With Loving Respect to Fungus:
Thank you for helping me feel an openness I never thought possible for myself
by Fern Katz
“Do you know what mycelium is? I hear you can make lots of money off of it.” Knowing what I know now, these words that came out of my friend’s mouth make me shudder (he didn’t know what mycelium was, either). Believe it or not, those words introduced me to the magical world of fungus. Looking back, the smell of fungus in the woods is a scent that shaped and marked my childhood. During my long days spent roaming around the woods, however, I can’t recall ever seeing one of those gorgeous fruiting bodies! I believe that my eyes were not yet ready to be exposed to mushrooms, or perhaps the mushrooms did not want to expose themselves to me (now I see them everywhere I go!).
After the off-handed comment from my money-making schemer of a friend, I did a little google search. What’s mycelium? I watched Paul Stamet’s TED talk about how mushrooms can save the world. Before I could think twice, I signed up for an Art and Science of Mycorenewal course right outside of Santa Cruz. For those of you who don’t know me, it’s important to say that such a spontaneous decision was out of character for me at the time, which brings me to the first of many ways that fungus has changed my life.
My whole character transformed: previous to allying myself with fungus, I was afraid of change, afraid of vulnerability, afraid of trusting communities and afraid to travel alone (due to my directionally challenged nature). As rapid as my love for the fungal kingdom developed, so too did my new outlook on life. I have learned to create trusting and lasting bonds with other people, other animals, myself, plants, fungus, the moon, the sun and the stars. My desire and obligation to treat this earth and atmosphere with respect (and to inspire others to do the same) has been re-invigorated.
Now, I am studying herbal and fungal medicine, as well as writing a mycofiltration project proposal with a fellow student. And, the mushrooms helped inspire me to want to dance again, something I had given up on years before. A beautiful effect of my journey is that I have spread my love of fungus to friends that previously didn’t think about mushrooms at all!
I am thankful that I tripped and fell into the wonderful world of fungus, quite literally my life has been saved. And as a lovely side-note, I now eat all different sorts of mushrooms and my health has much improved.
Something I am intent on doing in the future is spending more time in the woods sitting still with and listening to everything around me–plants, trees, sky, ground, and mushrooms alike.
Fern Katz is currently living on the east coast studying mycology and herbalism for women’s health at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. She is currently working on a mycofiltration project with a fellow student. During the moments that she is not studying mycology Fern is following her deep passion for dance and all expressive movement alike. Not to be forgotten is her unconditional love for her garden, especially her summer strawberries.