Monthly Archives: April 2023

Mycelium 2023 #18 Mushroom

Came across some noxious mushrooms in a square space bordered by a road, a track, a car park and a little grass patch, in between colonial and pre-colonial markers on the ancient songline of the banks of the river, just close to where the dunes tumble and hug the river and hide the sea from view. That was a long sentence. I didn’t want to break it up. It deserves to be said in one breath. Feels like there are too many breaks and the continuity and connectivity of place has way too many interruptions.  I wouldn’t have known if the mushroom was poisonous or not, but one of the people I was with knew, she had plenty of foraging experience handed down from generations and lives close to the land. Her land, she is a traditional owner. I was thinking about this blog and mycelium and all the connectivity between the place, the people, the stories, the river, the sea, the land and the sky. In the place that looked the least loved, there was the mushroom, inedible.

All the fibres invisibly holding and making soil underfoot, foundations for now and the future. And this mushroom has centre stage, fruit of the past popping up as an organic reminder of what lies beneath the surface. I couldn’t help but draw the bow back and think of how the mycelium of toxic keyboard warriors who from their dark spaces and in the practice of the dark arts of fear and fakery are popping up where I can see them in the full light of day.  I’ve had swirling around me another season of scuttle buck. The fibres are connecting through social media, platforms and spaces where people can be hidden with pseudonyms, where taking responsibility for what happens next, is not considered. There are those too who make the most of others misfortunes, are impatient, don’t take into account the conditions in which we find ourselves. I find these moments give us an insight into who holds privilege and who holds pain. 

A very simple example of this phenomena this week was a traffic build up on the southern expressway as the result of an accident between a motor cyclist and a motorist. The collision disrupted peak hour traffic and was the subject of talk back radio for almost as long as the time people were caught in the traffic.  It was a nuisance for sure, but I was shocked listening to hear very little concern for the people who were in the accident and even less for the police and emergency services who were managing the situation. We won’t always get it right and I have an expectation that everyone is doing their best. These are moments we get to see what lies underneath.

What connects us, what holds us together and what kind of fruit comes need not be aligned. We can be connected by a common story and place, we can be held together by fear, anger, joy, celebration and the fruits that come from these complex combinations might look ok on the surface, but may well be unpalatable. 

Good reminder from the mushroom to take a second look, consider what filters are working in the fibrous paths to bring this message to the top.

At Sauerbier House

Mycleium 2023 #17 Quilting

I bid on a quilt last night in a silent auction and brought it home. I was focussed on the effort, the thought, the seamstress, the designer of the pattern and the stories behind all quilts. In this silent auction there was significant homage to local bottles of wine which were spectacular, yet this item had the lowest number of bids on it and while mine was a reasonable bid, I think I got a bargain.

The whole night was full of sexual innuendo, gender specific roles and stories and a number of out-of-date and out-of-touch comments. When I mentioned we were on Kaurna land the level of noise went up in the room, it was so obvious that others spoke to me of it and several women came up to me to let me know how much they appreciated me being their Mayor, which was really touching amidst the feeling I had about being so uncomfortable with much of the evening.

I am so spoilt to be around many people who share my values and world views on justice, equity, and the value of place, especially in these post COVID times and climate action. It is a good reminder to me to be in places where these views are not shared, especially when I am representing the entire community – something that no one person of course can do. I am charged with being a unifying figure, and that does not always come easy. 

What does come easy is to support the efforts of those who are building community and so it was with pleasure to name and thank volunteers and the leadership involved in making community events happen. What also comes easy is to listen to those who come up to me with their troubles and disappointments with Council inaction or decisions they don’t understand. I also find it easy to connect to the ones who find themselves on the margins, to thank the people who served on the tables, cooked the meals and are busy in the kitchen cleaning up, to the volunteers and invisible partners and family members who help their loved ones realise their dreams. 

I find it easy to bid on quilts and celebrate the art and craft of women at events where there dominant paradigm has the female form as decorative and as a handmaiden.  Such a paradox these times are with women in leadership in all levels of decision-making in the boardrooms, parliaments and in my case, a council chamber. 

The mycelium of misogyny and colonisation rears its head and has a toxic bloom which I heard loud and clear when I mentioned the first nations people of this land. These are the same people who will be voting when the referendum for Voice comes along later in the year and I am trusting that in the privacy of the ballot box, not fuelled by alcohol or peer pressure, they will vote yes, because they are decent people who also want to right a wrong. But when I left the venue, that wasn’t what I felt, but as always, the sun has risen on a new day and I ready to get back out there to spread a little more mycelium for good.

