Just Ringing It.

The school bus always took us through neighborhoods, unlike the regular city buses that mostly stick to major thoroughfares, and one fall I started noticing a yard that had a fairy ring in it. This was pretty remarkable and even got a small feature in the newspaper, and it annoyed me that I never could stop the bus and take a closer look, although I did intentionally sit on the side of the bus that faced it so I could see it as we went by, even dashing out the door at the end of the day so I could get to the bus early, although that wasn’t unusual. It seemed liked it was there for weeks, although it probably only stuck around for days, mushrooms being a fairly transient organism. Or rather the fruits of mushrooms being fairly transient. What’s underneath can be very long-lived. Maybe that’s why Emily Dickinson called them the “Elf of Plants”. A friend asked me, “How do the mushrooms know how to make a circle?” And I said, “Because they’re all part of the same structure. Imagine an apple tree where you could only see the apples. Oh yeah, and the apples just happen to form a ring.” It’s also why they get bigger every year.

I spotted an amazing three fairy rings in one yard on the way to work one morning but I’m too old now to go tramping around in someone’s yard, although at least this time I got some pictures. They reminded me of seeing that fairy ring years ago, and also, because of their size and because of what must be underground, of the X-Files episode “Field Trip” in which Scully and Mulder find themselves trapped inside a giant underground fungus that creates hallucinations that everything’s fine and they’re merely going on about their normal lives while they’re slowly digested. It’s a fan favorite but what bothers me about the episode is the same thing that bothers me about such wildly different stories as The Matrix, The Wizard Of Oz (the film version), and even Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. After such an intense experience–was it imagined or wasn’t it?–how can a person ever trust reality again? Zhuangzi said, “Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.” Edgar Allan Poe said, “All that we see or seem/Is but a dream within a dream.” And Samuel Johnson kicked a stone and thus refuted Bishop Berkeley, but that’s another story.
The mushrooms are here one day and gone the next, but they come from something and they leave something behind, and I always wonder, how can we ever know if we’ve left the ring?

6 Comments

  1. mydangblog

    WE get a fairy ring in our front yard once in a while. This year we got puffballs–we gave them to friends who made mushroom soap. Me, I’m always leery of eating fungus that grows in my lawn–some of those poisonous ones look pretty innocuous!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s something I never thought about–some of the most poisonous mushrooms, like the Destroying Angel, look completely innocuous. Although I have thought about the amount of trial and error that must have gone into finding out which mushrooms are edible. Whoever ate a mushroom after seeing the effects of a deadly one must have been pretty brave.

      Reply
  2. The Huntress 915

    I had to re-read this post to finally figure out what “fairy-rings” were. Here in the Southwest all we get are either goat’s head stickers or darn dandelions. Probably because we lack any type of moisture or greenery or landscape in general (I’m being sarcastic). Here in El Paso everyone is encouraged to xeriscape to reduce water usage. And the only thing that grows? Goat’s head stickers, all over the freaking place.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Until now I’d never heard of goat’s herd stickers. Holy crap those things are evil. I’m cool with xeriscaping–succulents are great plants, and I’ve even grown some and have even stepped on a cactus in the middle of the night, but that doesn’t come close to the horror of goat’s head stickers.

      Reply
  3. Ann Koplow

    I always appreciate the rings that you leave, Chris.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I always appreciate it when you ring in with a comment, Ann.

      Reply

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