We’ve never read a more perfect description of foraging for wild mushrooms or for ideas, than this from John Cage.

Ideas are to be found in the same way that you find wild mushrooms in the forest, by just looking. Instead of having them come at you clearly, they come to you as things hidden, like an Easter egg.”

You can walk through a forest with eyes working hard and not see a single mushroom. Then faith and patience must take over, and you wander, scanning, with the hope of mushrooms, knowing you cannot control a thing. And gradually, suddenly, you see them, a patch of chanterelles or morels, and more in the distance. And you realize they’ve been there all along. You had to change to see them, attune.

courtesy Atelier Editions

We found Cage’s words in John Cage: A Mycological Foray, a remarkable two-volume set about Cage’s love of mushrooms, but as with all things about him, it is also about art and ideas and the creative process that is as wild as mushrooms.

courtesy Atelier Editions

It has the feeling of being in the woods in the presence of something truly wild. And it has the feeling of Cage himself, as T Magazine’s Ligaya Mishan described:

Ever attuned to the music hidden in silence, he insisted that we should learn to listen to mushrooms as they released their spores to the air.

courtesy Atelier Editions

It has been called an artwork unto itself. It is full of Cage’s own art and writing, including the Mushroom Book he created in collaboration with Lois Lang and Alexander H. Smith, as well as photographs he collected around mushrooms.

Photograph collected by Cage. Photographer unknown, n.d. Courtesy of the John Cage Mycology Collection, University of California Santa Cruz Special Collections and Archives.

John Cage: A Mycological Foray is a treasure and a gift.

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