After Life

The decaying remains of old giants yield new life. Saplings, sprouts, moss, lichen and fungus displayed in abundance like flowers on the grave of a beloved. I find hope in these stumps, decomposition becomes reorganization, death to fertility, these dead giants don’t vanish but instead break down and return life through the omnipresent mycorrhiza network of the forest. 

These paintings were made within the last year, the second year of a pandemic, a time of collective anxiety and isolation. During this time, while most of my social interactions ceased, some of my best days were filled with simple walks in the forest. In the forest it’s easy to become enthralled by the quest to find different mushrooms; spotting one leads to many more as I start to envision their subterranean networks. As we walk through the woods, we let our dog off the leash, she is free to romp around and blaze the trail for us. She is the dog Sara and I adopted during the first year of the pandemic, shortly after we had a backyard wedding. A wedding that had fewer guests than there are fingers on my right hand. She is our pandemic dog, one that isn’t socialized enough for the frequent dog encounters found on the popular hiking trails. While momentous on a personal level, getting married and adopting a dog have become cliché quarantine activities, right up there in popularity with baking bread. I don’t think these activities became popular out of boredom but instead because we are collectively longing for connection.

Walking through the woods, stepping into deep pillows of moss and humus there is a tangible connection between everything growing and decaying all around me. Learning about the intricacies of this interconnected landscape through excited talks from an eccentric mycologist, expands on the enchantment felt while walking in the forest. The frontier of mycology seems to occupy a realm where science and magic are fluid, not unlike quantum physics. Pragmatic scientific patents coexist with discussions of eutierria or oneness with all the earth. From cleaning up oil spills, to fighting depression there is a contagious aura of optimism in the potential of mycology today. During my forest ramble, I find mycelium working to break down the remains of dead trees bearing witness to the process of regeneration.

The transformation of death to new life provides optimism that combats my anxiety about the state of our planet.