By Jasmine Wilborne
I wanna introduce you to my favorite Canadian: John Barry.
So there you can see me with the mushroom enthusiast who challenged me to think of the Earth as a living, vibing, conscious being. See prior to flying out to Vancouver in early November, I had never touched a mushroom, never paid attention to the mushrooms growing in my neighborhood and had no names for the ones I did see. Barry showed me through mushroom ID-ing that nature is something comprised of distinct individual organisms, who have names, have relationships and are worth paying attention to-even if you aren’t a botanist. Go figure!
I touched a mushroom for the first time with Barry. It played out like this.
We were walking down the streets of Barnaby, a suburb outside of Vancouver, and he stops.
His iridescent green eyes glimmer as he says, ” Hey look some mushrooms.”
He crosses the grass bordering the street and stoops above this small cluster of light brown topped shroom’s.
Quizzically, I crouch too. The mushrooms shine with droplets of the rain persistent during Vancouver’s winter.
This is probably the first time since I was young that I’ve approached a mushroom, because ya know, mushrooms are mushrooms, ya just don’t go trying to find out what they are! Who cares!? They are poisonous and stuff.
Barry doesn’t just look. He digs his fingers down past the base of one of the mushrooms and pinches it out of the earth. The cap trembles on its skinny stem. He shows me the underside of the dark brown gills (yes, like a fish!). He runs his fingers over the cap and I do too. It is slightly slimy (I trust Barry so I don’t mind exposing myself to mushroom slime). Finally, he breaks that cap in half and peers at the…I dunno, shroom’s entrails? Barry would know. I’m just a novice.
With Barry, everyday walks turned into mushroom I-spy! I started to look at the natural world as Barry did: a landscape to explore and try to discover intimately. One time he talked about how he felt that the experiences of psychedelic mushrooms were meant to be used as a kind of bridge to repair the broken relationship between people and earth. He talked about mushrooms as if they were human. I couldn’t help but feel like he was talking some hippie bullshit.
I found this uncomfortable. My Catholic-Evangelical heritage said different (even though I no longer believe in any god)! Genesis, the first book in the bible always said to me that the natural world was for humans to control and dominate, to exercise our superiority. Not to find commonality
I felt ashamed though. Barry’s reverence was something I didn’t have and I felt like if I was really going to become a true environmental advocate, I better catch some deeper feelings for the natural world….
Thanks for reading!