Question for today: What do mushroom filaments (mycelium) have in common with prosperity?
Examining our grapes at harvest time, yes we think about mycelium and soil health. But end of September also brings the end of al fresco, safely-distanced gatherings with friends.
So I am thinking about mycelium and neighbours.
When we moved to this hilltop vineyard we left behind extended family and close friends in far off cities. By some happy twist of fate our children came to join us. But actually, we hardly knew anyone.
On our first Christmas Eve I remembered the words of a local wood chopper. He was shocked and disdainful when I admitted I didn’t know the man who lived next door. (Granted, next door was several fields away.) So I collared the boys and packed up some wine. We marched around the hilltop knocking on neighbour’s doors, holding out small gifts, making connection.
That was the beginning of our appreciation of mycelium. Mycelium are in the trade business. Agents for connections and exchange. In this small hilltop community the sense of connection seems part of an old and unconscious survival mechanism. It includes the generous elder who taught us to graft fruit trees; the grouchy farmer who barely grunted bonjour but who explained precisely why cabernet sauvignon is not suited to that parcel down the hill; the big hearted who cheerfully dropped their own work to help with a hand harvest when my plans went awry at the last minute. And we are eternally grateful to the neighbour who lent his equipment in an emergency, spent hours with us and saved our Rosé.
Exchange and Trust. The basics of trade. Here on the hilltop we trade information, anecdotes, skills, muscles, equipment, seeds, plants, comfort, and – as a neighbour calls it – “un bon moment” … Of course there are a couple of mean spirited souls but they also are part of the whole. They remind us why we need to constantly reinforce our own sense of balance and equilibrium to ensure they do not get the upper hand.
In the winter when time slows down, we walk. We encounter our neighbours in the fields and vineyards. We talk. Sometimes we disagree, but what matters is that we put down our tools or walking staffs or rifles (in the case of the Sunday hunter) and we face each other. As we talk, we exchange.
The mycelium paints a picture of myriad underground, unseen connections. Connections feeding each other, feeding the roots of plants and trees and making nourishment available to earth insects. And in return, getting fed. Symbiosis.
Every time we pluck a perfect pear, finish a Rosé harvest without panic, borrow or loan expensive equipment, lift a heavy load made lighter by neighbour’s strong and generous hands and backs, I feel the filaments in this community. I feel the prerequisites of prosperity. Civility, trust, exchange.
Our neighbour managing the local hunt