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12-16-15 mycelium IMG_1568Yesterday’s post on fungal hyphae inspired a very talented naturalist/author to send me a poem she had written about the same subject. I was so taken with her poem that I asked permission to share it with you today. I hope it speaks to you as it does to me. (A mass of hyphae is referred to as mycelium.)


The mole has it at her fingertips, the slug
finds it delicious, the chipmunk
is a connoisseur of its networks,
under the deer’s sharp hooves,
it is broken and healed.

It is a blanket woven
in the bed of the earth.

It is patient as the desert,
willing to wait
a month or a season
for the engorgement of rain,
the carnal urgency of fruit ,
the ethereal casting of spores.

Some believe they know
about the longings of trees,
their reachings for the sky,
their intimacy with the air,
but a tree meets its true lover
in a secret tryst under the earth,
in the clasping of root tips
the sheathing, the enfolding,
the flowing back and forth,
the quenchings and bodily gifts
of the mycorrhyzal embrace.

Kathie Fiveash, author, Island Naturalist

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34 responses

  1. Ellen Blanchard

    Why does the mycelium come out onto the top of the mushroom where we can see it, instead of hidden beneath the earth. Isn’t this unusual?

    December 16, 2015 at 7:50 am

    • Some mycelium breaks down and decomposes organic matter – i.e. the mycelium on the pictured mushroom…not exactly the appropriate photo when you’re talking about the mycelium that attaches itself to living plants, but I figured at least it showed people what mycelium looks like! Probably should have used the appropriate mycelium, which you can find by peeling the bark off a rotting log!

      December 16, 2015 at 9:45 am

  2. donna

    Lovely – I often explain this to students whose eyes open up wide – along with their teachers..

    December 16, 2015 at 7:50 am

  3. Must see if our Howe Library has Ms. Fiveash’s poetry! That is an incredible piece.

    December 16, 2015 at 7:52 am

  4. Evergreen Erb

    What an incredible poem. I am wondering if I can get permission to share it with a woman in CA (Starhawk). It is from her that I learned all about these wonderful things. She would love it. Thanks

    December 16, 2015 at 8:25 am

    • I shall pass your request on to Kathie!

      December 16, 2015 at 9:45 am

    • Kathie would love for any reader to share her poem with others. So glad others see its beauty, too.

      December 16, 2015 at 4:38 pm

  5. Alice Bagwill

    Oh my goodness, what perfection – your pictures and descriptions and her beautiful poem. Thanks to both of you. Alice B.

    December 16, 2015 at 8:29 am

  6. Sally Brady

    Good morning, Mary,

    Thank you for yesterday’s post, and for today’s beauty. It’s a real treasure, and a wonderful way to start the day, as are each of your daily treats, but this one stands alone.

    Happy Christmas – I hope yours includes some time with that baby!



    December 16, 2015 at 8:34 am

  7. Suzanne Elusorr

    Dear Mary,

    What an exquisite poem – a huge “thank you” to Kathie Fiveash for sending it to you and another huge “thank you” to you for passing it along to us.

    Kind regards and warm wishes for the holidays,


    December 16, 2015 at 8:37 am

  8. Jackie Ascrizzi

    Beautiful poem! Thanks for posting.

    Jackie Ascrizzi

    December 16, 2015 at 8:56 am

  9. Caroline

    Wonderfully written! Thank you so much for the share.

    December 16, 2015 at 9:08 am

  10. Sandy white

    Thank you!

    December 16, 2015 at 9:13 am

  11. Beth Pauls

    Beautiful. Thank you.

    December 16, 2015 at 9:19 am

  12. I love this poem, and am ordering her book. Thanks for sharing!

    December 16, 2015 at 10:04 am

  13. LOVE the poem! and the post that inspired it. Thank you and Kathie for sharing it. Ever since I first learned about mycelium and how they serve as (among other things) a communication network throughout all components of a forest, I have realized the extent to which a forest is really a single living breathing organism, more like our own bodies than a community of loosely connected ecosystems. Awesome concept, and one that doesn’t end at the forest edge…!

    December 16, 2015 at 10:36 am

  14. Fifi Ball

    Lovely–thanks to both of you for sharing!

    December 16, 2015 at 11:16 am

  15. Kathie Fiveash

    Hello all you Naturally Curious readers! Thank you for your lovely responses to my poem. Just to be clear, my book, Island Naturalist, is a collection of essays about nature on Isle au Haut ME, where I live much of the year, and by extension about nature on the coast of Maine in general. You are all inspiring me to gather my poems into a collection!

    December 16, 2015 at 11:17 am

    • Lila Piel

      Amazing!! please do!

      December 16, 2015 at 12:12 pm

  16. Suza

    Wow, this poem is really good! Great job!! 🙂

    December 16, 2015 at 11:49 am

  17. Ruth Van Doren

    If you enjoyed this, read Kathy Fiveash’s award winning “An Island Naturalist” – beautiful prose about a Maine Island, featuring a different topic on nature for each month.

    December 16, 2015 at 1:40 pm

  18. Helen Ann Sephton

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing it, Mary.

    December 16, 2015 at 2:15 pm


    Please convey thanks to Kathie from one of her former Family Campers. Where are you now Kathie? Joel Snider

    Date: Wed, 16 Dec 2015 12:12:54 +0000 To:

    December 16, 2015 at 2:17 pm

  20. A wonderful, beautifully crafted poem. Thank you, Mary.

    December 16, 2015 at 2:20 pm

  21. John DeWitt

    Beautiful Kathie !

    December 16, 2015 at 5:14 pm

  22. Louise Homstead

    Yes, beautiful. Kathie is very diversely talented and lives in my former home. Thank you both for sharing and lots of love/connections!

    December 16, 2015 at 7:07 pm

  23. tom


    December 16, 2015 at 7:57 pm

  24. Sue gerry

    This is truly beautiful and touching. Amazing to combine science and spirit.
    Love the implication that the trees have lovers underground.
    Beautiful way with language. Wow!

    December 16, 2015 at 9:35 pm

  25. Carol Joan Edelstein

    Dear Mary, We so enjoyed the poem from Kathie Fiveash! Thanks for posting it and for the wonderful photographs and information that arrives in our mailboxes each day. We love Naturally Curious. Carol Edelstein & Robin Barber


    December 16, 2015 at 11:08 pm

  26. Wonderfully written! Thanks for sharing it, Mary.

    December 17, 2015 at 8:18 pm

  27. Pamela Jackson

    Love the poem, thank you.

    December 18, 2015 at 9:12 pm

  28. Thank you sharing this excellent poem!

    January 5, 2016 at 11:13 am

  29. Carol Joan Edelstein

    oops, Mary Holland, I didn’t mean to send that to you…in case you thought my “beaver lodge cottage” remark weird. But this gives me the chance to say how much I enjoy Naturally Curious and I think you are amazing. Carol Edelstein

    November 28, 2016 at 9:18 am

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