Sky Credits

One final element of the Guilford Woods I’d like to highlight is the sky, with all of its striking colors, darks, and lights. Coming from 2 places where sunsets are almost mandatory to watch (Colorado’s sky was always beautiful, and Alabama’s was only gorgeous because of the excessive pollution), I had high expectations. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. I think it was the variety that struck me. Morning sky could be both foreboding and warming, midday could be bright and still or hazy and relentless, and afternoon to night could be somber yet animated. One of the first skies I remember that literally stopped me in my tracks was a winter sunset that captured the stillness and vibrancy of the time and place. It was one of the first photographs of Guilford on my phone and I’ll never forget that moment.

Winter sunset from freshman year, photographed by me.

I remember trying to explain the sky here to my mom in Alabama and for some reason, it’s just so difficult to put the sky into words. One, because it is always steadily changing (which makes it hard to paint or draw as well), and two, because as humans, we simply lack the vocabulary to accurately describe pure beauty. We’ve talked about the concept of pure evil and pure good, and again, it comes down to our basic understanding of the word “pure”, because humans are not “purely” one thing or the other, and it’s not something we can readily define. This is why I’m a better artist than I am a writer. When I fail to discover words, I make up for it in paint, graphite, and collage/sculpture. Art is my language, so I’ve been trying to render the beauty of the woods for years in the only way I know how. When my mom couldn’t understand my imagery through language, I created a piece that tried to convey what I was getting at.

This is a piece I made my sophomore year in reference to Guilford’s sky. I used a flat, unsanded 2-foot slab of wood found in the woods and added layers of paint, glitter, spray-paint, wax, and marbles to build up a mixture of colors and textures. The way this piece physically feels to the touch is how I internally feel towards Guilford’s expansive sky. Photographed by me.

I’m not just interested in daytime sky either. Nighttime is a far more mysterious and alluring period and I’m confused when I hear people say they don’t go into the woods at night. The only sense of doubt I’ve had was once when I was a freshman and I was part of a group doing some night exploring. We got to a gathering spot and began talking about the day, when I noticed a flash out of the corner of my eye. I jerked my head to the direction it came from and I waited until I saw it again. About the size of a baseball, about 15 yards from where we sat, I witnessed a glowing red orb, fading in and out, expanding and decreasing, bobbing and jerking in different directions but all within the same area, to the north of us. My first thought was a flashlight, but it didn’t corroborate, so I finally spoke up and mentioned it. Before I could even left my arm to point at it, all three members had already noticed it and lowered their heads, urging me not to look at it or pay it any attention. It took them a while to convince me to not acknowledge the red light, but I had so many questions. After many personal stories, myths, and legends, I was left with the impression that there are lights or “will-o’-the-wisps” in the woods that are always there and I’ve seen many (of several different colors) since then. The only rule when you see one, is to NOT follow it. I was told stories of people following the lights and getting lost for hours and days, or simply being led through portals and alternate dimensions. I know it all sounds a bit loopy, but hearing the stories and seeing the evidence has me definitely convinced that paranormal/extraterrestrial things could be at play in this historic forest.

In a World of Fungi

More than 3,000 unique varieties of mushroom have been successfully identified in North Carolina. About 200 are considered commonly edible. At least 14 species are considered to be poisonous. In only one semester, I identified nearly 80 species with only about 10% of which were thought to be poisonous. Poisonous species found in the Guilford College Woods are as follows:

  • Coker’s Amanita
  • Chocolate Brown Slime Mold
  • Yellow Caesar
  • Dry Woods Russula (poisonous when raw/uncooked)
  • Gemmed/Jewelled Amanita
  • Lilac Bonnet
  • Yellow Patches Amanita (probably)
  • Viscid Violet/Spotted Cort
  • Jack-O-Lantern
  • Greenfoot Fibrecap
Jack-O-Lanterns or Omphalotus illudens that aren’t deadly but very poisonous. Can easily be confused for edible Chanterelles and some species have bioluminescence and glow at night. Photo taken by me in October 2018.

