In life, we all see the world through our own distinct lens – our lens matures and evolves overtime, shaped by past experiences, but nonetheless it reinforces the framework that we use to interpret the world and others around us. A truth about our human nature is when we approach things that are unknown and new, we use our previous experiences to attempt to shape our future ones. Over time these same lenses that we’ve trusted will lead us to straight into deeply ingrained types of cognitive bias, clouding judgement and becoming a roadblock between “our truth” and “the truth“.
You have a stained glass window in your house, and a handful of bees get inside. The bees rush towards the stained glass window in hopes of escape. The first bee rushes towards the frame and finds itself in front of a blue pane of glass, and sees the outside world as blue; the second bee comes, and flies towards a yellow pane - the next comes and sits on a triangle of red, the next on a square of purple, and so on. Then they start talking, which leads to an argument - all of the bees are correct in how they see their individual pane, but they're also wrong; if they could for a second take a step back, they would see the entire picture and not only their individual interpretation of the picture.
Where Adams uses the analogy to dissect and separate individual religion from the grander experience that religion can illicit, we can simply use it to understand levels of truth. Underneath where we each have our ‘truths’ – are our sorted cognitive biases that led us to our truth. Remove them, and we can distill down to the truth.
The term ‘Cognitive Bias‘ was first introduced by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in the beginning of the 1970’s. By their definition, a cognitive bias is a persons “systematic but purportedly flawed patterns of responses to judgment and decision problems.” Essentially, it’s saying that our brain fucks up and doesn’t see things as it should, it sees them as we have been taught to interpret them. Cognitive biases cause and reinforce preconceived notions, psychological errors, mental mistakes and missteps – overtime, these ideas can produce prejudice, bigotry, and intolerance. All in all, psychologically speaking, there are upwards of close to 200 types of cognitive bias that get in the way of our universal understanding – though, some are more common than others.
Do any of these sound remotely familiar? If not, maybe you have a status quo bias in preferring your current mode of thought – or a confirmation bias, as you focus on what you know and not what you don’t know (e.g. types of biases) – or a belief bias, that you aren’t biased even though other people are. The true issue with cognitive bias isn’t in having them – hell, we all have them – the trouble is in refusing to acknowledge, understand or change that same behavior that’s an issue. Hopefully the more you dive in, you’ll start the slow process of unpacking implicit types of bias that already exist within your mind.
So, how do we overcome our conditioning and start to uncover where our biases are? Milliseconds away at our fingertips, there’s a overwhelming wealth of information out there and we’re expected to respond to it just as fast as we uncover it. When we search for information and education, the way we choose to seek it out is within the comfort zone of our mind. Stepping outside of ourselves and finding multiple sources for our information is a good start, while discussing your findings with others can lead to a more well rounded understanding.
Acting in a more mindful sense, being present within the moment, can reduce our biases. Adding in yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises are an excellent way to start. When we are mindful and present, we no longer decide to rush to judgement but instead uncover the things in our mind that have been blocking us from getting there.
For more on understanding the different types of cognitive biases, here are a few fantastic articles, videos and books to ingest:
Since America’s inception, the right to vote has inherently been a focal point of our society – because time and time again it has disenfranchised parts of our society into not having a representative voice in government, and the inability to push for actual change. Even though the original constitution didn’t formally establish voting rights, or ineligibility, we are still at it’s core a country founded by White, Christian Males; thankfully, we have opened up our voting system to finally include minorities, the youth, women and our African American population.
One thing I’ve discovered in the here and now – when there isn’t a law in place to actively progress society, facets of society will use that space to push back even further. That said, with new legislation, came a trove of new pushbacks coupled with a new vitriol; with new change, came those who inherently rejected that change and have done almost anything they can to make it null and void. So, pull up a seat, grab some popcorn – and let’s travel back in time for a little history lesson before we get into what’s currently happening in Georgia.
After the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment formally abolished slavery. Laying the groundwork for the Civil Rights activism that we’re still in the mix of in 2021, the Fifteenth Amendment is a pivotal point in American society and culture – granting the right to vote to men of any color and was subsequently passed in 1870, As a country founded on the backbones of our African American brothers and sisters, it was tantamount to the evolution of the Reconstruction era of American history once slavery had been eradicated.
