The Fruiting Body of the Mycelium

by Becca Borawski Jenkins

The distance between death and mushrooms is sometimes spare. The forest scent, the feel, the temperature of the dew, is not always, though sometimes, dissimilar. Between compost and rot. Between warmth and heat, with an edge of the frost that is about to set in. Something now that was, that wasn’t, that will be again.

Its perfume a cloak. Its density formidable.

And yet, invisible.

Beneath pine needles. Beneath madrone, beneath fir. They smell too much of time in the cedar closet, though they are no longer there when you open the door. They crop up when you dig your toes too hard into the dirt, into the under-matter.

Death and mushrooms.

They are both there, though you didn’t know.

You can smell them. Breathe.

Similar on your fingers—smooth, yet unwashable. You clean yourself, yet still feel. You wash it away, yet the dinge accumulates. It sticks to the places you scrub hardest. It appears at the fibers you pet like silk.

You wash it and for a moment believe you are free. But it’s just another coating to protect what is underneath.

And underneath, and underneath.

You hold it in your hand. You smell it, you taste it, you fear it, you eat it.

The fruiting body of the mycelium. The symptom of life’s disease, of life’s potential.

A fungus. A food. A rot.

That which ties everything together. That which connects all that is underneath. That which connects you, to me, to another, to those who came before. That which fertilizes all that will come.

The fruiting body. The ebullient corpse.

The fallen leaf. The fallen deer. The fallen man.

And underneath, and underneath.

The distance between death and mushrooms is sometimes spare.

Becca Borawski Jenkins is a writer and editor. She holds an MFA in Cinema-Television Production from USC and has short stories appearing or forthcoming in The Forge, concīs, The Knicknackery, Panorama, Five 2 One, Citron Review, Entropy, Jersey Devil Press, Corium, and others. She and her husband live in a RV they built by hand. They spend part of the year on an off-grid homestead somewhere in the Idaho Panhandle, and the rest of the year wherever their whims and the winds take them.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The Fruiting Body of the Mycelium”?

    While we lived on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, my husband and I regularly foraged for mushrooms. This piece began as a sensory exploration of my memories of those outings, but I have never foraged for mushrooms without pondering the potential expanse of their existence and the idea that an unseen but global mycelium might connect us all. And the one other thing that connects us all and connects us to the earth is death. So this piece became an exploration of mushrooms and death as the threads beneath everything.
This entry was posted in Jenkins, Becca and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.