Using mushrooms to discover our invisible world
The unique connection to fungi
by Ophelia Chong
Thank you Amanda Reiman and Personal Plants for giving this platform to help educate and to bring a community under one roof to explore the invisible world. My first experience was when my mother opened a can of Campbell’s Mushroom soup and served up this creamy beige soup with dark speckles dotting the bowl. In my young eyes, I looked and thought “so these are mushrooms”. Luckily in our Chinese home, my parents also saw to it that we ate fresh mushrooms, but that first moment seeing a mass-produced can of chopped up bits of fungi led me down the path of considering what I was being fed, literally and figuratively. I have always been a creator and farmer, my early years were spent on farms in the summer in Canada and in Hong Kong, why I am even proud to say I pooped near a rice paddy at the young age of 3, I was one with the land.
Diving into the invisible world
In my artwork as a photographer and illustrator, which I see as also a form of gardening, you sprout the idea and see it to its fruition to its harvest. I took that sensibility to learn how to grow cannabis, when I entered into the community and industry six years ago. My philosophy was to know it from bottom to top, so I grew 23 plants my first year. Let’s say I was very tired from trimming and was covered in resin for days. In 2017, I became interested in fungi and it became very interested in me. At my photo stock agency StockPot Images, I had the largest collections of distinct cannabis strains, hemp, and psilocybin. As I took on the psilocybin imagery, I did my usual, “got to know this from bottom to top” obsession. So, I started to learn how to grow medicinal, gourmet, and psilocybin from reading Dr. K Mandrake’s books, YouTube and of course Reddit. I shifted through advice that spanned from the grandiose to the down to earth, I turned into a repository of information from bad to good to perfect. I made many mistakes and started over again and again. I would lay in bed thinking “how can this be done better?” I made friends with experts and gently asked questions without taking too much of their time, and I just sat and watched.
Patiently waiting to save the world
To come back to my original statement of the invisible world, I learned how invisible it was and how it affects everything we do. We look with new eyes to see how our ecosystem is built upon it. Our way of living is threatening that ecosystem and yet fungi is coming to us daily with answers on how to save it, from cleaning toxic waters, absorbing toxic soils, as medicine, to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) level building materials. Fungi is the quiet kid in the back, always ready with the answer, yet we overlook them because they are silent, we gravitate to the shiny and the easy answers. Yet like that quiet kid, we share many similarities to fungi, from expelling CO2 and taking in oxygen, to sharing the same molecule called Chitin which is a part of the structural component of cell walls that is not found in plants and we both love carbs. My place here is to show you that world and to help guide you to ask the questions and to incorporate that knowledge to discover what our world is built upon and how we co-exist without knowing it. This is our journey and together we will discover that path in the invisible world.
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