Next, finally passed on May 21st, 1919, and then certified on August 26th, 2020 – the Nineteenth Amendment took almost a decade of protesting to pass; and specifically prevents and prohibits the federal and state government from denying the right to vote based on gender. At the time, it brought in approximately 26 million American women to vote in the 1920 presidential election. Unfortunately, this still left the door open to prevent giving minorities the right to vote because by in large – it was an amendment duly applied to White women, which spurred the National Women’s Party to begin their work on the Equal Rights Amendment. However, every time it seemed like we were taking two steps forward as a country, we still had to negotiate with the one step backwards.
In 1962, the Twenty-fourth Amendment was passed – eradicating the poll tax. Yes, there was a tax to vote – and primarily a way to keep the poor, minorities and women from being able to participate in government. Primarily used by Southern States of the former Confederacy, the poll tax was a reaction to the Democratic Party gaining strength and seats in state legislatures. Unfortunately, there were several states who refused to do away with the tax – including Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi and Virginia. It wasn’t until 1966 for the Supreme Court case of Harper versus the Virginia Board of Elections that the poll tax was made formally unconstitutional.
Through it all, the South did an unfortunately impeccable job of upholding Jim Crow laws. Brought to the forefront by the White Southern majority, the Jim Crow era of laws essentially doubled down on racial segregation and racist policies throughout the South on state and local levels. These laws were put in place solely to prevent and dissolve the economic, societal and political gains made by African Americans in the post-slavery era. Slowly, over time, these laws were dismantled. Starting with the 1954 Brown versus Board of Education trial where segregation in schools was formally deemed illegal, Jim Crow laws were formally done away with in the 60’s with the one-two punch of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights act of 1965.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is in itself an incredibly crucial piece of legislation. Not only did it formally outlaw discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin – and now, sexual identity and gender identity; the Civil Rights Act established laws surrounding segregation – forbidding racial segregation in schools or public accommodations, employment discrimination, and most important to our current discussion unequal voter registration requirements. Piggybacking on the Civil Rights Act, as well as the 14th and 15th Amendments, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was created to ensure that racial minorities throughout our country, but especially in the south, would be guaranteed the rights to vote – making literacy tests and the like illegal, and preventing discrimination against language and racial minorities.
Last, but most certainly not least – we fast forward to 1971 – and the Korean conflict, and various Vietnam wars where we’re drafting soldiers into battle yet denying them the right to have a say in government. This brings us to the Twenty-sixty Amendment which prevents states from denying the right to vote for those over 18.
All combined, these small changes in policy in addition to the monumental amendments of grandiose importance have made it possible for millions of disenfranchised Americans to participate in their own government. However, In the absence of federal legislation concerning elections, it’s up to the individual states to establish their own qualifications; and hence the rub.
In 2018, NPR penned an article citing that almost half the United States had implemented restrictions on voting – noting that some states require a photo ID, which could be seen as a nuanced version of a poll tax, in addition to both Ohio and Georgia championing what’s considered “use it or lose it” legislation – essentially purging voters from participating in elections simply if they haven’t recently been part of them.
“You’re seeing a national effort by the Republican Party to try to restrict voting rights, and it’s playing out in states all across the country.”
Ari Berman, Author of “Give Us the Ballot”
Paired with the 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby County versus Holder which permitted states with long history of discrimination to bypass the federal government in discussion for changes in voting laws, Ari Berman of Mother Jones believes these are part of a bigger strategy by the GOP to restrict voting access. When the 2018 mid-terms were underway, these laws were brought to the forefront of many discussions – especially with Georgia in the mix.
Though there are dozens of states, with hundreds of pieces of legislation on the table – Georgia is the first battleground state to pass such restrictive voting laws in the aftermath of the 2020 election.
There’s a reason that Stacey Abrams is coveted so much by the BIPOC communities of Georgia. There’s a reason that everyone was so keen to get into the kind of ‘good trouble’ that John Lewis was referring to. There’s a reason our country was on pins and needles with the run-off races in Georgia, and why so many of us were championing for, donating to, and elevating Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff for their senate seats.
With their latest litany of legislation, Georgia’s GOP is actively pursuing a campaign against minority voters. As of the other week, Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp signed #SB202 – an almost 100 page bill into effect after being passed in the state house and senate. Some key points to the legislation that was passed. It standardizes early voting on Sundays. This is incredibly important in Georgia primarily due to the vast amount of campaigning, busing and voter turnout that African American Churches bring to the table – making it unnecessarily difficult for the African American Democratic population to participate.
