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  • Ellen King Rice

It's A Zoo Out There - Naked Came A Fungus does Wild

Melissa Carpenter is known as a versatile artisan. She is a creator of things in an astonishing array of mediums, including acrylics, clay, textiles and much more. This "Ganoderma applanatum" adventure is Melissa's first excursion into fungal storytelling. She is currently writing a historical fiction novels and short stories. Contact Melissa at

Ursula wakes with a start, disoriented. Lying on her back, she sees stars through the towering evergreens above her. It must be close to dawn. Her head throbs and her body aches. A sharp pain reminds her exactly where her hip is. Did she fall down?

Ursula is a loner. A tree-hugger, literally. Born near Cle Elum and raised by an itinerant mother, she returns to these forested places constantly, drawn by the beauty and the sense of place the wildness brings to her soul.

There was a path. She was on the Pacific Crest Trail, or, no. – She hiked the trail for a while, but there were too many people. She left for less-established trails toward the east.

That’s when she met Karen. Ursula noticed her harvesting Ganoderma applanatum fungi and drawing on their undersides. Most mushroom hunters traipsed through the woods determined and greedy, looking for edible or medicinal fungi. Karen was different. She carried a clipboard and took a lot of notes. She didn’t gather and hoard as many mushrooms as she could carry, but rather pulled only one, then sat and scratched on its white underside. Each scratch made a deep brown line. After working it a while, Karen signed the corner and left it. Then she moved on to find another fungus. She was methodical like a scientist.

Ursula introduced herself, but Karen made it clear she didn’t want company. Disappointed, Ursula chose another trail and headed off a different direction. But she watched from afar for a bit as Karen spoke into a device clipped to her belt.

Now, despite the pain, Ursula tries to sit up. It’s no use; she can’t move her body. Karen’s voice is there, far away. Ursula tries to sit up once more, but the exertion is too much. Her world goes black.

When she becomes aware again, something is different. Everything is different. Her head still hurts, but less so. A horrid smell fills her nose. The ground feels like rock instead of moss and leaf mold. Hungry. She is so hungry.

She opens her eyes slowly, afraid of what might be there. Still the sky. Relief. Gray clouds blanket the sky, threatening rain. Rain! Her heart jumps. Yes. Maybe it will wash away the terrible smell. She rolls over, limbs sore, but grateful she can move.

Ursula sits up and looks around at a forest at once familiar and foreign. The trees, the stream (emptying into a small pool), even the rocks, seem fake. On the far side of the pool is a crowd of strangers, all looking at her. It’s surreal and confusing. Her frustration grows.

Then Karen’s voice is unmistakable, just behind the trees.

In a flash it all comes back, Karen on the path, raising a tranquilizer gun, Ursula trying to flee and then the searing pain in her hip before everything went black.

Rage takes over and she jumps up to chase the voice behind the trees.

But Karen isn’t there. It is only a door.

Then Ursula notices a sign above the zoo's exhibit door with her name on it. It reads, Ursus arctos. Grizzly Bear.

Finding your way through the winter months?

Life is often a bit rough and very confusing. One good move is do go out there and do some good. You could, for instance, spend a few bucks on helping some stray cats be . . . not strays anymore.

Donate to Feline Friends here, securely via Paypal:

Creative Commons photos by George Chernilevsky and Alex Ex.

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