also a little terrifying.

I heard someone scream my name, “COME HERE, NOW!” I turned around and headed back where I just came from. My classmate was kneeling down a few meters off the path at a tree trunk, sprinkled with glowing specks at the base.

bioluminescent fungi mycena chlorophos

At this moment I was overcome by deep stillness and silence. There are few things are have truly taken my breath away. This one tops them all. I slowly started to walk at the glowing mushroom garden in awe and reverence.

The best way I can describe this experience is like being outside alone and looking up a night sky. A night sky that looks darker than usual with brighter stars than a normal night.

On a superficial layer, I knew that I could research them now that I’ve found some in real life. But on a deeper level, I would be forever changed. Being in the presence of any sort of biological or artistic oddity is fun in the moment and even throughout the rest of the day. But these ephemeral moments don’t compare to seeing something that resonates so deep inside.

It’s this feeling, this experience that connects people with the natural world. It’s these types of experiences that deepen human adventure. And it’s for these reasons that I continue to travel and explore the world.

bioluminscent mushrooms in the dark

 

What is ‘Lit Life’?

Hello!

I’m going to put energy into a new project called “Lit Life” It’s going to be a fun way for you to be mystified and entertained about bioluminescence–animals and fungus that GLOW IN THE FRIGGIN’ DARK.

Although this is getting fueled and inspired by a class project, it’s also a way for me to reflect back 5 years ago when I studied abroad and research glowing mushrooms. I’ve always felt like some story was left untold…

 

Bioluminescent fungi! Panelllus stipticus

 

So anywho, if you are interested, stick around over the next few weeks to learn about my experience researching bioluminescent fungi and to learn more about some of these cRaZy creatures:

bioluminscent jellyfish
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Jelly fish swim, Aug. 20, in a Alaska SeaLife Center aquarium. (U.S. Air Force photo/David Bedard)

 

 

 

 

Are we flat?

’tis that time again when I feel like a zombie…

One day I am moving forward with my goals,
the next I am stuck in my room
avoiding everything.

I oscillate through all types of states of consciousness and emotions. Why does everything always pretend like life is one simple baseline experience? No highs, no lows. Their facade is “medium.”

BULLSHIT.

Maybe other people will start opening up about their inner worlds when I continue being honest about mine.

 

Adulting and talking through conflict

Roommates. They are all CrAzY, right?? Or are you and I the crazy ones? lulz.

I’ve been realizing lately that roommates are the exact people that we can learn communication and conflict resolution with.

(This post might be a little jumpy until all my thoughts barf out.)

I am in a graduate program where all we talk about is how to make the world a better place.  Most of the time the discussions go towards dismantling the entire structures of capitalism, patriarchy, and privilege.

Super ambitious, amirite?

Image result for eye roll gif

It gets me thinking about change and how we want to be a positive influence in the world.

Where are the abundant opportunities for day-to-day change in the world?

OUR HOMES.

If we can’t have a talk about unequal chores around the house and modifying our behaviors accordingly, how can we really expect to influence entire structures in society?

Seems too boring and simple for anything dramatic…but your home is where you spend the most time. When you make changes in your day-to-day habits, that gives you a safe and comfy foundation for the rest your life outside of the home.

Talking with a roommate about how often dishes are getting done AND put away (vs. how much you want them done) isn’t necessarily directly connected Amazon deforestation (or whatever your large-scale global superhero mission is), but it’s working from the ground-up so that at least your home life is thriving and supportive when it is time to save the world 😉

 

 

 

Dislocated

Frozen…but not the kind from being too cold. It’s the type that comes from a new intimacy with Truth.

Truth came to my full attention this evening.

Truth came to replace its previous stand-in: distant, shallow stories.

Truth revealed itself through expressed bravery and exposure.

It’s easy to be nonchalantly composed when theory runs my life.

“Those problems are ‘over there…’ Is this even really happening? Is it that big of a deal?”

But then I find out and realize that YES. It is. These problems are simmering in people’s lives who I see weekly, more than my own family and dogs. And now, it’s boiled over for me to see…for me to feel.

When people share their vulnerability it allows us to step up and meet them—to fill that once-distant space between us.

There becomes a new layer of intimacy to explore: humanity.

For now, I’m still processing, digesting, and frozen.

…but what’s gonna happen when I melt?

You ask how I’m doing…

But do you really care?

When I answer truthfully I scare you off.
Is it my honestly?
My dreams?
My pathetic excitement and curiosity in my own life?

You shut me down and criticize me for answering the way I did.
(Whatever that was)
So I am conditioned to not open up.
I close myself off to you.

This pattern cycles around in circles like the seasons.

I begin to think
“What if you are right?”
and I really have palty aspirations
that don’t offer anything to anyone,
that I’m not valuable,
that me being on Earth and me not existing wouldn’t make a difference to you, or anyone.

If anything, it would be less of a hassle if there was less of me..

So why do you ask how I’m doing?


Sorry for the depressing ass shit lately. It’s a phase I’m going through, hopefully. Luckily, I’m remembering how therapeutic writing poetry is for me…you reading this probably understand

“I want to die”

What is this voice inside of me that keeps on saying “I want to die”?

It scares me.

Do I really want to die?

Is it my fate to pass over even before I pass the age to get off my dad’s health insurance plan?

I hope not.

But the voice that wants to die is so loud…
so determined…
to make itself heard and make me FEEL the pain in those words

I justify the dialogue by saying
“It’s just an aspect of my personality that wants to die.”

But how can I be so sure
that those words
“I want to die”
don’t mean all of me?

I’m always shocked when…

…I see one of my friends light up a cigarette.

Especially when I experience them as strong, health-conscious women.

Maybe they reserve the cancer sticks (gag, too cheesey?) for alcohol-infused social gatherings…or maybe not.

Why?

Why do you smoke cigarettes?

Why do you ingest those levels of nasty ass chemicals when you also understand the traumas that Mother Earth goes through and connect that to the female body? Is this a gnarly blind spot for your very own ecofeminist outlook?

Do you realize that you are choosing the unfortunate fate for your very own fleshy space-traveling vehicle?

😦