A Writer’s Mind: Restoring Sanity among Magnificent Mushrooms, Luminous Fall Colors & the Wisdom of Mother Nature

A few days ago, I took my first fall hike into the woods to enjoy a spectacular November day in Northern California and look for signs of mushrooms. It’s a little early for mushroom season, but we had a decent rain about a week ago, so I was hopeful. We found a smattering of early bloomers but nothing edible. The real harvest will begin along the northern California coast in December and January. No need to worry about my safety. I’ve been hunting mushrooms for over 30 years and have taken classes with several of northern California’s best experts. I know what to watch out for and where to find some of the best mushrooms on the planet: black trumpets, chanterelles and lion’s mane. (See recipe at the end of this post for an amazing mock ‘crab’ cake made with lion’s mane mushrooms).

Fall colors were on full display among the vineyards we drove past to our hiking spot. The trees were competing with the vines for most spectacular color display. When we headed town the trail, treetops rustled with robins searching out a very abundant toyon berry harvest. There were red-tailed hawks over head and twittering helmet thrushes bounding around from branch to branch, everyone excited and ready for a splendid fall harvest. We startled an impressive buck, who bounded away to a safe distance, to turn and stare.

This year has been extremely busy. I’ve been writing and submitting short stories, working on my novel, facilitating a fantasy writer’s support group, volunteering with several organizations and being a grandma. In between all this, my spouse and I hike whenever possible. It’s what keeps us sane, restores our nerves and reminds us of what is really important.

In a year full of unknowns, a harrowing mid-term election, attacks on human rights and the environment, it’s nature that reminds me that the world is in constant flux, an ebb and flow of growth, death, decay and rebirth. Mother Nature is showing us that she is really in charge and that whatever happens, something new will spring forth from the chaos.

As a writer, hiking in nature is where I get some of my best ideas. Nature affords me precious quiet time where my mind can send a random flow of ideas into my relaxed brain, my characters can battle out plot solutions and tid-bits of stories I never imagined pop into view. It’s one of the best things I can do for my creativity.

Where is your favorite place to find some space to let you mind wander and refresh?

Tall Psathyrella (Psathyrella long pipes) mushrooms

Psathyrella long pipes

The day ended up one at of my favorite local eateries, Yeti, a fantastic Nepalese restaurant in Jack London Village in Glen Ellen California. The picture below is of the old watermill at the village complex. It was a perfect outing.

The old mill, Jack London Village, Glen Ellen, California


“To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”

Terry Tempest Williams, Author & Environmentalist

Recipe for Lion’s Mane ‘Crab’ Cakes

A Partial List of Books by Terry Tempest Williams:

  • Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family & Place
  • Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert
  • When Women Were Birds
  • The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s Natural Parks

Find out more about Terry and her work here

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