As I wrote before, in Indiana wilderness exists in the small spaces, and my favorite is the mushroom wilderness. Mushrooms are Big Nature in the micro world, scattered between long expanses of moss on richly decaying trees. Nurse logs are a prime spot for mushroom wilderness, especially this time of year. I found one this afternoon in a floodplain in Wildcat Park in West Lafayette. As it turns out, the break between soccer tournament games is just right for taking a trip into the mushroom wilderness. (That really wasn’t how I should’ve put that, was it? Well, you know what I mean.)

Little Big Nature

When I wrote this week that there comes a time here in October when you can no longer pretend that summer isn’t gone, my timing was pretty good: last night at 11:30 the phone beeped to kindly warn me of the first frost alert. This frost was supposed to occur in less than four hours, and last until nine the next morning.

And so it did. When I woke the next morning, my oregano was laced with the season’s first frost.

Autumn in Indiana feels like a gentle struggle between the seasons on either side. Winter takes the nights first, and the remnants of summer have to spend the day reclaiming the landscape.  Each day it takes a little longer to wrest the day from the coming winter, and eventually, the effort is abandoned altogether. But by the time I was hiking in the remains of last spring’s floods today, the warmth had mostly reappeared, and I was comfortable enough in long sleeves without a jacket. This was fortunate, because I spent a lot of time this afternoon lying on moist leaf litter, peering up at awkward angles at a nurse log. That’s usually the only way for megafauna like myself to access the mushroom wilderness.

I love photographing mushrooms because they’re so otherworldly, almost fairlylike. They grow obligingly at aesthetically pleasing angles, perfect little umbrellas reaching out from their medium of moss and bark.

I also appreciate that mycologists have a category for the mushrooms whose identity they can’t figure out. Doctors call ailments they can’t figure out “idiopathic.” Mycologists call fungi they can’t identify “little brown mushrooms.”

I halfheartedly looked through my field guides to identify these guys, but it’s late and I’m tired, so I’ll try again tomorrow. Meanwhile, maybe one of you should have a go at it.

And finally, a bonus shot that will serve as my excuse to spend lots of money on a macro lens. Because if I’d had one, the spider would be suitably sharp.

The reason I need to spend $1,500 on a piece of glass.
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4 thoughts on “Natural history of an Indiana autumn: Mushroom wilderness

  1. I love finding small bits of wilderness in my own yard, It was thrilling to find two anoles living in my side garden. 🙂

    1. It’s funny, because I was just shooting the mushrooms and all of a sudden I saw the spider through the viewfinder. Startling! And luckily, it looks like I’ll get away with half the estimated amount for my new lens. Yay!

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