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.

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