I had a mind-blowing shroom experience in junior high. Allow me to explain.
Junior high was the first time I learned about the fascinating Kingdom Fungi. My whole view of the living world shifted in an instant when my science teacher shared that, “Fungi are more closely genetically related to humans than they are to plants.” Bitch, what!? My jaw is still dropped. I knew there had to be a reason why the mushroom pizza from Singas Famous Pizza was a family favorite growing up in Queens—they're family, too!
I consume mushrooms almost every single day. Not just as delicious food and earth medicine, but as food for my ears, eyes, mind, and spirit. If I’m not cooking some for dinner or drinking them powdered and stirred into my tea, then I’m most likely reading about them on the toilet, watching YouTube videos and documentaries, or listening to bioelectric music produced by mushroom cellular activity (yeah, it’s a thing–listen here).
Something I think about often is the fact that fungi spores are everywhere. Mushrooms release spores, which are their teensy little reproductive cells, that float along a wind current, until they eventually land somewhere in the hopes of germinating.
There are many days when I feel like a spore. Floating.
It’s like I’m constantly trying to catch a ride in the wind and float around until I can find a good spot to get grounded. To be honest, I used to think that was a bad thing until just recently.
For the past several years, I trained myself to prioritize planning and preparation in all areas of my life, all because of my growing fear of failure. You know how they say that there are no mistakes just lessons? Well, I was getting my ass kicked by a whole lot of lessons and couldn’t keep up with the homework assignments. In an attempt to grab my life by the reigns and create more successes, I ended up getting into the habit of turning my inner self-critical thoughts into constant self-abuse attacks in my head.
I could never be good enough for myself. If I wanted to try something new, I wouldn’t allow myself to just try. I had to do it well the first time or risk becoming a fucking failure of a human once again. I would bully myself into over researching and preparing to the point of convincing myself to quit before I even started. Nothing felt worth trying, unless I had everything I needed to win within reach. Instead of feeling good about saving myself from potential failure, I felt like double the loser.
One of the things I used to dream about was growing mushrooms at home. I spent more than a year filling my head with mycology knowledge, home grow kits, DIY tek methods (did you know you could grow shroomies in a pack of Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice?!). I eventually talked myself out of my fantasy of injecting homemade substrate with mushroom spores, naming fruiting clusters after my favorite cartoon characters, harvesting multiple flushes, and cooking them for my loved ones. Then for Christmas, my chosen family, Vinny and Clif, gifted me something that warmed my dream back to life—my first home grow lion’s mane kit.
Despite my excitement, I allowed my fears to place the unopened box out of sight until I felt a hundred percent ready to grow. It’s not like the grow kit was incredibly complicated or required a degree in mycology. All I had to do was open one of the box flaps, cut an “X” into one side of the bag containing the inoculated substrate, place it in a cool spot away from direct sunlight, and mist the exposed surface with water twice a day. Instead, I believed it would be best to do a little more research and keep to box closed.
Two months later, I was reminded of this important lesson: life waits for no one. By the time I felt ready, I opened the box flap and saw that the first flush of lion’s mane already started growing inside of the sealed bag. “Fuck. I fucked up without even trying.” I removed the slightly juicy bag from the box, set it on the counter, and cried. I first felt sorry for the mushroom and then felt sorry for myself. Enough was enough. I stared at it for a good long while before taking a deep breath and made it my mission to rescue the healthy mycelium in the substrate. I decided that my previous research was good enough to guide me, and since there wasn’t any apparent contamination, I felt just enough hope to step into the unknown.
I didn’t have the ideal set up I always imagined, but that didn’t stop me anymore. I got scrappy. I got happy. For the first time in a while, I let myself go with the flow. I learned by letting the process teach me, instead of me trying to teach the process. Most of the growth looked less like a hairy lion’s mane and more like coral, but that’s because it didn’t have enough FAE (fresh air exchange). Is it still edible? Yes! Does it look like everyone else’s homegrown lion’s mane? Who cares!? I tried and I’m so damn glad I did because I’m now successfully growing my fourth lion’s mane flush.
What a beautiful reminder that grounding oneself doesn’t necessarily mean staying firm in your foundation forever. For me, it’s about knowing when to catch another ride to float along on until you find a good spot to land on. Like that Modest Mouse song says, “Don't worry, even if things get heavy / We'll all float on, alright”.