Some of the edible species include:

  • Oysters
  • Indigo Milk Cap
  • Common Puffballs and Pear-Shaped Puffballs (before they turn green on the inside)
  • Beefsteak Fungus (that smells and tastes like beef)
  • Wood Blewit
  • Witch’s Butter (when cooked)
  • Dark Honey Fungus
  • Saffron Milk Cap
  • Flat-Topped Fairy Club
  • Chicken-of-the-Woods
Wood Blewit or Clitocybe nuda found in thick woods, one of 4 found that day, photographed by me.
Chicken-of-the-Woods or Laetiporus sulphureus/conifericola found at the back entrance of the woods. Later that week, 2 friends made a stir fry dinner with some chunks from this bunch after properly getting 3rd and 4th opinions on its identification first. It was exceedingly delicious and had the same texture and taste as chicken. This is actually one of the only mushrooms I have eaten from the woods. The other was a Lion’s Mane mushroom that had been given to our cooking class by one of the farm directors that found it in the woods. Photographed by me.
Pear-shaped Puffballs or Lycoperdon pyriforme that were still young enough to be eaten (the inside is still white). I’ve never personally tried them, but have been told by the 3D professor that they’re scrumptious. Photographed by me.

Thought some seem to be easy to identify as either edible or poisonous, I had to make categories for those as well as the inedibles (not poisonous, but physically unable to eat), the nonpoisonous (one’s that won’t kill you but probably aren’t good), the toxic (poisonous as well as harmful to breathe or touch, like Chocolate Brown Slime Mold), and a large number of edibility unknown (there’s really little information for many fungal species). The 8 species that were considered unknown in edibility were:

  • Shining Waxcap
  • Black-footed Marasmius
  • Bleeding Bonnet
  • Onion-Stalk Lepiota
  • Coral Pink Polypore
  • Mycena amicta
  • Yellow Cracked Pholiota
  • Boletus curtisii
Pink Coral Polypore or Phlebia incarnata which grows alongside False Turkey Tails (and if I’m not wrong, forms a symbiotic relationship with the lichen and is velvet-fuzzy to the touch). Still, little is known about this species and how it survives, so its edibility cannot be determined at this time. Photographed by me.

With names like Purple Jellydiscs, Bonfire Scalycaps, Stinky Squids, and Scarlet Elf Cups, it only adds to the wanderlust of this place. Please be careful when searching for mushrooms! I have the scars to warn to be careful and again, never eat any mushroom without having a 3rd or 4th expert opinion!

Woods in a Bottle

Another aspect of the woods that keeps me coming back is the supply of glass bottles and jars I find in a few specific places every time I go. This area, as I’ve defined as “Glassland” sits between the Firepits and Swampland on the far end of the creek. I’m not quite sure why this area has so many “junk spots”, but piles of ceramics, pipes, metals, porcelain, and glass scatter this area. I’ve found jars that date back to the 1880s, a marble tombstone, and a giant head-sized unidentifiable mound of wax/sap. After being told that there once was a water reservoir somewhere around what’s known today as “the Berlin Wall” in the woods, I’d like to assume that this may have been the area, since moist locations contain and preserve old junk.

After my collection grew to over 20 jars and bottles, I was given an assignment in 3D design class to transform something with little-to-no value into something valuable/meaningful. Though some of the bottles were considered “antique”, there’s a very small market for glass collecting and thought this would be the ideal opportunity to give these old dirty bottles new life and purpose. I chose jars of different sizes, filled each one with a glow-in-the-dark element (paint or marbles), bones, and seashells. I then strung them at different lengths with fishing wire and attached them to some old CDs and a plastic/metal hanger. The finished piece resembled a mobile or chandelier, and I chose to exhibit it in the Dark Room of the Photo Studio. When viewers came in, they could see the strung up bottles with a light shining from below to make a rainbow effect with the holographic bottoms of CDs. Then the lights went off and the luminous contents of the jars were able to be seen.

Photo of finished junk-art piece by me. Some were old paint jars, lotion bottles, liquor bottles, vick’s vaporub bottles, and scientific containers. I tended to like the ecosystems of dirt and moss that accumulated in them, and kept them close to how they were found. I could never get a good photo of it in the dark while everything glowed, but it still glows in my apartment every night.