Additionally, this same bill would limit the number of drop box locations in the state, cuts back on the time to request an absentee ballot, pave the way for unlimited voter challenges, require photo ID for mail-in ballots and last but most certainly not least prohibit the community from handing out water, drinks of food to anyone waiting in line to vote. And to boot, the Georgia Democratic Representative Park Cannon – a young, vivacious, openly queer and Black Representative elected just this past year – was arrested…simply for knocking on Kemp’s door because she was concerned about the legislation. Enforcement officials (…currently) are adamant that they arrested Cannon because they feared another January 6th Riot, and arrested Cannon on the charge of “obstructing law enforcement and disruption of the General Assembly”.
At the end of the day, it’s become unfortunately clear who and what the American government, as well as the American police, are propping up – and what they are actively working to dismantle. They are trying to dissolve our greatest strength, our differences and our diversity. As a society, America is a stained glass window built off of thousands of unique pieces, perspectives, and peoples. We each have our individual truths, but the fact of the matter is – we must pull back to see the biggest picture, we must view us as one whole America; not within the fractional window of White, male privileges and pride.
One thing I’d like to leave you with – we are not done enfranchising those who do not have a right to currently vote. Many states have a residency requirement, making it difficult for the homeless population. In almost every state, prisoners – current, or former, do not have the right to vote. Our country will not be free, until we are all free to participate within it; we will not be inclusive, until we include everyone.
“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”
“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” ―Abigail Adams.
There are traditional routes for higher education, but in light of the recent events, like COVID-19, college admissions scandals, UC Colleges dropping the SAT / ACT requirement, school’s delayed reopening, and the like – traditional routes might not be the most fruitful or effective learning methods anymore. As more and more people find the solace and mental space to work from home, it’s a great time to consider what else you can do from home and evolve into.
On a personal level, I’ve been with my current company going on a decade, and though I’m content with my Bachelors of Science in Applied Statistics – after being in the work field for so long, there are simply some aspects of the craft that had fallen by the wayside. As the adage goes – if you don’t use it, you lose it; and it’s doubly so when we’re talking about our innate depths of knowledge.
Though I had picked up new applications and industry knowledge – I simply felt I was lacking in other areas of thinking about business and the corporate world at large. As I forayed from my former role to where I currently sit, I wanted to hone back in on analytics, as well as learn a thing or two about both accounting and economics. After some thought, and a bit of pushing by those closest to me – I made some money moves, and was blessed to have been accepted into the January 2020 Cohort of Harvard Business School Online. Fast forward to now and I’m a proud certificate holder of their CORe curriculum. Down to my core, I am so thrilled to have actually taken the plunge into higher education and can’t wait to amass even more knowledge.
With infinite options and opportunities – where does one even begin?
With the ample amounts of downtime we’re all suffering from – there are ample paths to take, all of them leading to learning. So whether you’re trying to refresh your skill set, wrapping your head around something new and acquiring certifications or the pure and unadulterated pursuit of higher education – there’s a path for you. If you’re game to learning, but don’t know where to start – decide if you’d like to build new skills, or brush up on old ones. Then start doing some basic searches online to see what’s worked for other people, ask a friend, a colleague, or a peer at work. And you never know, some jobs will offer to even reimburse your schooling – however, mostly with proof of good, passing work. My suggestion would be to find a subject you care about, at an institution you respect – it makes for a great working relationship, and you’ll truly get the most out of your future education!
Due to quarantine and COVID safety, many of us have turned to remote learning over the last year. First things first, we have to face the facts: Long Distance Learningis a bit like being in a long distance relationship; either you’re really good at personal accountability, communication and your loyalty – or, you’re not. Plus, the classes aren’t exactly cheap – you’ll have to put up a pretty penny, or a few, to get your brain fuel. Good news though! The end result is that you’ll be well learned, have honed in on old skills while building new ones, and have proven to yourself that you indeed can handle that challenge – but just know that along the way, there will definitely be a few bumps and bruises.
Almost all accredited universities have an online learning component with digital departments for each and every one of us. This past year, I wrapped up my first online certificate course through Harvard Business SchoolOnline and their CORe program where I dove into Econ, Accounting and Analytics; and I’m SO thrilled that I did! I made connections, and not just between coursework and my work life, but social connections that I’m happy to have created this past year. Other institutions I was considering were: Stanford, University of Washington, UCLA Extension and Syracuse.
