You awaken to the nostalgic smell of wet dog. Your bear skin cloak is drenched from last night’s heavy rainfall. At least you’re dry, and happy memories of Sparky prance through your mind. You climb down from the treetops and gaze across the forest floor. With bright eyes, wet feet and a grumbling stomach, you realize that it’s an opportune time for a mushroom excavation.
The mushroom is a curious specimen. Contrary to intuition, fungi are more closely related to animals than plants. Mushrooms look like they just pop out from the ground, but they are actually emerging from underground networks called hyphae, similar to the roots of a tree. After a heavy rainfall, a colony of mushrooms, or the “fruiting bodies” of the fungi, will often emerge to release spores.
Your eyes sway like a pendulum across the forest floor, and your mind begins to wander. Fond memories begin to resurface. There were times when you gathered flowers just because they were pretty, unlike the other day when you used them to relieve severe skin blistering. You once frolicked with the deer, swam with the beavers and sang with the birds. Alas, they all now fear you as their predator. And once, getting high meant something completely different than scrambling up trees to escape predators.
You come to the base of a great oak. From a wound in the bark, a colony of chicken-in-the-woods has sprouted. Yum! You peel off a rubbery shelf from the trunk. Your better judgment objects to the toxically bright colors, but your stomach growls, “Yes!” Without further inspection, you sink your teeth into the mild, succulent leather. Your belly welcomes the juicy slug your eyes seemed to have missed.
The meal was only half-satisfying. Last night’s rainfall should have ushered the growth of thousands of mushrooms, and you are a persistent fellow. You glue your eyes back to the floor, only to find what you had wanted to encounter the least: wolf scat. Ever since the disappearance of humans, the wolves reclaimed the Nature Preserve as their own. It’s an eat-or-be-eaten world out there, and you decide that you’re going to eat. You continue to plunder through the forest.
At last! You spot a colony of puffballs. The description is in the name: These tiny white mushrooms emit puffs of spores when they mature. You examine stalk and color, two indicators that the mushrooms are inedible. Finding no oddities in either, you begin to nibble on one of the rich, earthy-flavored mushrooms. They are so bountiful and delicious. You plop yourself in the middle of the colony and pop them into your mouth like bonbons.
You’re just finishing your last few bites when you hear a low, deep growl. A pack of wolves begins to circle about. You wish you were a mushroom and could disappear from the wolves’ sight. The wolves get closer. Plan B: You get up and sprint to the base of the nearest tree. You are only one step away, but your foot slips into the base of a burrow.
Down, down, down you fall through the dimensions of space and time. Visions of colorful mushrooms dance around your head. Hand to paw, you circle dance with the wolves. Your mind drifts in and out of a sleepy state.
Pop! The rabbit hole spits you out. You brush yourself off, pick up your books and head over to the library. You have three midterms to study for, and no time to read silly Pipe Dream articles about scavenging mushrooms.