Tag Archives: mycelium tech

Crete

Crete, at our little school. 2035.

The arks now above us, planted with the “seeds” of everything on Earth. Some cultivated, much stored for when we returned in a millennium. Somehow our SIA scientists and the mycelium had found a way to freeze the genetic material of an entire planet in tiny packets that could bloom again.

I thought of sea monkeys I saw advertised in comic books as a kid.

(I am a historian, not a biologist! I don’t know. I know so little about what I am a part of.)

Each ark was five miles across, made of repurposed garbage, of space junk too, and of broken stars captured in asteroid fields, of the endings of earlier worlds.

“Sculptors of ruins,” Dido calls us.

She writes me from New York, saying “Today we live in the shadow world of what will soon be. Can we make it of ash? What other sources and seeds are there, in the place of no future? Love, amor, expansion, togetherness. It is what we have.”[1]

I say, Yes. We have made it of ash.

5 miles across: massive scale for a ship, but such small containers for a desperate world.

When the fires of 2020 blazed through the Pacific Northwest, I thought of Australia the winter before. The Amazon the summer before. We collectors grieved wilderness that raised us, places we had touched, creatures we had heard rustling there. Birds.

Or a place where bright flowers had yearly bloomed–shock of orange paintbrush. Now quiet. Burned out beneath the blackness left behind a brighter orange. Under the green heart of flames. Already choked in dust of drought before the blaze was even set.

But by 2019, Juno and the scientists of SIA were already ready. They had been combing those woods for years, carrying it all gently, lovingly, down into labs underground. Discrete, disinterested in attention, humble about their ingenuity. Codes for intellectual property long held in traditions, locked in stories and old ways of being with the land that the Western world could never have access to.

I joined the collectors on Crete soon after, shipping down from Athens on a slow ferry that dropped me off in the middle of the night. All day upon the dark blue seas, as my polarized glasses made purple glitter of it turning aside, made brilliant white the foam. Wind whipped and wild as I liked to be.

Crete felt like an ancient homecoming.

And the more I studied, the more I understood why. Our purpose, the great cycles of history and consciousness, also opened like the sea there will: suddenly to aquamarine shallows like sea beasts that heaved gently on rocks burned gold in Aegean sunlight.

I would lay naked on my back in the surf at Kommos Beach and remember Theseus arriving and leaving. And before him, Phoenicians, the clever sailors who fished the Mediterranean for arts and good trade.

They carried the tiny turtle islands, earth seeds, up into the heavens on ships that all believed transported garbage. They secreted them away on those temporary satellites, our arks, until we were ready to join them.

Meanwhile, I was part of a team of knowledge collectors, archivists, historians, and educators for schools of the refugees of capitalism, of climate change, of authoritarianism, of militarism, of colonialism, of toxic masculinity and white supremacy. Children who had come across the dark seas, in the night, at great cost and their mothers, their queer uncles, their trans-aunts.

We are all orphans of these forces we called the isms, all survivors. From our suffering and our healing we developed curriculum for the newcomers to our shores—in hopes of healing trauma, lest we build from it and build new monsters.

How to transform survivalism into utopias? This would be our project.

We would try and try many ways, fail, and try again. But the children remembered and they taught us much of the time before birth. We began to piece the great hologram together, the faint complete picture on each of the elements that made us, becoming clearer.

In a practical sense, we were creating a massive database. We were learning and saving all the tongues of our planet to keep them safe and return them one day, to let them loose on Earth’s winds long after we died and went into the soil to feed the Great Mycelium of our arks.

Our priestesses would carry the knowledge we gathered and the visions we dreamed on tiny implants that woke their minds, wove them back into the collective consciousness.

We would be remembered forever there.

As would Earth.


[1] Lines from a friend’s note. Macarena Gómez-Barris, September 11, 2020.

The Multiversity

Have you ever made a hair pin turn, but sensed others of you peeling off and missing the corner, in screech of brakes, careening out of control, spinning off the road in tight spiral, tumbling trunk over hood to catastrophe? You knew somehow that you had lived on, while others of you ended, trapped over and over, powerless, clenched in fear, frozen, gasping, clawing, screaming.

Reaching your arm across your beloved passenger to keep her in her seat. Even when no one was there?

Or in one case, without even trying to stop, accelerating spontaneously, the last moments of your life burned like a star, flying into the abyss?

This is the sensation of parallel lives.

Once I chose one love over another, but dreamed my other life continued. I saw it all the way through: a simple, contented life of family and joy. But in this life, I went on alone, with those dedicated to Earth.