One thing I’ve discovered in my older age, is that going back to school isn’t always the best fiscal decision; I often wish I had studied something else during my time at University, even picked up a minor or a second major. But, hindsight being 20/20, I’ve realized there are other ways to supplement this type of learning! In that glorious time of life before COVID, you could physically walk into a classroom and simply audit the materials. You wouldn’t have the luxury of testing, or some of the reading materials, but you would be set up for learning success by being in the ether. There are some great online resources for those that are still resigned to staying home – some of my favorites are: edX, the brainchild of MIT and Harvard;Class Central, General Assembly Free Fridays, and Courseraat least for a moment was offering free courses for college students.
For Washington residents, did you know that our state is fucking rad? Trick question, of course you did – it’s why you’re here! When I applied for my library card, I was over the moon because I realized that with your Seattle Public Library Membership you get a free Lyndasubscription; FREE! (and, if you’re not a Washingtonian, you can also get one by signing up with Linkedin Premium!) Lynda hosts all sorts of digital learning, from Photography and Photoshop to Microsoft Suite and Access, to programming with C#, Python and JAVA. Meanwhile, Washington State Library’sMicrosoft Imagine Academy is dolling out free access to amazing tech learning software from Microsoft that covers applications, data science, IT, web developing and computer science.
“If you think education is expensive, try estimating the cost of ignorance.” — Howard Gardner
What uncommon routes, courses or classes have you taken to give yourself an educational glow-up as an adult? Let me know in the comments below!
It’s not so often that you would recommend reading about mathematical history, but here I am – having finished Mario Livio’s wonderful retrospective on art, history and use (or purported use) of the Golden Ratio.
As a resident number nerd, and someone that their entire life claimed they detested art history and history itself – I have to say that Livio succinctly and sweetly would the three topics together into an enthralling tale of mis-attribution and cultural intrigue. All the while, pulling in both the natural math savant, art fluency and historical perspective within all of us.
Though it initially seems a bit silly to read about numbers, but books on mathematics illuminate the whole mind into understanding the world around us – and within us – at a different frequency. Once you begin to understand what the Golden Ratio is (below), and the common natural occurances of it in the world around you (above) – I dare you to not be astounded that a natural phenomena can be so intricuately detailed within the permutation of a constantly recurring irrational number, phi – Φ.
As easy as it is to believe that a book about mathematics and history could be dense, Livio’s book The Golden Ratio is a poetic and poignant tale of something that we can all recognize in the world. Math is supposed to be accessible by everyone, as it’s the language of the universe, and Livio reminds you that it’s both both within and around you.
For more ‘books about numbers’ and some additional insight into art history, I highly recommend:
“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” – Kurt Vonnegut –
Usually, when I delve into my ideas and reach into the cobwebbed corners of my brain for a post…I can knock it out in a day, maybe two; at the very most a week. But this is something that’s been coming for at least two years; maybe even more. Originally, I thought it was the festival induced nostalgia of the Springtime, or the evolution into the downtime of Fall and the family oriented nature of the Holiday Season; or, maybe it was shoving my life into a U-haul two times over, moving away from everything I’ve known and towards the person I want to be. But, the more and more I separate myself from this feeling that’s been in the pit of my stomach – the more I realize that no, it’s just me; it’s always been me. Me being nostalgic and searching, me attempting to analyze the past and postulate a formulaic method of the future as I dissected the nature of love, empathy and friendship.
The human condition is one of connection; and at times it seems that we can’t help but to connect – to love, to find ourselves in another and to forge bonds outside of ourselves. Coddled by ego and love, protected by loyalty and exponentially expounded upon by experience, our relationships are fragile beings, brought into this world each time our human vibrations intersect with one another’s. Eventually, even if we’ve branded ourselves as an independent being of light and love – those relationships become what define us and our realities, irregardless of how routine or random it might seem. But on the other side of connection, you have the dichotomy of loss and breaking apart. Losing friends is tough, but the tragedy lies in falling apart from the living – from watching the bridges burn and looming in their flames, somberly separating after a difference of opinion, or more tumultuous – of life.
