Monday, August 06, 2007

In our sleep

You know that part in Dangerous Liaisons when John Malkovich, tricked into breaking up with Michelle Pfeiffer by the devious and jealous Glenn Close, keeps murmuring "It's beyond my control" and Michelle Pfeiffer keeps screaming at him to stop saying that?

Every time I step close to my back vegetable garden I am put in mind of that scene. That overgrown, mutinous thing: whenever I go near it I am bit, stung, scraped, entangled, or, as today, irrevocably grossed out.

I was examining the latest pumpkin (and may I say thank you pumpkins for turning beautifully Halloweeny orange - in AUGUST! you dumbass vegetables will have long returned to compost by the time we'd want to put you on the porch! stupid... pumpkins...), and when I pulled back some weeds - EW! The weirdest mushrooms I have ever seen!

Took a picture, came back inside, googled "dog penis mushroom". Ok: I know better ways to identify living things; I am one of about 230 people who own a copy of G.W. Hudler's classic Magical Mushrooms and Mischievous Molds, for pete's sake. I understand character keys and taxonomy, and I know where to find the online species databases.

But when you want to identify a mushroom that looks like a dog's dick, man there's nothing faster than the straightforward approach.

Stinkhorn. Mutinus elegans. Devil's dipstick.

The kids are into the folk-and-fairy creatures right now. In the car we're listening to The Spiderwick Chronicles (read by Mark Hamill, an interesting choice), and at home they are poring over compendiums of wee folk and dragons. In part, those books are about looking for and interpreting signs of the "magical creatures" around us.

Nibbled leaves, flattened grass, and unusual flowers are all supposed to be evidence of various sprites, fairies, etc.

Yeah. I'd like to see the wings on the fairy who left these in my garden.


(and for Christina, here's how to cultivate them)