Mushrooms and Glow-worms

Reading and photographs by Robert Towe

From my nature journal: Early these late-summer mornings, I sit outside sipping black tea, reading a few passages from the timeless scriptures and meditating on their meanings. The dark created earth wakens slowly into wonders of light. Night dew glistens everything with miniscule silver beads. Trees drip in the stillness of thick mists. Like wisps of smoke they slowly lift and break apart, and we catch glimpses of the perfectly round, white form of the nearest star.

Some of these late nights and pre-dawns, we already hear vast tides of birds chirping to each other, navigating across the sea of darkness, ahead of the coming cold. Early and late, Canada Geese pass by wildly honking, following the big river upstream, southward. The great mysterious cycles of nature keep revolving above, beneath and beyond us, interlocking wheels of cosmic clocks. The cool morning grass clicks and sings with cricket music…

The planet imperceptibly turns, leaving the burning green days of August for softer topaz lights and freshening breezes. The very word September holds in its rhythm, in its falling syllables rhyming with ‘remember’--- something of our youthful years, a bright glory walking slowly into shadows of cooler days and longer nights.

We enjoy the scene on the new calendar page, but some ancient timepiece ticking in us doesn't need a calendar. In our very bones we feel another summer going. This sort of knowing---both sensual and spiritual---brings to us a stirring mixture of exhilaration at the refreshing weathers, but also the gnawing edge of melancholy, as the season of flowers departs. Nothing in the turning of the whole natural year heightens our awareness of the transience of being, more than the approach of another autumn. Everywhere now we see conclusive evidence indeed, that "to everything, there is a season".

Now comes the time of mushrooms. In this moist, temperate climate a wide variety of fungi emerge on the shadowy forest floor, moist fruit growing out of rich humus, old logs and rotting stumps. These strangely beautiful fleshy organisms live off of dead organic matter, recycling the energies of decay. They need no chlorophyll like most plants, converting the sun’s energy into plant tissues. ‘Toadstools’ are the stuff of storybooks, old forest myths, wild imaginings. Many fungi are deadly poisonous. Some are delicious, even nourishing. But if you do not know them well, leave them alone, enjoying their varied forms, their rich and subtle pallet of colors.

Last evening after a brief shower of rain, I went out to watch the clear stars sparkling through breaks in the clouds. Instead, my eyes looked down, caught by a few miniature lights glimmering yellow-green in the dark grass. It is the eerie luminescence of fall’s first glow-worms, the wingless larvae of fireflies that mated early in the summer. Glowing in the quavering music of young Screech Owls, these tiny ghost-lamps welcome the night mysteries of autumn.