The Give and Take of Friendship
All relationships are a game of emotional catch; with a natural give and take, a push and pull – a simple supply and demand economics of personal happiness and social responsibility. They’re like a battery, or a gas tank, or a freshly rooted flower – filling, emptying and growing in symbiosis. But if you drain one too much, or overfill it another day – you’re putting unnecessary strain into the relationship, infusing it with a toxic nature, even if the relationship itself doesn’t seem toxic yet.
In the duality of life, friendships can only thrive when its seed is watered from both ends. What makes someone your friend? What propels them to flutter inside your heart and fill your mind with wonder and joy? How much endured emotional pain is worth the familial pleasure of friendship? Love of any kind is an investment – familial love, fraternal love, romantic love – every time you interact, you give part of yourself away. Time is a human construct, but there are still only so many moments in a day – how and with whom do you choose spend them?
The Benefits of Boundaries
Friendship is malleable and free-form like an emotional rubber-band, full of flexibility and movement; but even the strongest rubber bands snap under extreme pressure. Boundaries are essential to any budding relationship and are key to building the foundation of a successful one. If you fly into a friendship blindly without thought, you could end up like Icarus and burn yourself on the sun of your relationship. The most important boundaries are the ones are those you build with yourself: what you will and won’t stand for, what personality traits you covet, what you’re willing to let slide and what you abhor. You can only give yourself away so much before there’s none of you left to hold for yourself, none of you left to care for you – and let’s be honest, if you can’t find time or energy to care for yourself, it’s a bit paradoxical to be giving it away. Conversely, when it comes to the people in your social circle – it seems anachronistic that enforcing boundaries would build a stronger bond, but by not having any boundaries you’re saying you’ll fall for everything; intelligently implementing them not only builds trust, but creates a solid foundation for your friendship to stand on.
Know When To Let Go
Rarely does a relationship ever stay on the same trajectory it once was – which admittedly is half the fun of mutual growth; but like a mirror, once it’s been broken, it can’t be put back together in the same way. Small scale issues from broken boundaries to unspoken grievances can compound over time, eventually tilting the emotional scale in one lopsided way or the other.
The house that friendship builds is based off of mutual boundaries and a solid foundation; with walls of security and support, and open windows into your heart and soul. If built on honesty, loyalty and sincerity, it an move mountains – but if any of those core tenants are broken, the relationships trajectory is hijacked, and the aftershocks can ripple its tenants to their core. Sometimes, the strongest thing you can do is to let those people go, and let the relationship dissolve into the ephemerality of life – for both of you.
“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.”
When I younger, my mom pulled me aside one day and told me: you don’t have to like everyone, and not everyone has to like you. The first time she told me, I was 8; but the second time, I was 24 – and the words had infinitely more weight. Some people are meant to be part of your world, in a mutual exchange of love, empowerment and encouragement while others serve as reminders and stepping stones; they’re the loose change at the bottom of your purse, waiting to be tossed back into the wishing well of life. If you’ve invested properly in yourself, if you are honest with yourself about what you have to offer – you’ll attract that energy back; and if you’re making a worthy investment in yourself by creating boundaries, it shows. At the end of the day, the most important friendship to reconcile is the one with yourself.
How do you choose to strengthen your bonds and create healthy boundaries in your relationships?
Moving to a new city, let alone a brand new state, can be a harrowing task to say the least. A move of any magnitude is a great time to spring clean the mind, but when you’re adjusting to an entirely different location I think it’s important that you take up some hobbies, both new and old, to ease yourself into your new environment while it becomes your new home. Your old hobbies will get you back to basics, back to the core of you – it’ll remind you that home is and always will be in the sacrament of the mind and the spirit of the soul; while your new hobbies will transform your mental state into being present, letting go of the past and who you used to be in order to become who you need to be, who you desire to be. My hobbies back in Los Angeles which are currently filed as ‘something old‘ include writing, sketching, photography, and beadwork; essentially home-based creative activities I could file under “things to do with my hands when bored”.
Post-move, I’ve realized I’m not in Kansas anymore…er…rather, California anymore; I’ve gone from enjoying a keen understanding of the geography, topography and landscape of world around me to having a childlike sense of wonder and amazement about this new natural world around me, and suffice it to say – there’s simply so much to learn about, from nature photography on any of the hundreds of local hikes, to hunting for rare minerals, geocaching and my newest favorite – foraging for fungi.
