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Mushrooms on a rotten log

Zoey Tiefenthaler

"Little Red Mushrooms"

Jack Eberhart

Let’s face it: life is temporary, finite. No matter how much you may want to believe that you will last forever, that we can make an infinite number of memories over an endless amount of time with our loved ones, it won’t happen. Now, whether the cause of our eternal absences was made by natural causes or done by something beyond our control is unknown, because we truly don’t know how or when we’re going to die. It’s a topic that’s anything but easy to discuss, an unfiltered chaos that can tangle and enthrall one’s mind into an abyss that only leads to further self-questioning. Still, we know in the back of our minds that it’s an inevitability. Furthermore, once we finally experience that one-time feeling of death, we will never know the millions of years’ worth of history that will follow with our lives passed away.


But what will end up surprising you (or not) is that while the human race will eventually perish and our ashes swept away, what remains standing is the continual prospering of nature and the life that grows within its ecosystems. There’s a clear cycle of life within those domains that ceases to stop unless greatly provoked by outside forces (namely, ourselves, the human race, with some choosing to impact these environments in a negative way). It’s beautiful, and not much can show that more than the most important part of almost any ecosystem: the decomposers.


There’s something that’s fascinating about this group of organisms. While feeding on other dead or decaying life forms sounds displeasing to think about for us, to these beings, it’s their job. It’s what keeps the Earth’s ecosystems full of life. Without decomposers, all things would eventually stop existing. The fertilities of soil would be at an all-time low; grasses and small plants would fail to grow. Bigger trees and plants would die;  the lack of food from those trees would cause prey to vanquish, which would lead to predators to starve, and this once-living plane of existence would fade into nothingness. Additionally, because of all of those trees and plant deaths from the absence of decomposers, there would be a substantial loss of oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere, which would translate to the end of a grand majority of mankind. 


What’s also important to mention is the vast mycelium network that runs underground. This network connects all of the existing mycelia to establish a form of communication that becomes one living, breathing being. It grows and survives by forming symbiotic relationships with other plant life, lending water and nutrients to them while the plants give the fungi carbohydrates from photosynthesis. This relationship helps to not only ensure that both parts of the deal get what they need to survive, but in turn, the entire environment itself maintains its longevity with those added nutrients. 


For instance, picture this: mushrooms growing on a dead log. For some, what we imagine is just that, and it holds no further significance. But if you really think about it, the presence of this life becomes something more. That image is all one needs to understand that life doesn’t just end right then and there. The dead log may have reached the end of its life, but from its death came new life in the form of several things. There are those yellow mushrooms that are smaller in size but make up for it with their vibrant, eye-catching color and abundance. There are also small patches of dark-green moss on the log, which acts as a source of energy for other creatures in the forest.  If you were to peel off the decayed bark, you’d disturb a couple of tiny worms who seemed to have made this place their home. Plus, the aforementioned mycelium network projects downward and connects itself with tree roots, creating the symbiotic relationship.


Generally speaking, it’s rather odd that yellow funnel-shaped mushrooms, a rotten log, some bits of moss, and little worms are being compared with the philosophical concepts of life. It’s almost a shame that we take that image and translate it into something far beyond those things and humanity itself. Our lives are temporary, and by the time we reach the end of our mortalities, we can only wonder if we’ve made a legacy big enough to be remembered. Have all the years we spent, all the time we put into learning and developing our skills and inputting them into the world around us, going to change anything? Will our preceding, present, and subsequent actions be something that inspires generations beyond our years and measly lives? 


Is it silly? Well, some may believe that legacy is all that matters. Some will think that these questions are a joke, something that shouldn’t be treated so seriously and with utmost importance. It just depends on what we think about that idea of legacy. Because, unlike nature, humans have “opinions” and “individuality.” We want to make our thoughts heard and do so by expressing it verbally through actions and words. Surely, at some point, you had wanted to make yourself heard in some way, shape, or form. 


However, it wouldn’t be outlandish to look from a plant’s perspective, see ourselves, and question why humans are this way. It's also very probable that nature wouldn’t care and keep doing the same things that it’s been doing since the beginning of life as we know it. Because nature doesn’t have feelings or opinions. It’s a collection of organisms whose sole purpose is to propagate, disintegrate, and repeat. Though there are concerns about the state of the natural world, its presence is still quite prominent. But, while mankind’s time on this earth is a fleeting moment compared to that of Mother Nature, it’s our actions and the choices we make that’ll set the course for our planet’s future.

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