Category Archives: Blog

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.

 

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?

😦

Those conversations that leave you feeling…

elevated and better than before…they remind you of the magic that can weave thru reality.

They bring out your most optimistic, excited, highest state.

They make you feel buzzing, with ripples of shivers migrating across skin. Kundalini? Are you hanging out too?

Thank you.

Let’s keep on cultivating these interactions, and prune out of the rest to save energy for what really matters.

Where to escape in a city:

“It’s not a city, it’s the suburbs,” says my narrow-minded, ignorant family member.

When I️ can only make out the Big Dipper and Orion at night, when the streetlights keeping me up at night are brighter than the sun peaking over the morning horizon, when the buzz of traffic is constantly evident…I’m in a city.

It’s not your fault though…you don’t know what it’s like to live in a rustic cabin with no WiFi or to have to gather your own firewood and start a fire every night. You don’t know what the world looks like behind your 65-inch TV or your 4-inch iPhone and you certainly don’t know that “leisure” and “outdoors” can go together without an agenda.

The only other human at this artificial lake is a boy. Someone dropped him off just after I️ arrived so that he could fish. I️ think he is catching some, but I’m also hearing a handful jump out of the water in front of me.

Nature is refreshing, like a glass of ice-cold water for a red-hot angry mind.

Some people use the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” to unofficially describe the impacts of a lack of slow-paced quality outdoor time.

Irritability, fear, apathy, confusion, and anxiety make their way into my “normalness” when I️ skip the parks and forest hikes for mindless modern-day entertainment. It clouds around me like a swarm of stickiness. I️ think that it’s normal…but it’s not. At least, it shouldn’t be.

Sometimes it just takes a stop by the park to shift me back into a more satisfying way of being alive: patience, relaxation, and imagination.

Luckily I️ am just visiting this massive “suburb.” For getting an afternoon date with myself at the park here is like getting to eat a carrot or two after fasting all morning. I️ am malnourished being here, but luckily I️ know what I️ need to feel satiated.

The Wilderness Within (Final: Reflections)

Last weekend felt like a healing retreat. It catalyzed some deeper process that’s happening to me right now. Maybe this is the step from one phase of the lifecycle to another. Transitions sure feel like deaths. A part is dying, the part that was up to this point, “everything” to me. Does it hurt a snake or crustacean to shed its exterior? Does it hurt for a caterpillar to turn into organic soup before it re-forms back into a butterfly? This was briefly brought up in the lifecycle talk (I think). These psychological transformations we go through are complete paradigm shifts. “Molting” is changing, yes, but there isn’t any real change besides growing larger into whatever was there.

I feel like I’ve been molting quite often, mistaking that for true transformation. (For something to radically change forms?) Would it need its whole self for the true transformation process? All the pieces go into the pan and BAM, alchemy happens and something new pops out.

annie-spratt-199474.jpg

In the past and now still, I don’t accept all parts of myself. Even if they aren’t glamorized or accepted in our culture, Ecopsychology is helping me see that all pieces matter.

The Wilderness Within (Part 6: North)

I am cared for.
I care for you.
I care for all.

Not going to lie, North seems slightly boring compared to the rest of the directions of the psyche. Yet, it also seems like it’s so present in my life. North helps me out when I’m swinging upside down from a tree. North is trying to help me out through this current personal winter before Earth winter has yet to come.

yuriy-garnaev-393772

In my notes I wrote:

Inner Critic –> meanest EVER, seriously so evil and smart

Later I wrote:

Thanks for looking out for me, inner self.

…and this was the “mean” inner self. It makes me feel whole to learn that even my fragmented parts still want me to be “whole.” Their view on the world is different though, which is why it’s so easy to judge them and think they are failures. The Loyal Soldiers really are incredible. They are serving my life in such an adorably immature way.

I don’t have much to reflect on about North here…I think I explored that (fragmented North) a lot in the October 2nd entry above.