Female & Fungi at the Radical Mycology Convergence 2014.
A story of self and community.
By Mara Fae
What was I waiting for?
I had been reading up on mushrooms and mycology for years. Over time I got to know fungi and together we developed a bond and sprouted a relationship. I learned to see them and accept them for who and what they are; I grew to trust fungi and believe in them and their potential. What potential! To heal, to nurture our bodies and the land. I opened my heart and grew to love them and understand them the way the wind loves and understands the curves of the earth. We cultivated an intimate relationship together, fungi and I, but I was afraid to let my guard down fully. I was afraid to get too close. Afraid that in some way we would fail each other.
I spent many seasons watching wild specimen grow in all the nooks and crannies of the lush Northern Michigan Forests that surround me; I had full access to my college’s science lab: flow hoods, autoclave, incubators and more; there were knowledgeable folks in my community that were ready and willing to mentor me; there was a whole world of possibilities that I could reach out and grab if only I the synapses firing between my hands and my brain would function properly.
What was I waiting for?
I wasn’t a mycologist; I wasn’t a scientist of any kind. I possessed no title and my name had no letters following close behind. Four-years after graduating high school I was still working on my associates degree. In a society that largely considers institutionalized schooling to be the key determinant of success and ability to practice a topic of study, there was nothing giving me permission to practice and apply mycology in my every day life.
Despite my insecurities on the manner, I continued to speak on behalf of the wonders of fungi to everyone and anyone that would listen. During one of these conversations a friend showed me an article that was written in a publication called Sling Shot. The article was entitled “Oh Mycology” and it highlighted a first-ever gathering of more than 200 people over the course of a weekend all with the intention of exploring the mystical and miraculous world of fungi.
What was I waiting for?
I had to go; I had to meet these people; I had to know them like I knew fungi; I had to be a part of this movement, in some way, in some shape, in some form. It was a calling. I immediately got onto the internet and searched for the Radical Mycology Convergence as the article told me the name of the gathering was called. I found the Radical Mycology website and checked back obsessively over the next year until I finally unearthed a post about the second-annual RMC. The thought again came crawling from its hiding spot tucked away in a corner of my brain like a shadow following the afternoon sun: I have to go.
I requested time off of work, bought a plane ticket, packed my bags and I left my small community in the northern parts of Michigan and traveled to another small community on the opposite side of the country. With all of her rolling hills and wild black berry brambles, Port Townsend, Washington welcomed me with open arms. And with an open heart I welcomed all that she and the Radical Mycology Convergence had to offer me. What I found was passionate individuals from all walks of life who were dedicated to exploring the world of fungi without waiting for some institution to give them permission to do so. That is not to say there was no one there with a degree; like I said, there were people from all walks of life, from all different backgrounds, with a wide range of experiential and educational history on the topic. And everyone was working together to further their own knowledge and to help each other and the community as a whole further theirs.
What was I waiting for?
I can’t say that the Radical Mycology Convergence gave my brain permission to communicate with my hands, to reach out and to grab hold of the world of possibilities that fungus encompass. What the RMC did do for me was help me to visualize my own potential; it helped me realize that I was the only thing holding myself back. I can give myself permission to take steps as quickly or as slowly as I like into the unknown worlds I desire to explore. I can give myself permission to take a leap and forgive myself if I fall, pat my own back if I succeed, give myself a hug of encouragement and try again and again as long as I please.
I now, with no one else’s permission but my own, call myself a cultivator, explorer, taxonomist, researcher, artist, teacher and student of mycology. I have varying levels of experience within each of these fields of study. I am not an expert. I have much to learn and always will. What I was waiting for to get to this point, however, is no longer a barrier. I was waiting, it seems, for a safe space to face my fears, insecurities, passions and dreams. Through the platform that the Radical Mycology Convergence created, I found that space within myself.
What are you waiting for?
A Bit About the RMC
For the past two years the Radical Mycology Convergence has been held in Washington State on two different farms. It is 5-day donation based event filled with hands on educational workshops, lectures, panel discussions and small work-bees. We enjoyed communal meals together throughout the entirety of the gathering and on-site camping was an option for all. Speakers came out from around the country to speak on all of the various subjects spanning the spectrum of mycology. The convergence has an emphasis on low-tech cultivation methods, grassroots bioremediation and social & environmental justice issues. The community advocates for citizen science, DIY projects and self-exploration as a viable means of education.
For its third year, the Radical Mycology Convergence will convene this spring 2014. The exact date and location have yet to be decided, but it is desired to reach beyond the West Coast and into other regions of the country.
Female & Fungi at RMC 2014
We are interested in supporting a Womyn in Mycology educational track at this years convergence.
Wouldn’t that be the bomb-diggitty? We think so!
We would present workshops and lectures such as Mycomedicinals in relation to Womyn’s Health and Moon Cycles, Womyn in Mycological History, and Stories of Womyn in the Field. There is also the potential to have some more social justice workshops on topics such as Anarcho-feminism and Womyn’s Empowerment. It would also be nice to start a story journal that womyn and allies can write and share their personal stories in and this can be added to at each years convergence.
Moreover, we aim to highlight womyn speakers on the various topics of mycology from cultivation to remediation and everything in between.
If you are interested in participating, speaking or organizing as part of this track please contact us
or visit the RMC’s website to learn more about how to get involved with the convergence as a whole!
And don’t forget to check out the Radical Mycology website. They are a truly awesome community.
Currently living in the Northern Great Lakes Bioregion, Mara Penfil is a community organizer who merges traveling, education, and volunteer work to further the food, social and environmental justice movements. With a growing zeal for all things fungal, she spends her time with various mycelial networks across the country working to build mycological interest, understanding and community. Mara’s passion to blend social and environmental justice efforts led her to co-found Female & Fungi, the online presence for the ever growing Womyn’s and Trans’ Mycological Community.