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Common Ground

The commons are rough grassland, grazed intermittently during the year, cropped by herds of cows including some fearsomely horned highland cattle. During summer they're swathed in orchids and trefoils and scabious. And the skies here are always huge. Watching as clouds surge up from the estuary, and then being enveloped in the rain. I don't visit often enough, even though it's only a couple of miles away, and each time I do, I feel nature bowling me over with a giant robust hello - as if to say - where have you been? Do you realise what's here on your doorstep? It's a kind of courtship. I say I love the wild, but enough to get out in it? Enough to put aside concerns and distractions and come and greet the land with my feet and my senses? And right now, my duty to look after myself in the midst of everything makes these times vital and precious. The last two days I've stopped to gather a few parasol mushrooms, spotted first driving the roads that scar the uplands. Parasol are so distinctive once you know what you're looking for (and even if you don't), you can clock them a mile off. Thin, elegant stems, when they're young, egg-like caps, flattening out as they mature into great plates, up to almost a foot across. Snakeskin markings on the stem, brown scales on the cap. Today, I had a couple of heart-invigorating conversations because of those parasols - a guy came over to say hi after he'd spotted me hunched over in the pastures with a knife in my hand. He's a forager too, and a permaculturist - he and a friend had just butchered a roadkill deer. We foraged together for a while, field mushrooms and puffballs popping out of the tousled browning grass. And a woman stopped her car to talk fungi when she saw me with a fistful of mushrooms -a look of great excitement on her face. It feels a lifegiving intersection between humans and fungi - the excitement of foraging knowing there's breakfast out of these walks; reverence in the face of the mystery and fleetingness and unpredictability of mushrooms; awe at their beauty; restraint in not taking too much and wanting to ensure plenty of mushrooms mature and release their spores to keep the balance of things - and the growing sense that the mycelium that give rise to mushrooms hold a wisdom that is worth our listening.





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