Mushrooms and mourning

There is something magical about connecting with nature, finding out names of things, discovering things for the first time. It’s a simple magic, reminiscent of childhood. And yet we grow out of this wonder at some point, especially if you’re a city dweller. Nature becomes a sort of background process, a green wall of things happening between the cracks of human activity. When in reality it is the main event.

The way through the woods shows how reconnecting with nature can provide a way back to ourselves after losing a loved one. It is at first glance an odd pairing, grief and mushrooms. It wouldn’t be on a menu. It is none the less a productive and insightful combination and two subjects I am personally drawn to. The book starts with the author Long Litt Woon losing her husband and describes in moving detail her own mourning process. She looks back somewhat bemused that it was mushrooms that helped her through that whole process.

As a book about foraging mushrooms it provides an excellent introduction to the topic, looking at the culture surrounding it and the mushrooms themselves. It is set in Norway so the ecology is slightly different to what you’d find in Ireland. Foraging itself is a mindful process involving all of the senses. Foraging mushrooms has also been described as an extreme sport since it is well known that some mushrooms can be lethal. I reckon that this heightens the degree of trust established between foragers because the knowledge shared can literally be a matter of life and death. In Ireland we are somewhat phobic of mushrooms, but no so in other countries. It is not so dangerous if following good guides and proceeding with informed caution.

This book is refreshing look at the power of nature to help us through the most difficult human ordeals. Often we never know where the helping hand will come from, but we can keep looking.

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