By 2020 it was clear that the University as it had been envisioned was over. Once built on the ideal of the entire universe of ideas together, meeting in hallways, arguing in classrooms, holding forth before lecture halls, demonstrating over Bunsen burners, then atom smashers, scribbling, then typing, then word processing in offices.

Here, the liberated minds were sacred, tenured, funded in their resistance.

Once a servant of colonialism, the University lived out its promise: rebels repurposed the tools of academia to dismantle, to deconstruct, to decolonize. Critics of capitalism and white supremacy, anointed in its halls as tokens, did not inoculate us: they transformed us!—until we had tools for the great inventories we needed to rebuild the world, for utopia, to create a livable existence for all.

But the very machine we meant to retire—into a nice museum or a history book in miles of library stacks—kept on grinding. The western mania for colonialism devoured the globe then turned on its own creations. Students became customers. Even good-hearted administrators could not save it. Above them someone had an appetite for conquest, efficiency, assessment, standards. The languages of disciplines were shackled to a brand and silenced in their critique. The library was not so much emptied of books as suffocated, forced to breathe and re-breathe the dusty old volumes.

Book acquisitions were over.

And when the plague struck, the patrons quit coming to study and whisper and linger in the rows where once they had turned oxygen exhaled by the forests of books into new air for the old tomes to breathe.

Grieve this for one moment. Picture your library, your campus, now dead, now emptied of meaning, an overpriced Disneyland that held no danger, no discomfort, no challenge, no energy for it from conscripted faculty, indentured students, and no more revolution. See the shining and quiet floors. The lawns. The coffee shops. Full of people. Then ghost haunted.

Now—it is time to build the new world. Look up.

The trick is to wear what we love like loose garments. There is nothing to let go of. Say goodbye to those parallel lives self-destructing, frozen, mourning, too depressed to rise, ranting and beating their fists on administrative walls.

Accelerate into the abyss.

We had already begun to build the multiversity, based on theories of parallel worlds, experiments to revision, islands preserving history, culture, ecology, knowledges, and languages.

We imagined ourselves on arks, like medieval Irish monks who protected ancient manuscripts from marauders, like elders telling stories, making offerings, tending the shrines of ancestors, like archivists of queer zines, like hippy hoarders with all the old press clippings, composition books filled with ball point scrawl, meeting notes, and photos of a revolution, like keepers of heirloom seed collections, of vinyl, or genome projects…

And like the Great Mycelium who stored a plague to save her from the plague of us.

Mycelium Tech

Mushroom specialist Paul Stamets: “we need to have a paradigm shift in our consciousness. If we don’t get our act together and come in commonality and understanding with the organisms that sustain us today, not only will we destroy those organisms, but we will destroy ourselves.[*]

In the early 1990s a close-knit group of geniuses, the Synergists, built and tested the first biosphere in the desert of Arizona. It was to be the first of many, designed with the goal of collecting data and of troubleshooting—so that one day they could create a spaceship or an extra-terrestrial colony on which to preserve earth.

They traveled the planet collecting species for their mini jungle and their mini ocean, their mini forest, their mini meadow. “Do you know how many flowers it takes to feed a hummingbird?” one asked. They made a mystical home, a mini earth, wherein they knew every living being and felt their interconnectedness with all life.

But when they tried to to live off that land, they suffocated and starved. They went insane on carbon dioxide poisoning, fighting and spinning conspiracy theories against one another. The animals suffered helplessly. In the end, the synergists had to bring in oxygen from outside in order to survive the full two years of their experiment.[†]

The SIA had learned two things since then. One, maintain secrecy. Two, depend on the Great Mycelium.

Throughout the earth. the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a network of fine white filaments, called the mycelia, link into root systems of trees, plants, and other mycelial webs and transfer information and nutrition.

The synergists had cut their world off from the source of life beneath.

The intelligence of plants, laughed off by some scientists, grew from the complex mind of the mycelium, which grows like neurons or the nerve cells in our minds, like the dark matter of space, like the network of the internet.

According to the research of Suzanne Simard, a forest ecologist at the University of British Columbia, “trees in a forest organize themselves into far-flung networks” and use the mycelium, which “connects their roots to exchange information and even goods.” Trees communicate, “convey warnings of insect attacks, and also to deliver carbon, nitrogen, and water to trees in need.”

Says Stamets, the “mycelium is the neurological network of nature. Interlacing mosaics of mycelium infuse habitats with information-sharing membranes. These membranes are aware, react to change, and collectively have the long-term health of the host environment in mind. The mycelium stays in constant molecular communication with its environment, devising diverse enzymatic and chemical responses to complex challenges.”