As you learn to leave and let go of unnecessary mental connections to where you were, you begin to forge new networks, shedding pieces of the life you once had to create yourself anew – mushrooms are very similar; with growth as their only form of mobility, fungi straddle the perpetual edge of life and death, not to mention animal and plant, all the while communicating as one in the mycelial network. Ranging from neutrally colored and more natural, to delightfully vibrant and oddly formed, Fungi are the primary decomposers of earth’s ecosystem, and a wild menagerie of them at that!
These types of mushrooms are championed by the likes of Terence McKenna, infamously quotable ethnobotanist who gave us the ‘Stoned Ape Theory‘, internationally renowned mycologist Paul Stamets and the indelible Joe Rogan.
For anyone that’s watched the latest Star Trek Discovery series, you might note that their chief medical engineer shares the same name as well as the same mycelial ideologies of the earthborn Paul Stamets, and follows his book Mycelium Running very closely; anyways – the trekkie in me digresses. Last but certainly not least – a small handful areincredibly toxic, deadly toxic if you will, with several mimicking their benign cousins. This makes it incredibly important that you do your due diligence when researching, and save snagging them for your meals until you have a keen understanding of harmful versus helpful mushrooms.
“Mushrooms are a natural source of energy, immunity, and longevity that’s been studied for centuries. They are so great, that they’ve even earned the title of ‘superfood’.”
They’re not animals and they’re not vegetation – so what exactly are fungi? Fungi can then be separated into three distinct groups based on how they get their nutrients. Mycorrhizal Fungi, which are symbiotic fungi, live in harmony with the plants around them. On the other hand, Saprophytic Fungi live on dead organic matter instead of assisting in its decay. Finally, Parasitic Fungi are the cause of vegetative decay, as well as the recipients of all the nutrients. Mushrooms are considered the fruiting body of a variety of fungi, other types of fruits are algae and molds – but for the most part, fungi exists at a microscopic level that goes unseen to the human eye. Fungi are used as antibiotics, to ferment food and alcohol, and even as detergent; you might be surprised at how many everyday items you use that have been treated with some form of fungus.
“Nature alone is antique, and the oldest art a mushroom.”
So, how about mushrooms? As the spore bearing, fruiting fungus body – mushrooms occur in technicolor and can take a menagerie of different shapes. Young mushrooms, often referred to as buttons, are primarily a cap and a preformed stalk under a universal veil. Over time, the cap will expand in an umbrella like fashion with either spores, gills, teeth or veins to show for its work while the stalk simultaneously gets longer. Some mushrooms have a cup at the base of the stalk which is often deep in the dirt – so when foraging, remember: dig, don’t pick!
If you weren’t already sold on mushrooms, here’s a few facts that make them even more amazing to me.
So, now that you’re more up on your mushroom game – let’s talk about the best tips and tricks for finding those fungi and hunting down some of the coolest creatures on our planet. The best thing about this type of hunt? No weapons necessary – just some keenly attuned eyes and your roaming feet.
Location, location, location
If you notice one visible mushroom, the fruiting body of the fungi, take a step back and see if you can notice any others. Mushrooms populate in a line, or rather, a circle stemming from a fungal epicenter.
The rain brings good things, including the proper climate for mushroom hunting. Depending on where you live, California and Oregon see their season at the beginning of Fall and Winter (but really, it’s pretty year round in Oregon), while the East Coast has its best seasons around early Spring. A rule of thumb is to wait two weeks after two inches of rain have accumulated.
As a side note, time of day is equally important as many fungi will only fruit once the temperature starts to drop
Let a little sunshine in
Though fungi notably prefers dimly lit or dark atmospheres, light will inspire fungi to produce mushrooms
Check the soil
As natural decomposers, mushrooms enjoy disturbed dirt – so make note of the floor of whatever forest you’re lurking in
For example, king boletes enjoy spruce, pine, oak and birch trees; chantrelles prefer conifers and oyster mushrooms will defer to aspens.
Things to Bring
A picnic basket or a few paper bags to put your keep in
For those wanting to ID a variety of fungi, snag a small tackle box to keep each kind separate
For those going the picnic basket method, leave the bottom open for the mushrooms to spore as you travel so the next explorer can enjoy them as well!
A small hand shovel so you can get the whole mushroom
GPS kit or rope / yarn to mark you path so you don’t get lost
You don’t even want to know how many people get lost in the woods every year searching for mushrooms, so please don’t be part of the statistic.
