Beneath Our Feet

An amazing photo of Agaricus bisporus by Rob Hille
From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

So much is going on. Out of sight, but never far from the minds of gardeners.

Yes, that’s right! I’m talking about the underworld of the soil.

I’ve written before about how crucial my worm farm is to this process. How I’ve been rewarded for the efforts that I make to recycle, compost, re-use and to avoid all things not organic. This is in part why my garden flourishes.

What I wasn’t aware of, was the importance of fungi.

A great fan of podcasts I recently listened to a good one. Dr Brian Pickles – Lecturer in Ecology University of Reading and Dr Alison Pouliot – Ecologist and ANU Honorary Fellow, were among those included on a Big Ideas panel at the WOMAdeliade, festival, in Australia recently, talking about the ‘third’ kingdom’ after the kingdoms of flora and fauna – it’s fungi!

While we’re all familiar with mushrooms and the other kinds of fungi that grow above ground, I knew less about the fungi working beneath the soil to feed plants by breaking down organic matter. I found even more fascinating that fungi also serve as a vast underground communication network to connect plants and microbes. Fungi hydrate and feed the plants and in turn the plants trap carbon to feed the fungi in a symbiotic relationship.

It confirms what gardeners have always known; communication and collaboration in all forms, are a crucial part of the natural world, no less for us humans.

Any worthwhile self-development course emphasises the importance of communication, of connection. And when I began this post I had inter-communication in mind. But it occurs to me as I contemplate the fungi analogy, how important intra-communication is. The kind of self-reflection our busy lives rarely privilege. The invisible, less apparent but essential kind that happens beneath the noisy surface chatter of our lives.

This might mean practising meditation or simply the quiet reflection my garden evokes. I cannot imagine being without a garden, whatever form it might take. A garden gifts me with the physical, emotional and psychological space to just ‘be’. To muse on, and commune with, something far greater than my physical reality.

If a healthy soil is full of death, it is also full of life: worms, fungi, microorganisms of all kinds … Given only the health of the soil, nothing that dies is dead for very long.

Wendell Berry

28 responses to “Beneath Our Feet

    • Hello Catherine. Thanks for your kind words. I’m always humbled when people ‘get’ what I’m trying to convey. I feel cultivating a garden, resting our eyes on green, is therapeutic beyond measure. I just want for others what I have. I’m glad you’re finding it in your garden 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  1. If you’re unfamiliar with tripping out on halucinagelic drugs then I would suggest that you stay well clear of these awesome flyagaric mushrooms. They really do thr “far out man” saying real justice. Life the British Liberty Caps, these are also mind expanding drugs. Colours move around in front of your face and the World looks a very beautiful place, but just as Black Sabbath have said It Was An Illusion

    Liked by 2 people

    • Never had that experience but was warned when these ‘fairy’ stools popped up under the pines in our garden. So pretty. I wonder if they were ever used ceremoniously by indigenous people.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Just now saw this, after a week- long celebration of new life. (Fancy words for “Bright Week,” as Eastern Christians call the six days after Easter/Pascha). What a perfect conclusion for me.

    I am always inspired by your reflections, Robyn. But this one really was “Far our man,” as certain mushrooms might have us say., and yes, it “blew me away.” (Sorry, couldn’t resist a follow-up to Fun-guy” above and “artwork 368”)

    Lots of material for growth here. Seriously. I mean mine.


    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Albert, you’re always generous with your remarks. I do appreciate your taking time to comment. It’s such a bonus when people connect with what I’m saying and take something positive away. Sometimes the things I’m experiencing, contact with someone, a conversation or a podcast bring with them revelations for me. The podcast on fungi was one such thing. It was if it offered up a brief glimpse into something profound. Does that sound too ‘trippy’? Anyway I haven’t stopped thinking about the lessons to be found in nature. It’s good to be jolted out of the everyday life and have to consider the bigger questions facing us. I truly believe we’ve been provided with the answers. We just need to recognise them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. P.S. I’m sending this on to gardener friends for their delight: My Dear, my daughter, two of my brothers, and two blogger friends, Plumdirt and Gladsome Lights. .I Only wish I had a garden. Well, I turn soil and dispatch weeds for the resident garden person here, but that’s about it.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve always loved fungi. So pretty, and often so private – I knew they could be very busy out of sight. I had no idea, though, that they formed such communication networks! I shall look at them with even more respect in future.

    Liked by 1 person

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