I like to believe that the woods is just one big jar, accumulating and preserving everything inside. Turtles can be preserved for months in the icy lake, but somehow thaw out and continue to live. I know this happens in many places, but it makes me think of the conditions that must be met to hold on to things. For the jars to remain uncracked and undamaged, they get washed to a tree base or a nook in a river bend and get buried, but so many things have to go exactly right for those things to happen. For every 10 pieces of glass I find, usually, only one will be intact, since it’s so rare those conditions are met. I wonder if the same goes for the turtles. I’ve seen them frozen in blocks of ice, just inches from the surface, but how many actually survive the freezes and what sort of conditions must be met to survive this way?

A pancake-sized frozen lake turtle taken by me one winter when the entire lake froze. Upon returning two days later, it was unthawed and gone.

Strange Phenomena Part 2

It would be foolish to not at least acknowledge that some things are unexplainable. As promised, here I will continue my recollection of strange and unusual occurrences I’ve experienced in the Guilford Woods.

My freshman year, close to finals in April, I’ll never forget witnessing a flock of Luna Moths come through the apartments, heading towards the woods at around 2AM. I had just finished a paper and it had been raining nearly all day. I came out to sit on our porch and was relieved to see the rain had stopped. As soon as I reclined into my chair, flits of green began circling the light posts. Thankful I wasn’t the only person awake at the time, two friends and I stood with jaws wide open. None of us had actually seen Luna Moths in person, and suddenly we were surrounded by dozens. Some drew closer to the porches but most crowded around lights, coming from a southward direction and heading northeast to the woods. In silence, we began to slowly follow their jagged direction into the dark woods but their group seemed to dissipate into the darkness. The three of us were at a loss for words and could only relate to each other about the experience because no one else believed us. Although one of us got a picture, it was lost, so I have added a photo from the internet as reference.

A female Luna Moth for reference, found at:  http://northwestbutterflies.blogspot.com/2013/12/species-profile-luna-moth.html (there’s a whole species profile here if you’re interested!)

That same week, I remember a friend and I taking a nightly woods walk to enjoy the fresh spring air during finals. As we walked, the moon was bright enough for us to not need light, but my eyes were focused on the ground, at little glowing lights. I thought my eyes were playing tricks, but they weren’t. I shined a light and discovered a creature that resembled a crustacean or a roly poly, crawling slowly on the dirt, blinking a luminous bluish hue on one end of its body. Both my friend and I were puzzled and decided to bring it back with us to investigate. We ended up learning that it was firefly larvae, which was very strange considering they were larger than adult fireflies and because their heads glow instead of their butts (as adults). After asking biology professors, we still aren’t sure why this is the case. Once again, the original photo was lost, but here is a reference.

Firefly larva reference (almost twice the size of adult fireflies) with glowing head, found at https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7264/7619831442_f66a70e5b5_z.jpg

My concluding story begins with a group of friends and I walking towards the lake one afternoon from the campus side. As we crested the lake field, we could see the waxing gibbous moon rising from the far left side of the tree line. We paid it no mind as we approached our designated location: the slanted grassy green hill that runs from the golf field to the lake’s edge. We took our seats, got comfortable, and began listening to the frogs’ songs. Within minutes, a bright white shine caught our attention. It was moving slowly behind a row of trees to the far right of the lake and there was a moment when UFO was on everyone’s mind. The answer was even more baffling, it was the moon..the same waxing gibbous we had witnessed walking there, but coming from the completely opposite-impossible-direction. Everyone was stunned and couldn’t think of a reasonable explanation, so we agreed it was the woods’ doing and we shouldn’t question it. None of us enjoy talking about it and have never experienced anything else like it.

