Yesterday, Ryder and I went on a walk to get out of the house. Our local news was forecasting a strong chance of cabin fever for all citizens while a hurricane blew through. Despite being designated a “flood zone”, our sea level neighborhood, surrounded by creeks and marshes, didn’t experience any flooding, although our neighbors weren’t as lucky. We took advantage of the unexpected dryness to take in some windy and shockingly cold air, thankfully sans kayaks.
As we walked through the neighborhood, park Ryder noticed mushrooms. He spotted many different kinds – warm sugary browns, soft yellows, and bright whites. Ryder thought it was amazing that even though tree limbs, trash cans, parts of houses, furniture, and other debris along our path to the park were in disarray, these tiny, soft, white mushrooms stood strong. They weren’t the ones clustered together, tucked tight between strong tree roots, and lying close to the ground; they were out in the open, gently wobbling as forceful gusts blew through the field in the park.
Mushrooms take days to form, but their growth can accelerated by moisture, and a hurricane creates the perfect conditions for this accelerated growth. Under these conditions, a mushroom can grow exponentially in a matter of hours. Some people also say that lightning, such as lightning strikes, can contribute to accelerated mushroom growth.
Given what I knew about mushrooms, I started to wonder why some kinds thrive in fields. I understand the ones that grow near trees: they can gather nutrients from the rich soil, and the trees act as a windbreak. But what about the mushrooms that abandon the shelter of the trees and brave the open and windswept field? Apparently, certain mushrooms grow in fields because they want the sun. They are still so low to the earth that the wind can’t scoop them up, but out in the open they can brown and harden which lends them strength. They are charged by light, thrived to grow in wettest of conditions, and aren’t phased by the wind that is drying them out. Why?
The purpose of the mushroom, like that of every other plant and creature, is to reproduce. In order to reproduce, the mushroom uses the moisture that it stores within its body to create airflow by allowing this moisture to evaporate. The evaporating water rises up into the air, and carries spores, the reproductive organ of the mushroom, which travel and then find new places to begin life.
It is amazing that such a simple plant, God’s creation, can thrive in the damp and the dark and make its own wind, but can also thrive fully in the open, at the mercy of the wind and sun. This made me think of the last month of teaching the kids. We are homeschooling again and, like any classroom, ours can be challenging. Cody is a wild nut, whom we adore, but we get frustrated with his shenanigans (although we do laugh quite a lot, as well). Last week he was playing the “wook-a-way-wee” in his underpants while challenging us to find “wa-jee-ka-stan” on the map. He giggled excessively knowing Ryder would hunt in the “stans” near Asia and not find the fictional Wajeekastan.
Ryder is getting into more difficult math while Rory is trying to navigate with the distractions of her brothers. In all, it is going brilliantly! But there are days when I wonder about the process. Some days it feels like understanding comes in dribbles and other days the light bulbs flash one after the other and the thoughts of how they can do more to expand a project flood in (Example: they are loving timelines. The concept is so inspiring to them. They are turning everything into a timeline. A stack of random pictures last week strung on a ribbon between chairs, they took turns deciding which picture came first. The discussion was amazing!).
These little “student mushrooms” need the right tools and the right soil to grow, but they also need to be charged occasionally with fresh inspiration. They need a gush of information to overwhelm them so they can slowly absorb it and grow fully. In the end, they will go out and do great things and inspire others. They will take on their surroundings like brave little mushrooms, wearing their helmets and seizing the day!
I encourage all you mushroom keepers – teachers, businesspeople, parents, friends and family – keep cultivating someone’s passion for life, because every day you invest will come back to you manifold. May the wind of inspiration that YOU cultivate in others swiftly carry that passion to others so that they too may grow.