Image from Mushrooms pf Southern Africa
I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated the holiday season as much as I have at the end of 2021. The past two years have been tough and I needed a breather. For a long time I’ve worn the title of workaholic like a proud belt around my waist. But in essence this belt just tied me down. I simply had to feel what it was like to just let go and completely ignore the world outside and spend quality time with not only myself but my family too. And almost like a magic wand wishing things away that don’t need to be there I felt an instant lift in my soul when I made this decision. It’s the best thing I’ve done for myself in a very long time.
My hope for 2022 is that we can all find a place in our own hearts to forgive ourselves and those around us. That we can improve our social bonds between one another. That we can allow others to shine and learn to love with a certain pureness that you only find in a child. It’s time for us to connect with that young being we all have inside, to clean up the messes we have created and be grateful that we have so much to be thankful for. I feel it’s only in this moment that we can connect with everything else and become better human beings.
This Veganuary month I can look back and say that I have finally achieved something I said I would embark on for the longest time and that’s leading a more plant based life. It’s been quite the voyage and this year officially marks my third of adopting this lifestyle. My own personal journey led me here and who knows maybe it’s a path you can walk on too.
These three pictures capture different moments from the end of last year that I am grateful for and will be taking into our next circle around the sun.
The first is a selfie at the Aquifer Festival hosted by the Phillippi Horticultural Association at Vegkop Farm with Hazel Nyaba, a dynamic and inspiring urban farmer who runs a community kitchen in Mfuleni. She is part of a team of co-researchers in a ground-breaking food security intervention that integrates and respects indigenous knowledge and lived experience at the heart of its methodology and design. Meeting Hazel at the festival in real life for the first time brought together two important threads. Gratitude for the waters beneath our feet was really brought home to me by the PHA Campaign, and through working on the Water Stories website, this gratitude has deepened with all I’ve learnt about our miraculous aquifer systems in Cape Town.
Hazel was there as part of the food team for the festival and represents for me the unsung heroines of our country and continent. African women making sure their families and communities are fed, and bearing the brunt of climate change and every social ill. Growing food can be part of that, but it’s also about negotiating a myriad of other factors that affect access to water and nutrition, often carrying untreated stress and trauma.
I am inspired by the fortitude and creativity of African women every day – beautifully shown by this Shona sculpture in Kirstenbosch Gardens we sat next to at our final Mycelium gathering last year.
The last picture is a ripening sour fig which grow around where I live at the back of Table Mountain in Hout Bay. Mycelium is thrilled to be collaborating with Loubie Rusch of Wild Foods and Making Kos on a new project, and after attending her workshop and reading her book, it’s changed the whole way I see the landscape.
I can only identify a few things and only really starting to scratch the surface. One of the things I’ve been doing as I walk our little dog is monitor the progress of the sour fig fruits, which will hopefully become a pickle or an atchar. There is so much around us that we are blind to, I am super grateful for all the incredible people who have helped me to shift my lens and start to really SEE the abundance and beauty all around us.
We need acts of restoration, not only for polluted waters and degraded lands, but also for our relationship to the world. We need to restore honor to the way we live, so that when we walk through the world we don’t have to avert our eyes with shame, so that we can hold our heads up high and receive the respectful acknowledgment of the rest of the earth’s beings.
~Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass:
Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
Connection has been my highlight this festive season … connection with family, my partner, myself and with nature. Our world is so busy, chasing deadlines, chores, responsibilities, climate change mitigation, bills, solutions to social issues – that to stop and breath and have full days to whirl away with my family, to laugh, to share, to reflect, to give gratitude, to connect from the heart, expands my own heart space. I am reminded how we need these breathing times and heart felt connections in order to keep true to the big picture work we do out in the world.
Another highlight was sitting in rock pools in the mountains, as the baboons came down to drink, and watching them play, throw each other off the cliffs, catch themselves, swing and dance. As I connected with the huge mountains, the river that has run for eons, the baboons who are so at home in this space – I was reminded by how very small we are as humans and how fleeting our existence is. I was also reminded how interconnected our lives are and how we’re part of something so beautiful and so much bigger than ourselves. The balance of nature never ceases to amaze me. As we reconnect with nature, we reconnect with balance.
The streets of St James/ Kalk Bay are gridlocked over the Xmas holidays and for very good reason. I am so grateful to call this place my home and to be able to walk out my front door and sneak a swim every morning. We are totally spoilt for choice – with the most exquisite beaches and swimming spots around us. And if you’re into diving there are some magical gems hidden underneath. Having said that getting away to Koggelberg and De Hoop Nature Reserve, with family and friends, gave me the peace, quiet, space and nurturing that was greatly needed.
We were lucky enough to stay at the newly built Oudebosch eco cabins. Their glass fronted walls framed the bush and mountains leaving me feeling like I was floating on a boat, in nature. Every bit of architecture – was made to help relax, and just be. And then there was the walks to the warm, gentle river that after so much sea was truly just soft and delicious.
Moving onto De Hoop – the rock pools are always a treat and following the footsteps of ‘My Octopus Teacher’, we were befriended by a very curious octopus. All in all, the break from routine, the hanging out with loved ones and the deeply nourishing space of nature was like jumping into a pool on a really hot day. Leaving me feeling excited and ready for 2022.
Jacqueline van Meygaarden
My end of year break was destined to be a new beginning! Not so much of a deep unwind of a holiday, but a cross-country road adventure with my whole family to a new temporary home. Setting off pre-dawn on the first day of 2022, we were heading for our new home in Zimbabwe at the Kufunda Learning Village outside Harare. Traveling in a global pandemic has very little certainty in any way, and we had to take the long route from Cape Town: via Kimberley, through Botswana to Victoria Falls, down to Bulawayo and finally to Harare, over 3000km later. Victoria Falls is one of the great wonders of the world, and sits at the site of a geological fault, between what is now Zambia and Zimbabwe, carrying the Zambezi river over its edge into a crack. It is as magical and majestic as imagined and I felt its swirling mists transported me to hundreds of years before, where borders had no meaning.
Despite all the uncertainty of COVID tests, possible quarantine periods and closed borders, and bad roads, we had a smooth and beautiful journey, filled with many elephant encounters, open roads, sooo much rain and dramatic thunderstorms.
We are now starting to feel at home in our new cottage on the edge of a miombo forest, which is currently bursting with mushrooms (rainy season perks), with at least 20 edible varieties at Kufunda, which the local community is teaching me how to harvest and prepare. Our January has already been will be filled with many different mushroom meals, which are delicately different in their flavours! We are already part of the weekly vegetable basket scheme in the community and are delivered a huge basket of biodynamically grown vegetables, and my new neighbour can sell me her maize meal from her own field. I feel grateful to be able to source food so locally, and to be welcomed so generously into this community.
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WHO ARE MYCELIUM?
The world is facing an unprecedented crisis, significant environmental degradation, deepening social inequality and economic collapse. These interlinked crises are exacerbated by man-made climate change. We will only overcome these challenges and be able to bring about a sustainable and regenerative world by working together to rebuild our connections and relationships with natural systems, and with each other. Mycelium is a collaboration of multi-media content creators focused on showing what a sustainable and regenerative world could look like, and how to get there. We do this by raising awareness and showcasing examples, and by growing the number of practitioners able to support this mission.
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