Lost and Found

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, being an art major and lover of the outdoors, I’ve always been trying to connect the two. Wherever I went in the woods, I was always internally recording inspiration and externally collecting treasures. During my second year, I took 2D design class and was assigned a project titled “Selfless Portrait” where we were expected to create a self portrait, but it didn’t have to be accurate to what we looked like. Instead, we had to incorporate who we were and things important to ourselves. I immediately thought of the woods and began collecting. Everything that wasn’t tied down was susceptible to becoming my artwork such as leaves, bones, shells, rocks, flowers, moss, and even a dead Virginian Tiger Moth (pictured below).

Virginian Tiger Moth or Yellow Bear Moth that hitched a ride on my friends backpack throughout the woods. We could tell something was wrong with it and brought it back to the apartment. We already had a caterpillar home built, so we placed it inside. By morning, she was dead, but had given birth to hundreds of little eggs that we protected, watched hatch, and released back into the woods when they were big enough. Out of honor of this lovely mother, I included her wings into my “Selfless Portrait”. Photographed by me.

Once a plethora of items (all from the woods and my bedroom) was acquired, it was time to construct. After hours or rearranging and detailing, I was beyond proud of my creation. Since it was made, I’ve allowed changes to take place (let flowers wilt) and added bits here and there, but the overall form has remained the same. After putting in so many hours, forming attachments to items, leading to stories and memories, I truly put everything I believed to represent myself into this piece. I don’t think I’ll ever stop adding to it because I will never really see it as complete, but it doesn’t have to be finished to bring me  pride and joy whenever I see it.

An early photo taken by me of my “Selfless Portrait”. Essentially a piece of cardboard layered with magazine clippings (collage), paint, glitter, shells, stones, plants/flowers, and anything else collected from the woods. Right under the large red flower at the top, you can barely make out the Virginian Tiger Moth’s white wings.

Just recently, I’ve included a cricket leg, a cicada wing, and a peculiar little flower I found on my last woods adventure. In general, I like creating pieces that require a large amount of time to fully view and understand. The more complex and intricate, the better. Not to sound arrogant, but it’s one of my only works that I can stare at for hours on end because of its meaning and detail. Each little item, attached to the item before it, holds a personal memory of when, how, and where it was acquired, telling mini stories that only I (and a couple others) know. Like the woods and forests overall, paintings and artwork retain the energy put into them and can reflect them back onto the viewer. That’s why I can only smile when I look back at this image.

September Rain

In the Fall of 2018, I realized that photographs of mushrooms weren’t good enough. With the help of the print-making professor, we designed an independent study to log mushroom species of the Guilford woods. Within my first month, I had already identified nearly forty distinct species of mushrooms, lichens, and slime molds. As opposed to spring-fruiting mushrooms, these fall species have significantly less time above ground and are dependent on rainfall and humidity. Below is a list of common names and scientific names of different species found within the single month of September.

Inky Caps (before they get inky) found near the lake, photographed by me.
  • Jellied False Coral or Tremellodendron pallidum
  • Lilac Bolete or Boletus separans (grows near oak)
  • Firesite Funnel or Faeberia carbonaria (grows on burnt wood)
  • Ornate Bolete or Retiboletus ornatipes (grows near hardwoods)
  • Dog Stinkhorn or Mutinus elegans
  • Cinnabar Red Chanterelle or Cantharellus cinnabarinus
  • Oyster or Pleurotus ostreatus (grows on hardwood)
  • Puffball or Lycoperdon curtisii
  • Hygrophorous Milky or Lactarius hygrophoroides (grows near oaks)
  • Quilted Green Russula or Russula parvovirescens
  • Golden Spindles or Clavulinopsis fusiformis
  • Carnival Candy Slime Mold or Arcyria denudata
  • Coker’s Amanita or Amanita cokeri
  • Shining Waxcap or Gloioxanthomyces nitida
  • Black-Footed Marasmius or Tetrapyrgos nigripes (growing on black walnut)
  • Indigo Milk Cap or Lactarius indigo
  • Bleeding Bonnet or Mycena sanguinolenta
  • Violet Gray Bolete or Tylopilus plumbeoviolaceus
  • Cobalt Crust Fungus or Terana caerulea
  • Red Pinwheel or Marasmius plicatulus
  • Gemmed/Jewelled Amanita or Amanita gemmata
  • Inky Cap or Coprinopsis atramentaria
  • Dog Vomit Slime Mold or Fuligo septica
  • Silver Leaf Fungus or Chondrostereum purpureum
  • Beefsteak Fungus or Fistulina hepatica
  • Fairy Fingers or Clavaria vermicularis
  • Old Man of the Woods or Strobilomyces strobilaceus
A Hygrophorous Milky from above, found in area of thick oak, photographed by me.