The Gaia GPS app is an excellent resource if you’re willing to get the Pro version!
Put the fun in fungi and remember to enjoy yourself!
When you find your magical, mystical mushrooms – document that sucker! Take a few photos that accentuate the colors of the top, the bottom of the cap – to see what types of gill or pore the fungi boasts, and the stalk of the mushroom – then step back and get a photo of the scenery; if your phone doesn’t geocache your location for each image, or you don’t want it to – trust me I get it, drop a pin in your map application with a note about what you found so you can come back and see how it’s grown.
I can’t stress this point enough: even though many fungi are fun to spore on paper and there are a good amount that are both edible and tasty, like I mentioned earlier – be very wary! Collect what you will and document it all, but not just are some fatally toxic, but others will give you awful indigestion and a good amount simply taste downright awful and you won’t want anything to do with them post-pick or post-pic.
A wonderful resource to understand the flora and fauna you found your fungi around, an important factor in determining what type of mushrooms you have
As this is the modern age and it’s a bit untoward to carry around dozens of nuanced encyclopedias – I’m accumulated a list of amazing smart phone apps to try while on the go. Most seem to be bi-phonal, but I’ll make a note when certain ones are unavailable to either vertical.
One things for sure, if foraging for fungi is fun alone – imagine how great it could be with the right company! From Facebook groups devoted to the Pacific Northwest to National groups, here’s some of my personal favorites.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner and the impending Winter rush of familial holiday functions, the bombardment of imposed holiday cheer is here and ready to rear it’s seasonal head. Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up splitting my holidays between two homes, or it could be that I wasn’t raised under any form of religious guise – but the holidays themselves essentially passed me over; the only thing I ever gathered from them was they were a great time to be with loved ones, reminisce about the year that was and postulate on what’s to come while not slipping into a glorious food coma with sports on (which, let’s admit, is still pretty damn fun).
In the decade since I left college, I moved the opposite direction from home – and spent half of that time living by myself re-establishing my baseline, and questioning much of the world around me, including the day to day moves we make and overarching traditions most of us have blindly followed for part, if not most of our lives. Though my parents were raised Methodist and Jewish, they chose to raise me as as a scientist – to not accept the world at face value, and approach each situation with a childlike sense of wonder and an adult sense of amusement; where the world and nature were my church and the elders were my leaders. Now that I’ve moved up to a new state with my husband, we’re looking to make traditions of our own – which got me thinking.
Though our schooling would have us believe a very different story, Thanksgiving was a construct of the pagans and the very first one was not at Plymouth Rock. With Thanksgiving falling on a Full Moon for the first time in almost 71 years – I thought it was the perfect time to explore the actual societal roots of the holiday.
Unlike Easter and Christmas which are steeped in slightly more obvious Christian roots, stories and traditions with true roots in Pagan Holiday, Thanksgiving itself is one of the few secular holidays celebrated around the United States and it has an interesting, sorted Colonial history as well as a – you guessed it – Pagan based backstory.
In 1621, the Pilgrims completed their voyage to the new shore – and after a tumultuous time at sea, and losing a menagerie of ship members, they gathered what they could in the cold month of November with the locals and had a winter’s feast; and so started Thanksgiving.
Kinda. That’s what we learn in school at least, and it’s basically completely wrong, starting with the erroneous fact claiming it was the “first” Thanksgiving. Secondly, the Pilgrims were not the first to land in the new world – but this isn’t that history lesson.
Fast forward to our first President George Washington and the formulation of America – there was a suggestion among the constituents that as a new country, it would behoove them to create a nationally binding yet seemingly secular holiday. So, in October of 1789, Washington issued a formal proclamation that designated November 26th as a national day of thanks. And now, 225 years later – we have Turkey, Pumpkin Pie, and Football to celebrate with us. So where did Thanksgiving actually stem from…?
Believe it or not, but having a “Day of Thanks” transmutes almost all cultural walls, and essentially time itself; you can find an ode to it in essentially every ancient culture. The Egyptians celebrated Min while the Chinese held holiday for Chung Ch’ui; the Israelites celebrated Sukkot, the Babylonians worshiped Marduk and the Persians had Mirthas; the Romans had Cerelia while the Greeks honored Demeter and Celtic Pagans took to Mabon. Each of these civilizations had a day designated as a Fall Harvest Feast where they would tend to the end of their crop season, and enjoy the bounty in communal celebration.
