Entangled Life

I finished Melvin Sheldrake’s “Entangled Life” today. The book covers how fungus interact with humans and the rest of life. It’s a great read; each chapter discusses different aspects of fungus. The writing is personal, multi-faceted, kind and curious.

One chapter is about lichens, the complex symbiotic forms of algae and fungus that adapt so well to the hardest places on earth to live. Another covers mycorrhizal networks, the intertwingled lines of plant roots and fungal hyphae that run underneath the soil of forest floors.

The chapter on psilocybin and other entheogenic mushrooms is very interesting. Sheldrake addresses the question of whether humans and mushrooms have a symbiotic relationship in the same way lichens or plant root networks do. He concludes that probably not. Although we benefit greatly from the effects of entheogens, they don’t need us in the same way. If the relationship ended, the mushrooms would just go on living their lives under the floors of Yucatan jungles.

The audiobook is read by Sheldrake himself. He’s got a flat, soft-voiced delivery that takes a little getting used to, but eventually brings the book’s sincerity and genuine curiosity out. I liked his reading of his LSD trip to concentrate on the nature of hyphae and other mysteries of the fungal world.

I came away from the book liking Sheldrake and interested in working with fungi. I already make wine and bread, but I’d like to see about re-invigorating the fungal networks in my garden in the country. I’m going to do some investigation of what fungi like our soil in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and maybe try to help them along. We have a great mushrooming store, the Mycoboutique, in my neighbourhood, which I am going to visit to find out about spores.

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