Every shade of the rainbow was represented from the leaky red Bleeding Bonnet all the way to the deep purples in the Violet Gray Bolete. The majority of these species are dependent on tree species and some will only grow on certain kinds of wood (Firesite Funnels only grow on burnt wood and Boletes and Milkcaps tend to grow near and around hardwoods only). Through documentation, patterns began appearing, with large populations found in the Highlands and Rope Treeland (to the left/West of the creek) during this time of year. I began to notice how the sense of smell could help me locate and identify certain species (the only reason I found the Dog Stinkhorn was by getting a whiff of its putrid aroma). Though some are simply too small to eat, about 15 or more of the listed species are considered edible, with only 2 or 3 being certainly poisonous (definitely Coker’s Amanita and the Gemmed Amanita). One of the most interesting species was an abundant one, the Inky Caps, are edible with caution. They contain a toxin that interferes with the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol, so it is advised to not drink alcohol for up to 5 days after consumption.  **NO MUSHROOMS WERE CONSUMED DURING THE DOCUMENTATION PROCESS** (EVERY MUSHROOM SHOULD BE TREATED AS POISONOUS UNTIL PROPERLY IDENTIFIED)

Strange Phenomena

After nearly four years of getting to know the Guilford woods, I have come to find out that it is unlike any other. Although its history is unique, I have come to believe that this place is much more than just a historic landmark and a recreational retreat, but also a mysterious sanctuary of bizarre and unorthodox experiences. Here I will share a few strange and unusual encounters…

The Ghostly Albino Fawn

The only two photos I’ve ever captured of the elusive albino fawn, both skewed by light sources, making it seem as though it were being beamed down (or up) by a UFO.

Starting at the beginning, as a freshman, I went through my first semester without a cellphone, and consequently spent my time in the woods. My first encounter with the white fawn happened when I was alone, sitting at the back entrance to the woods, and it suddenly ran right in front of me, towards the parking lot. I could have reached out and touched it, but I was too in shock to move. Since then, I had seen it a few more times, but when summer came and went, reports stated that the fawn had been killed by a trophy hunter, with photos to back up its mortality. However, just weeks after the claim, a friend and I sat on a grassy hill facing the lake one afternoon to watch the bats come out. Suddenly, my friend says to look, but don’t move too quickly, and as I sat up, clear-as-day, stood the white baby deer, less than 15 feet away, refusing to break eye-contact with the both of us. As it started walking again, we followed, and the 2nd photo above was taken. For months afterwards, the ghostly little deer made its rounds everyday at the same time, coming through the North Apartments, through the parking lot, and into the woods…

The Missing Dinosaur

A reference of an Alligator Snapping Turtle, since no photos of the experience were taken, sadly. Found at: https://www.britannica.com/animal/snapping-turtle/images-videos/media/550381/95641

My sophomore year, a friend and I took an evening walk around the lake. To our surprise, some acquaintances were making a ruckus from the other side, so we made our way towards their hollering. Their excitement had been over the discovery of a giant dead alligator snapping turtle that had been hooked, strung up, and left to rot. My friend and I agreed on coming back to bury the prehistoric animal that night after hiding the nearly 50 lb monster. We met with a third friend and set out at midnight with only a shovel head-that’s right, no full-shovel, just a shovel head. After digging for hours, we finally felt confident that the hole was large enough, and placed the body inside and buried it. We disguised the grave and placed a large quartz rock on top so that we could come back a year later to obtain the shell, skull, and claws. For an entire year, we told no one and repeatedly checked to see if it had been disturbed without a problem. However, when the day came to unearth the creature, ready with actual shovels this time, there was nothing to be found. We dug for hours..days..in every direction..with absolutely no trace of the giant turtle. Sometimes the thought of it still haunts me when I look at the hole- now big enough for several human bodies- and I wonder if the woods either fully absorbed one of its inhabitants or resurrected it…

**Expect a part 2!**

You Don’t Already Know??