And to reward me for thinking this way, I opened my emails this morning to find a councillor from a council in the eastern suburbs asking for some advice about a motion they are putting up to support the Voice. They heard me speak on a motion at the recent Local Government Association ordinary meeting. This is mycelium for good at work. Quilts get stitched together and were traditionally done by groups of women sharing their stories and supporting one another, and while I don’t really want to get into mixing metaphors, the quilt might just take on a permanent reminder to me of the way we can sew together our future one stitch at a time, just like the mycelium underground and then rising up for the whole world to see.

Quilt by Elaine Pellatt – Quilting in the Vines, McLaren Vale

2023 Mycelium #16 Football

Went to the footy on Friday night, which will probably be a surprise to some readers, it was a surprise to me. What I love about football has not a lot to do with what happens on the field, although I realise that is why people go to watch it. It is all the community and in particular the team work that goes on to get something on to the field. From the mums and dads who take their children to practice and save up to buy a special pair of boots, to the mind set coaches for the elite athletes that bring neuroscience and psychology to the players to give their best and meet the expectations of fans and sponsors alike. All the thousands of people and wildly different skill sets that put an event on that brings a community together in the often bleak and wet wintry conditions to be warmed by pies, pasties, each other’s company and an experience of solidarity cheering their team on.

Football matches are a extraordinary expression of mycelium made visible. The undergrowth bursting with multiple complex threads of energy finding their way to the surface and onto the perfectly curated ground and into the hands of a player taking a mark, kicking a goal, tackling an opponent, stilling themselves at the sound of a whistle.  Australian Rules Football is the largest team sport on the planet – 18 players on the field for each team – plus a squad of up to about 50 more behind the scenes, ready, willing and able to step up at any time to get onto the field. It is this feature of footy that has always inspired me – the size of the team on the field. I usually watch the grand final just to watch the play of the teams within teams and how the coaches work each of the lines and combinations to get the results they are looking for. I have often advised emerging and existing team leaders to watch a game and see what they can learn from the team-within-teams strategies for success.

In my role as Mayor, I haven’t been able to pick any of my fellow elected members, that responsibility rested with voters. So the challenge for me is to see what I can do to help us all orientate to the community and we aren’t playing against anyone. The goals we are trying to kick are for the whole community, not just one type of crowd. At the footy on Friday night I was thinking how much of what we do is in the binary world, often most expressed as us vs them. This is not what a council is though – it is all about collaboration and if there is any us vs them – the them is the future – how we can be as ready as we can be for the future, and shape it as we go along, so the goals we kick are accurate and inoculate future teams from missing the mark as best we can. 

Having this approach requires letting go of a binary world view and taking the lessons of what it takes to get a team onto the ground. I am reflecting that maybe my gig is the challenge of bringing all the training, experience, skills, ideas and expectations of individuals, forged to face the future with a common vision of being match fit and ready to kick goals?  This recent Festival of Football was branded as Gather Round and to see so many thousands of people turning up to gather around their teams and the game itself was a beautiful expression of the power of sport to bring people together.  I am hanging on to the legacy of the round to demonstrate what we can do when we all orientate ourselves to kicking goals at scale.

2023 Mycelium #15 Pillows

I went looking for a new pillow and started to wonder where pillows came from and their place in helping us rest. We all seem to have different preferences for a pillow – hard, soft, curved, rectangular, stuffed with foam, feathers, air.  The first pillows were for the rich to raise their heads from the ground so bugs didn’t crawl into noses or ears and they were made of stone. Then over the time the more pillows you had to the more it was a sign of wealth.

Pillow abundance is a thing and I don’t mind a set of pillows and have a collection of cushions and pillows of different shapes, sizes and fillings on my bed. I treat my bed these days as a nest and my pillows more of a clutch of comforting supports so I can rest and sometimes work decadently in bed.  This is a newish phenomenon. As a mother and wife I used to spend the minimum amount of time in bed, but widowhood and being child free I like to linger there sometimes. The humble pillows literally have my back.

