Sep 192011

by Sven Eberlein

On a recent reunion trip to Schroon Lake in Northern New York, my friends and I took a day hike along the northern end of the lake toward Pharaoh Lake. I don’t know if it was just that time of year or if the moist post-hurricane Irene setting had anything to do with it, but within just a few hundred yards from the road we found ourselves in a sea of mushrooms, the likes of which I had never seen before.

Amanita mushroom near Schroon Lake in Northern New York.

Now I’m not a biologist, botanist, or mycologist, and my first inclination when I’m out in the woods is to just marvel at the beauty of the great web of life rather than trying to name and explain individual inhabitants. But I do admit that with each additional weird and wonderful fungal specimen I was wishing I had a little Paul Stamets in my pocket, whispering exotic Latin botanical names in my ear to guide me on this journey through wonderland.

Trunk Buttons.

Being a dreamer and generally teetering toward the poetic side of life I have no problem making up names for these mystical creatures along the path, like characters in a story. If nothing else, it’ll give everyone a chance to pitch in and identify these mushrooms by their proper name.

Leopard Dome.

For those of us whose main contact with mushrooms occurs at the grocery store it may come as quite the revelation that there are approximately 14000 described species of mushrooms in the world. When we think of mushrooms we generally envision something that looks like this specimen…

Fat Umbrella Family.

or this one…

Safeway, Aisle 7.

However, beneath the most common button-types dwells a mysterious realm of shapes, colors and consistencies that tickle the senses with juicy delight…

Luscious Oyster.

sublime depth…

Purple Shnurple.

or utter surprise…

Deep Ink.

They come in white…

White Roulette.


Hello, I’m Your Friendly Forest Cookie Monster.

or black & white…

I’m a Man.

Without so much as touching any of these creatures, this was one of the trippiest places I’ve ever been. Whether it was from afar…


or up close…

Spores Galore.

it was like we had traveled to a distant fairyland located somewhere between heaven and the imagination.

Whether we looked up…

Tree’s Up.

or down…

Tree’s Down.

we were immersed in an ecosystem all of its own design.

Tree’s a Crowd.

Like an ancient culture rich in diversity, information and mystery, these fungal spawns are like fertile landscapes within landscapes…

Tickle Me Shroom.

habitats unto themselves…

Snailed It.

that seem like perfect motifs on God’s great canvas…

Butterfly Airport.

And speaking of God, as someone who has extensively pondered the origin of that great big concert hall in the sky, I’ve always found the imagery of the old man with the white beard rather limiting and disappointing, much too literal. But upon seeing this specimen I had to rethink and re-imagine….

Old Man with a White Beard.

What if God is a mushroom?

I’m not suggesting that divine creation would pick one little mushroom as its exclusive costume. So how about, what if God is Mushroom? Now, of course we all know that since God is too big for just one country, just one religion, just one planet, this all-encompassing energy of boundless and unconditional love and truth is also too big for just one species. But I like the idea of these beautiful, primordial and little-understood forest creatures as manifestations or metaphors for something as large and omnipresent as divine inspiration.

Let’s try this one on.

God is big…

I’m Up for It.

and God is small…

Little Red Riding Hood.

God is mysterious…

Pass the Conch.

and climbing a wall…


God shines a light…

Solar Energy.

and humbly blends in…

Pine Cone Protection Program .

she’s got a million touches…

Coral Candy.

and to be found by looking at everything…

I’m not an Owl.

Come on in, the ground is soft and the water refreshing!

Wash it all Clean.


all photos by Sven Eberlein

  One Response to “What if God is a Mushroom? (A magical mystery fungal photo tour)”

  1. Nice commentary and what an array of forms, wow!!!