Dragons & Shrooms

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Over the years, many quotable people have made statements along these lines:  if you strive for something, it will remain hidden from you. When you’re ready, it will reveal itself. And while this lesson may prove true time and time again, it’s a hard one to learn.

Wrapped up in the “striving won’t serve you” idea is a healthy nod to the virtue of patience, and patience can be a doozy. A chronically restless friend once asked me, “What good is patience? If you have to be patient, it just means you’re waiting. Waiting sucks.” I told her, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “Patience is its own reward,” to which she replied, “Ew. I hate that. Did you just make that up?”

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When the story of Aret was being developed, lots of questions needed answering, from big ones like Who are the main characters? to little ones like How do you say blue in Aretian? During this time, I was living alone, and the only creatures I had to bounce ideas off of were Libby the Dog and Sid the Cat. Their reactions were predictable. Libby thought everything I said was amazing, and Sid thought I should be quiet and let him sleep.

After one particularly frustrating morning of pacing back and forth in my little cottage, striving for answers and finding nothing, I went outside to escape the computer and found this adorable little mushroom cluster on the front lawn.

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I went back inside, grabbed my camera, and commenced a mushroom family photo shoot. (Mushrooms may not offer much in terms of an emotional range, but they are quite good at staying still.) At some point during the process, the answers I’d been searching for all morning popped into my head. Poof! And my brain, which loves to draw lines between obvious points of connection, told me this:  When searching for answers about dragons, look to the ‘shrooms.

So I did. I’m good at listening to my brain.

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For the remainder of my time on Orcas, I spent each morning working on the book until a mountain of unanswered questions pushed me out the door and into the woods, where I searched for mushrooms, took pictures of them, and told them how lovely they were. (They really are.) By the time I returned home, I had answers to all of the morning’s questions, and I spent the rest of each evening writing. It was the perfect formula for ongoing creativity.

The meditative state resulting from my daily mushroom hunts opened the door to all kinds of answers, and not just about dragons. One night, I wrote in my journal:  Today, while I scanned the forest for mushrooms, I figured out some things for my book and also about my life. Mushrooms are magical like that. They offer a lot without asking for a thing in return.

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As my three months of extreme solitude wound to an end, I started to panic a bit, although I knew it was time to reintegrate into society and speak with humans again. During my last week on Orcas, I wrote:  When you get teary at an 80s movie’s super cheeseball Christmas-themed ending, you have officially been alone for too long.

But I was worried. Without the cozy set-up I had on Orcas, I feared that I wouldn’t be able to find my answers anymore, as if my imagination would cease to function the moment I hit the mainland. The idea was horrifying, especially since I had two more books to write. And those are just the books about Aret.

But you know what?

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As it turns out, mushrooms are pretty much everywhere. And it’s a good thing, too. My dragons and I have come to depend on them.

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