I respect the sacred act of resting these days and feel a bit cheated that I didn’t in my younger years. Admittedly there was a lot going on … there still is … but I did disrespect rest and felt it a luxury I couldn’t afford … and for the record I only had one pillow on my bed in those days!  Having your head raised so the bugs don’t get into the ears and nose is a lovely invitation to appreciate the humble pillow. I am imagining my head lying on something softer than a stone, and the winged ear worms being left behind so I can rest and rise into a higher state of sleep.

There are people I know who are like pillows. They help us to rest, they help us to empty our minds to take a break, they fill us with dreams and possibilities, ready for you to lean on them. Thank you to all of the pillows in my life, human and otherwise. They wait patiently for me to come to them, and I always know where to find them, modelling stillness and being invitational without moving to come and find ease and possibly relief from buzzing in ears and things that get up your nose.

I’ve been having quite a lot of wild dreams lately, possibly due to new medication and / or the new pillow elevating me to a different plane. The dreams are very elemental with water, air and fire featuring, there is a lot of death going on and snippets of them on waking make me wonder if I have been in a dystopian Margaret Atwood science fiction novel. There is a theme emerging about stopping, rest, respite or perhaps retreat, a kind of getting ready rather than that running away. I think that is the pillow talking to me.

Sleep’s place in recharging is deep and necessary work. It is not an indulgent treat, it is the place where the mycelium of memories, fantasies and the sub-conscious can find their way out to bloom in the wilds of a new day.  Giving thanks to the pillow today and thanking whoever it was who first thought keeping insects out of ears over night was a good idea and to all the others in history who discovered a sack filled with softer materials worked too. And to the pillow people and places in my life I am deeply grateful.

2023 Mycelium #14 Turning

The crisp breath of autumn is now well and truly hanging around in the morning as the season settles in and now that daylight saving has come to an end within a few days we will all know we are heading towards many more cooler days and nights. It is a time of turning. All those colonial plantings of trees start to crisp and change colour. Creature hunkers down, vines get naked, while we add extra layers – a juxtaposition of nature. There seems to be a lot of that happening around me. 

Local government gives me plenty of opportunities to see things together that don’t normally sit together – and it is not always a pleasing aesthetic. A home taking up too much space on the horizon and blocking out the sun and views of neighbours, the removal of habitat to support a car park, a new estate adding trees that belong in another hemisphere … the list goes on.  Then there is the pairings of elected members in wards, where voters have chosen very different types of people, personalities, skills and experience to represent them. And there is the juxtaposition of the levels of government.

When I am looking for a major chord and often find something discordant, it is as if the left and right hands are playing completely different chords! At choir this week I had an insight and began to think about how local government needs to add a seventh here and there to make things work. Getting the systems to work together and hum is easy when the settings stay the same, but like the seasons, they are always shifting a little every day. I am looking to biomimicry to see where juxtapositions in nature might be instructive for these seemingly impossible pairings and triads in systems.

Biomimicry is a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges—and find hope. I wonder what advice we can find in nature to help us through and I find that the turning of the seasons on my mind. Nothing is permanent. Nature does find fascinating ways to create mutuality and connection between species and all kinds of interdependence. So many of the challenges we have are design challenges. I know I turn to the principles of improv and permaculture, over and over again to see if I can find a way through – yes and – holds true most days. For those of us who have lost our connection to land through migration, displacement, being torn from country, we can look to those who have that continuous relationship for guidance and we can also look to nature for advice and clues.

When I look to the mycelium it is the expression of interconnectedness and the relationship of what is seen above the surface and what requires more digging to be seen under the ground that helps me with empathy and patience. We need to be brave enough and curious enough to honour what is bearing fruit and what nutrients are feeding what grows above the ground. We also need to learn what of those are poisonous to what species. Something quite colourful and beautiful can also be toxic – a juxtaposition if ever there was one. There will be those juxtapositions that will do more than upset a stomach, there are some that can be lethal.

As this season starts to turn, we enter into a new invitation to listen and learn. We find ourselves at the edge again to recognise what is going to fall away, what new life is going to emerge from the next burst of energy stored in the plants, what the soil has made while it takes a rest in the cool. If it gets too cold the mycelium will go dormant, another reminder to pay attention to the conditions, and to remember that to every season, turn, turn, turn. There is a time for everything and sometimes you just need to wait for the next season and take the time to be ready for the next turning, just as nature does.

 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3 1-15

Beach Road Wines, Seaview Rd, McLaren Vale – venue for my neices 21st birthday yesterday