Cheryl Strayed has this way of speaking that puts me completely at ease. I listen to her Dear Sugar Podcast regularly, which is what I was doing this morning as I was hiking on this little urban trail near the house. It was the first cool morning without oppressive humidity in over seven months (maybe longer) and I wanted to be outside.
On her podcast she and her cohost Steve (known collectively as The Sugars) dig deep into the viewpoints of those who write in to the show looking for advice on what to do with the dilemmas of their lives. I think the most wonderful thing is to be deeply considered by deep-thinkers. At some point on my walk Cheryl quoted her mother,
There’s a sunrise and a sunset every day, and you can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.
That quote is from Cheryl’s new book, Brave Enough. My mind trailed off to the future-thinking about the myriad of ways I could put myself in the way of beauty more often in my life and that’s exactly when I saw the first mushroom.
I stopped and took a photo. As I completed my first lap on the trail I thought I’d take a second lap around, and hoped that I might find a few more mushrooms.
On the second loop I saw just how many mushrooms (maybe a hundred?) I missed seeing the first time around the trail-big and little with so many different colors and shapes along my path; right beside me.
Putting yourself in the way of beauty doesn’t mean just having a look-about. It means deliberately placing yourself on a beauty collision-course. It means holding faith that beauty can be encountered anywhere, in all places, from all things-even from a humble little fungus-flower covered in sand and dirt.
Maybe the second, third, or fourth life-loop we take feels interminable because we haven’t positioned ourselves to receive the beauty in the mundane or even in the terrible things that possess our experience, nor do we have faith that beauty can grow from the rotting detritus of life. But then, just look at the mushroom there; having the audacity to be perversely beautiful.
My lower back has been tight and cranky; and is especially so this morning. The goal was just to get outside and get in my 12,000 steps. I thought the trail hike would loosen it up. It took me the first loop to fully arrive in the place I already was, and it was Cheryl’s quote that brought my senses to the ready. Finally it was my own volition to walk in the shadowed part of the path in order to see the mushrooms breathing in the shadows. The one below has grass growing into its cap; deeply grooved in from the mushroom’s mighty struggle against it to rise. There are also dark bruise marks from some kind of past collision.
I had to squat down ever lower to get the profile shots with my phone, the sunshine warming my achey back; and even more so when I stretching my arms out with my to get the right angle again and again. By this time I was fully engaged with the mushrooms, marveling at them, finally out of my head, and all at the same time unknotting my back muscles and gaining some relief.
Put yourself in the way of beauty. If doing so doesn’t forge a new path of it’s own, then perhaps it can change the way we walk along the ordinary moments of life; revealing hidden pleasures, coloring life as an experiment in aesthetic enjoyment over a life of necessity, and prescribing a natural engagement with our environment that is by its very nature healing.
p.s. Why am I always writing about mushrooms?
images © Heather Serody 2105