Now, I can continue explaining the permanent mark the Guilford woods has left on me, but for those not too familiar with this place, I suppose I should catch you up to speed!

One of Guilford’s historical landmarks, claiming the Woods to a part of Greensboro’s history for hundreds of years. Found at: https://www.greensborodailyphoto.com/2012/09/guilford-college-woods.html

Making up most of Guilford College’s borders, this old-growth forest (that was previously known as the New Garden Woods) has been relatively undisturbed for hundreds of years, but has served so much purpose in its plentiful history. The nearly 200 acres (and beyond) once served as hunting grounds for the Saura and Keyauwee peoples, but the mid-1700s brought European settlements (and slavery) to Guilford county. Since its first meeting in 1752, The New Garden Friends were against slavery and secretively (and publicly) fought for their cause for nearly a hundred years, purchasing rights to slaves to help support and assist with relocation to freedom in Indiana. In 1819, John Dimery was the earliest documented example of Underground Railroad activity, finding his refuge within the protective woods after escaping his captor. Levi and his brother Vestal Coffin were among the few that sought freedom for African Americans and in his dedication, Levi reportedly walked to Richmond, Indiana three separate times (500 miles each way) to mark the path of deliverance. He (and other Quakers) would use nails driven into trees and rocks to signify the correct routes that slaves could readily follow in the dark forest and terrain. Few can still be seen, jutting from the sides of trees, but the actual route was kept secret, so no one truly knows. Accompanied by wagons with false bottoms, a magnificent 300 year old Tulip Poplar, and determination, possibly hundreds of slaves found security under this forest canopy. For a more detailed timeline of the Guilford woods, go to:

https://library.guilford.edu/c.php?g=656676&p=5029514#s-lg-box-15933417

If you aren’t the outdoorsy type or can’t make it to the tree yourself, here is a virtual tour to the Underground Railroad tree headed by James Shields including songs and stories!

Serving yet another purpose, a great portion of the woods was used as farmland up until about 1943, when Horsepen Creek was damned to make the Guilford Lake. Along the creek are remains of an 18th century wagon road that was used by troops in the American Revolution, but that same creek created small crevasses and caverns that helped hide African American slaves and Confederate Army deserters in the Civil War. The forest also saw minor scuffles in the 1781 Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Needless to say, this area holds many ghosts- even if you don’t believe in ghosts, one must admit there must be residual energy that has built up over the centuries, making its presence very powerful and humbling. Years ago, a 0.3 mile trail was built and dedicated to the Underground Railroad tree and the history in which it contains.
Below is a link to a helpful website called Hiking Project that gives a virtual hike tour on the main loop trail, along with the area’s conditions, policies, and rated difficulty.

https://www.hikingproject.com/trail/7030581/guilford-college-main-loop

Art and Place

Through all my walkabouts in the Guilford woods, something has stuck with me. Something that follows me to every classroom and something that has permanently changed who I am. As a child, I always loved being outside, playing for hours by myself on expansive National Forest that surrounded my childhood home. I loved-and still love-the notion of getting “lost”. I found most of my enjoyment stemmed from being alone, deep in the woods, where I would feel complete freedom to be “myself”. However, I had not fully come to understand what wilderness meant to me until I came to college.

My first few weeks of college, I had a broken cellphone, which drove me to seek out new friends by wandering the woods. I was shown secret places, meaningful sites, and was told mysteriously magical stories about this forest, molding a new view in my mind- one that incorporated not just the physical, but the historical and spiritual aspects of a location. Suddenly, I saw this place as something entirely different than my home-forest; this was somewhere that had guided and protected slaves, somewhere that held enchanting white fawns and possible portals, somewhere that had its own will, and somewhere that could influence my artwork and perceptions.