After the Romans invaded Nazareth, the cradle of Judaism, in the 3rd Century, their civilization and culture began to seep into Israelite texts and traditions – including Roman Fall Festival Cerelia, which worshiped Goddess of the Harvest Ceres. As the global power of the time, this transmuted the Pagan celebration across any and every culture they touched…which was a lot.
A few hundred years later, Roman rulership had reached England and Cerelia evolved into the Harvest Home Festival under the Church of England. Between the 600’s and 1600’s, the tradition transformed over and over, for both secular and religious groups – but over time, and catalyzed by the separation of the Church of England from Roman rule, many groups within the church splintered off and chose to try for a new life in America; the rest is history – but apparently very poorly written and researched.
And since we’re here – traditional Thanksgiving fare and lore also have cultural roots that you might not expect. That Cornucopia, known as the horn of plenty, full of festively fall items? In Ancient Greece – Amathea the goat broke off his horn, presenting it to Zeus to earn his favor – in return, Amathea’s image became transfixed in the sky as Capricorn. Not to mention, that other things like corn, the Harvest Queen and poppies are all odes to the Roman Goddess Ceres, which the holiday Cerelia celebrates.
This year, instead of giving into a tradition that has been incorrectly hardwired into our brains, try one of these one-offs for size – or even better, use this as an excuse to make your own festivites.
Not only are the holidays a perfect time to reconnect and rekindle your relationships with those you hold dear – but they’re an equally excellent time to forge a bond over an amazing meal and delicious libations. For Friendsgiving, bring the whole squad with you – new neighborhood transplants that aren’t going back to their old stomping grounds, friends, coworkers and even their friends and coworkers. Friendsgiving isn’t relegated to any particular part of the holiday season, but I definitely recommend that it’s on a Friday or Saturday so you can enjoy your food coma into a lovely, lounging Sunday where you can marinate in the memories of your family you chose for yourself just a little while longer.
Raise your paws if you’re one of those people who has a timer on their phone for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Good, no one – and if you’re rocking with me, I honestly didn’t think so. I always found it a bit untoward that one day we’re wrapped up in giving thanks, and then the next day we’re wrapped up in spending our money – it’s pretty anachronistic to me. Anyways! A few years back, REI started their #OptOutside campaign – shutting down their storefronts, giving their employees the day off and encouraging them to enjoy the outdoors; I love the effect that it’s had on the world at large. Instead of giving into the urge to purchase, get off your cute little butts and get outside; not only is exercise one of the highest rated New Years resolutions, or most common Friday after Thanksgiving traditions – but it feels pretty damn good.
Altruism is by and large one of the best gifts you can give, because it really does keep giving. If you don’t feel like having your own celebrations this year, or are looking for a way to make an impact in your community – find a local shelter to volunteer with, help in their soup kitchen for the holidays, donate your time to a senior center and spend the holidays with those who could use the support, or find an animal shelter to give our furry friends something to smile about.
25 Days of Gratitude
Like I mentioned in the beginning, being thankful and gracious aren’t only applicable to the holidays, though they do allow a wonderful time for pause and reflection, as I’ve found a good memory is kindling to the fire of the heart – especially on a chilly winter’s night. As a kid, I loved those little you games you got on Thanksgiving that counted down the days to Christmas with candy.
This year, ditch that Advent Calendar, which may as well be called the Countdown to Capitalism as an incredibly Protestant Christian ideal that has been transmuted into the public arena without much thought, make your own ‘Gratitude Calendar’. Grab a notepad or old scratch paper, a few favorite pens and a jar – something you can decorate and want to look at. Each day, instead of taking something out – write down one thing that you’re grateful for, date it, and toss it in. When Christmas arrives, spill the jar out and read through each note one by one, you might even be surprised at how many presents you already have in your life.
I have to admit that being in a new state for the Holiday, and married, I’m incredibly excited to start some new celebrations with my husband and my family. With Thanksgiving falling on the Gemini Full Moon, I’m eager for the hearty conversation and lively company for the day.
Whatever you celebrate and whoever you celebrate it with, make it memorable – always.
What new traditions are you excited to start this year?
Let me know in the comments below – I can’t wait to read how you’re spending the season.