Another Habitation is Possible

No species clings to its host quite as ardently as a fungus. They live in a dark, forbidding place somewhere in the depths of the soil, occupying a border between root and soil organisms. The fungus lives beyond notice, a footnote to fieldwork. One storm-thrashed night, the ground trembled with the wet infusion and began to move while we slept. What really captured our attention the next morning took over our plans and changed the course of the day. We were captivated by the darkly shadowed bumps around us in every direction, which, because of the way they were exposed, could be glimpsed just below the unfinished surface of the ground. Our gaze moved swiftly from the plants over our heads to the needled forest floor, our sensory imagination clouded by the allure of the delicate undulation. Naoko and I fell to our knees. Skimming the surface with our fingers created contact and the learned language of mushrooms appeared. I knew what we were observing: the entire pine forest was connected underground by a fungal network, but the name, the features, and any species recognition was absent. It didn’t matter. The very day we were present was the day the mushrooms emerged such that during a handful of hours these unnamed organisms slowly allowed their soil borne moisture to evaporate, and with every exhalation of wetness, the soil around it cooled, pushing the fruiting body further into the atmosphere, aboveground. In a kind of multispecies breathing exercise, the fungus began to sprout out and emerge all around us, translating itself from a soil inhabitant to an earth dweller, claiming a home in Nijinomatsubara.