An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of May 6, 2012
written in the woods not far from Natchez, Mississippi, USA

WISDOM OF THE ORANGE MOSSCAP

Orange Mosscap, RICKENELLA FIBULA

Across the river in Louisiana a bayou is a swampy body of water such as the outlet of a lake or river, usually with sluggish or stagnant water. Here among southern Mississippi's loess-mantled uplands along the Mississippi River, bayous are deep, steep-walled valleys or ravines eroded into loess -- loess being accumulations of dust deposited by wind at the end of the last Ice Age. Deep, moist and shadowy bayou bottoms often provide refuges for mosses, ferns and other plants that don't occur higher up where sunlight and wind dries things out. The north faces of vertical loess walls in bayou bottoms often are heavily encrusted with green mosses. Nowadays emerging here and there from the green moss crust on bayou loess walls there's an exceedingly small, yellow-orange mushroom, the one shown above.

Best I can determine, that's the Orange Mosscap, RICKENELLA FIBULA, a humus-decomposing fungus nearly always associated with mosses, and distributed nearly worldwide. Its cap is only about 3/10ths-inch across (7mm).

Focusing on the Orange Mosscap draws me into a world that really exists, yet it's a state of reality conflicting mightily with human experience. In that world, a moss's leaf is as formidable as a machete, snail slime trails are as significant as little streams, and dewdrops the relative size of basketballs adhere to vertical walls in defiance of gravity.

While I lean against the loess wall focusing on the Orange Mosscap's world, the caw of a flying-over crow draws my attention to the narrow swatch of sky shining above the bayou. The deep blueness there draws me into the sky's reality, its enormity, and into thoughts about Outer Space's gleeful inattention to the local rules of Earth's Euclidian geometry, and the Universe's raging expansion to the tune of quantum physics, curved space, and time warps.

But then a butterfly flits through a shaft of sunlight so off I go, thinking no more of Orange Mosscaps and quantum physics. However, all day the insight lingers that as a human with a mind -- as a member of the most evolutionarily advanced of all Earthly organisms -- I'm granted the ability to swing my mind back and forth through wildly different dimensions of reality. There must be a reason for it. And if my having this ability is so important to the Universal Creative Impulse that She's invested millions of years of creative energy to create it, that reason must be regarded as being Her wish and thus, for me, a spiritual imperative.

Down in the shadowy bayou where the Orange Mosscap surrounds itself with dark green moss and shining snail trails there is a teaching about the beauty and necessity of empathy, of mental flexibility and adaptation, of learning, feeling and evolution. Facebook Icon