Fungus and Creation

“In art, either as creators or participators, we are helped to remember some of the glorious things we have forgotten, and some of the terrible things we are asked to endure, we who are children of God by adoption and grace.” Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

“Creativity means making something for the soul out of every experience.” Thomas Moore

Found near the beach

They are signs of death, really.  They cannot live without death, in fact, and often they cause it.  But pause to look, and really take in the elements of design here- their shape, colour, the striking contrast between the fungus and the wood it grows out of, the gradations of colour, sometimes strong contrasts and sometimes quite subtle.

This might be a bracket fungus (

Or perhaps a Cinnabar Red Polypore   (

Or maybe Pycnoporus coccineus.

All the bracket fungi are in the polypore family, and there are at least a thousand species of them.  Imagine!  They are generally hardy and live a long time, many of them have concentric bands of colour that are annual growth rings.

Their function in the web of life as we currently understand it is to be the first and foremost of the wood decayers. Some of them kill trees, others colonize already dying or dead trees and get to work on reducing the wood to a softer pulp that allows other creatures, insects and even woodpeckers, to follow and use the softened wood for their purposes while helping to further break it down, ultimately returning nutrients to the soil.

A frozen ice-age man carried two kinds of polypores in his pack.  One has medicinal purposes in many cultures, and one is useful for starting fires. Most of them are edible (although there is a highly poisonous member of the family).  Many cultures ascribe various medicinal uses to different species.  They come in dull, dun colored forms that blend in with the wood on which they grow. They come in whites, greys, brilliant oranges, reds, and chocolate browns. I’ve seen some green, although that might be algae growing on the fungus.  Some can only grow on one kind of tree, some can grow on any kind.  Some kill living trees, some only grow on already dead or dying logs.  Some are hard enough to be used in wood carvings. Some are used as an artist canvas- draw on them, and let them dry and the sketch remains, hardened.    So much beauty and intriguing variety out of a lowly, common, and fairly simple (but still too complicated for humans to be able to reproduce it) organism whose function in life is to decay wood.

Found on a log in the street near a pile of garbage

God has purpose for you, too.  What are you creating out of your experiences?
From the stars in the universe to the single celled algae and the strange world of mushrooms and everything in between,

“Oh, Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy Name in all the earth….When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You take thought of him and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8


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