Paul Stamets On The Vast, Intelligent Network Beneath Our Feet
A mycelial “mat,” which scientists think of as one entity, can be thousands of acres in size. The largest organism in the world is a mycelial mat in eastern Oregon that covers 2,200 acres and is more than two thousand years old. Its survival strategy is somewhat mysterious. We have five or six layers of skin to protect us from infection; the mycelium has one cell wall. How is it that this vast mycelial network, which is surrounded by hundreds of millions of microbes all trying to eat it, is protected by one cell wall? I believe it’s because the mycelium is in constant biochemical communication with its ecosystem.
Still, I love that line by poet Rainer Maria Rilke: “A good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude.” But my wife is not familiar with Rilke, and solving our difficulties is not a matter of my explaining things to her. I’ve been doing that for three years, in two languages, and neither of us has changed.
I was raised in a family of four girls. When my sisters and I are together, we speak a private language composed largely of different pitches of laughter that causes our exasperated father to demand to know what’s so funny. I am most at home when I am sharing clothes, secrets, and a bathroom with other women.
Suddenly you have a crisis: You’re tired of parenting. You’ve had it with this kid. You would give her back, but there’s no one to give her to. It’s too humiliating to offer her up for adoption. I am a fucking awful parent, you think. And you are a fucking awful parent. Join the club. There are about 150 million of us in the U.S.A. at the moment.
I no longer felt I had to “let go” of my first family, as some had counseled. I had two daughters, one I held in my arms and one I held in my memory, but both were equally real. In this new present I could remember and cherish Doria without pain. Feeding Laura in her highchair, I told her that Doria had opened her mouth the same way, like a baby bird.