Introducing our project

In my earliest memory of hunting for chanterelles, I’m squatting on squishy fir needles. (I would have been four, maybe five years old, so I didn’t have to stoop very low to reach the ground.) I’m chasing mushrooms from one to the next, always able to look up and find another golden bit poking out. At some point, I realize I’m circling a big tree.

No matter where I’m living, each fall, I long for the smell of a wet, mushroom-filled forest. It is my sensory imprint of Oregon. I’ve never felt richer than the day I found my first basket of king boletes, nor more contented than the week I ate grilled cheese sandwiches filled with sautéed chanterelles for lunch every day.

[I’m rich! Photo by Lola Milholland.]

This past year, I had the opportunity to visit Hood River Organic, a cremini and portobello farm on the north slope of Mt. Hood. It was my first encounter with mushroom cultivation. Walking into the growing rooms, where little white pins swarmed across the surface of the peat moss, I felt certain of a couple things. One: I wanted to show all of my friends what this looks like. Mushrooms are visually moving—I respond to them as though they were little animals. And two: I wanted to learn more about mycelia. They are mind-bending—at once extra-terrestrial and super terrestrial, like the arteries that we can’t see but know are running throughout our bodies.

Starting this spring, as a project of Edible Portland magazine, I’ll be working with filmmaker Giselle Kennedy on a series of four short documentary videos, each focused on someone who hunts or grows mushrooms here in Oregon. Collaborating artists Tony Candelaria and Stef Choi will be creating a sculptural installation inspired by what’s happening in the soil. We want to share with our broader community our sense of wonder at the mycological world – both natural and cultural – in which we live. We hope to release the videos in sync with the installation this November. The Regional Arts & Culture Council has generously provided a Project Grant in support of the project. We welcome further contributions!

I would love the chance to meet and interview anyone who would be interested in sharing his or her stories. Please be in touch. We’ll be documenting our progress and the things that inspire us, along with profiles of community members, on this blog.

–Lola Milholland

[This essay was written for MushRumors, the Bi-Monthly Newsletter of The Oregon Mycological Society (OMS), March/April, 2012.]

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