Sagebrush warns its fellows of a pest intrusion.

In a 2013 article, “The Intelligent Plant,” New Yorker contributer, Michael Pollan imagined the scent of sage as an “invisible chemical chatter, including the calls of distress, going on all around.” He described the air as “powerfully aromatic, with a scent closer to aftershave than to perfume.”[‡]

A forest will even work across species to share food.

According to Simard, “fir trees were using the fungal web to trade nutrients with paper-bark birch trees over the course of the season. The evergreen species will tide over the deciduous one when it has sugars to spare, and then call in the debt later in the season. For the forest community, the value of this coöperative underground economy appears to be better over-all health, more total photosynthesis, and greater resilience in the face of disturbance.”

Western scientists were naïve to the knowledge of people 10,000 years ago or that of African, Asian, and Indigenous societies, who depended on fungi and the inventions of mycelium to preserve fire, as antibiotics, as anti-inflammatories. And much, much more.

All the while humans were transforming the planet with art and technology and war and pollution, the mycelium had also been at work, resolving the devastations of our time.

“Let your imagination go wild,” said Stamets.

With the leadership of Indigenous scientists who were also members, the SIA had learned to work with the mycelium, to communicate a vision with the intelligence of slime molds and polypores.

The mycelium tech in my mask (and in the recycling centers we delivered garbage to and in the ones that were soon propagated on satellites twinkling in our night skies from 2025-2040) was based in traditional Indigenous knowledge kept by friends and members of SIA that was being put to multiple purposes by the Arks and Islands of the Multiversity.


[*] Paul Stamets is real too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W57nYOaQmIU Also https://bioneers.org/how-mushrooms-can-help-save-the-world-paul-stamets/

[†] A great new documentary recently came out on this group. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGvYFB6GHRY

[‡] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/12/23/the-intelligent-plant

Masks and Face Coverings

I found SIA in the winter of 2019. I had been sober for some years and worked recovery on my childhood trauma and resulting survival skills through another 12-Step program. I knew the steps were transformative. I had known them to heal and change me on a core level.

But that is not the story I want to tell.

When the pandemic of 2020 hit, I was a newcomer in SIA. I had a sponsor. I attended meetings. I had only begun to work step one. I learned from the old timers, who had been around the rooms for decades about my powerlessness over structural violence: how we were survivors of it, but how, as survivors, we had also become perpetrators of it as well. Life had become unmanageable. Suicide seemed like an option. For many, homicide seemed viable. Some had done time in prison. Most of us lost sleep and peace fantasizing about revenge. We needed a new meaning for justice. We grieved and we made amends.

I quickly became dependent on the community in the rooms. We laughed a lot. I had felt alone and crazy. Now I was among fellow star beings and magical, mystical wise ones. My heart cracked open as I heard them share what they had survived. I looked up to the elders there: to Juno and to Dido and to Britomart. Camilla, as always inseparable from Gallia, took me into her rough arms and then sat me beside her from day one, grinning and winking at me. The other new ones, Manel and Xan met my eyes deeply.

There were many more beautiful folks in the daily meetings. But these were mine.

I was home.

It was weird, but I kept returning to the dingy room and the cracked cushions on the seats. I drank the bad coffee, with the dried creamer, from the chipped cups.

So when, in March, the pandemic hit and we were told to shelter in place, alone in our homes, I was pretty scared to lose all of that. I went dutifully indoors. I checked the news. I shook my head in amazement at the toilet paper shortage. I did what we all did. I waited for my government to set up testing and to provide guidance. Like everyone, I waited in vain.

My AA and ACA went on Zoom, but when I called my SIA sponsor, she said, “Come on down to the meeting.”

Stephen was there planting flowers when I got there. He smiled his gappy grin. He laughed his hoarse laugh. He had a hard time staying sober. But we had been friends in the rooms for years.

I knew not to hug him. I can still remember the last hug I had had: on March 11th at an AA meeting. Les. Even then, I was afraid one of us would get the other sick. Somehow, I already knew that the asymptomatic could be contagious.

Anyway, hindsight.

My sponsor met me at the door with a carton of disinfectant wipes for my hands. Then she gave me a lightweight, clear plastic, strappy gizmo with a cylindrical center full of what looked like dirt.

“Put this on.” It was a mask. “Keep it watered. Report in here tomorrow at 6 a.m. for service work.”

And that is how I learned how the SIA meetings and the quiet garbage collectors were related. The very next day, I was assigned a shift in my neighborhood.

Gloved and masked in mycelium tech, we went about in our competent way, rounding up the city waste for free.