“Do Something New” piece I made that represents a map of campus, including all the places I’ve walked barefoot. Made from mixed media including naturally found objects such as moss, bird egg, dragonfly carcass, and lichen.

In the Fall of 2017, I took 3D Design. One project in particular called for us to do “something new” and make a piece about it. That semester I had grown more accustomed to not wearing shoes. In some ways, it was freeing yet grounding, almost becoming an extra sense, since we rarely use the sense of touch and feeling in the natural world. I documented everywhere on campus, including a majority of the woods, where I had walked barefoot, and had created my first rough map, including several objects discovered in the woods. It was this that eventually influenced my decision to become an Environmental Studies minor. I wanted to be able to reflect, improve, and sustain the natural world through my artwork. I viewed my undertaking as a way to “preserve” and “display” this space, by bringing them into the view of people who had never stepped foot in the woods before.

More detailed map I made for the mushroom log book. I split up sections of the woods to better record locations for each mushroom (Meadows, Back Entrance, Highlands, Lake & Lake Fields, Glassland, Rope Treeland, Firepits, Pines, Thick Woods, Foothills, Swampland, Mudlands, and Momma Treeland). I’ve collected data on mushroom species from each section and plan to revise in the future to make it more legible and accurate.

3 years later, for an Independent Study, I decided on the mushroom log book, and included a hand drawn map on the inside-front cover. I already had perimeters set in my mind about how the woods are split up, so drawing them out made it easier to pinpoint mushroom locations. For future blog posts, I will aim to connect my map to the historical maps of the woods, comparing and contrasting, along with drawing deductions about how and why particular land-forms and species reside in these spaces today.

My MushROOM: The Guilford Woods

We’ve been learning a lot about “place” and “home” recently. I’d like to dive deeper by introducing the term “room”. There are perimeters to everyone’s “home”, and a “home” includes yourself, your family, and your environment. “Home” is essentially where one can reveal a more “truer” version of themselves that is different from their public persona. But with every public and personal persona, there is the hidden, private one that we all, for the majority, keep to ourselves. A “room” or room where you reside the most within your home becomes this place to display that third persona. Moving away from home, five states away, I have had great difficulty in finding “my room” in the world around me. However, upon realizing that homes and rooms do not have to be confined to 4 walls, I have found “my room” in the entirety of the Guilford Woods.

Upon visiting Guilford for the first time, I knew instantly that the woods were something very special. Over the course of 4 years, in some ways, I have grown more attached to these woods than the place that I call “home”. Undoubtedly, I have spent more time in the woods of Guilford than I have actually on campus. However, I did not start to recognize it’s beauty until my first Spring, when every-color-of-the-rainbow mushrooms began popping up from the damp soil. Since then, I have documented mushrooms of every size and shape from every corner of the woods. Not knowing exactly how I wanted to preserve these experiences with the magical world of fungi, I began by simply photographing them from various angles.

Four of the first few species I encountered in the Guilford woods, before I learned how to identify them. All were found in very different locations in the woods. Photographed by me in January, 2017.

As my obsession with these woods grew, I began incorporating natural elements and items into my major- Art. It seemed that every project I created had at least some aspect of the natural world. For my Life Drawing class, we were given the assignment of drawing a scene from the natural world, focusing on the area around the lake. At this time, there were still small portions of snow clinging to branches and fractions of the lake were still partially frozen. Armed with my pencil and paper, I situated myself on the bridge formerly known as the “anti-public safety bridge”, due to its irregularly steep sides that made it impossible to drive a golf cart over. From spending hours at this one spot, I began forming a sense of awareness of the natural world around me.

Finished drawing of the lake from the “anti-P-safe” bridge (18″x 24″). Done with graphite, charcoal, and gouache in January, 2017.

Since my fascination started, I have expanded my photo catalog of mushrooms by beginning a log book that contains representational drawings, dates & times, species’ names, locations & relativity, edibility, size, and descriptions. Though I have witnessed hundreds, I only have a little over 80 distinct species in the log book, since it’s relatively difficult to accurately distinguish between thousands of species. However, with practice, I have gotten much better at identification, and also have become more familiar with this space by seeking out the small and unusual.