Mycologist of the Month: Nathalie Kelley

Who are you and how is your work influenced by nature?

My name is Nathalie Kelley. I am an Indigenous Peruvian actress and activist. 

I’ve always felt a very spiritual connection to the natural world. Growing up in Australia, I was often filled with awe and wonder by the beauty of this country. And then returning to Peru to visit my family provided more opportunities for inspiration. I remember visiting Machu Picchu when I was 18 and it was completely life-changing. It is in essence, an altar; a place to worship the natural world and its beauty. The ink is based their entire spirituality around the natural world. This is something that moves me deeply, and those are the kinds of truths I seek in my work as an artist. 

What was your first memory with mushrooms?

One of my first profoundly spiritual encounters with mushrooms happened in my early 30’s when I visited the island of Yakushima in Japan. I was hiking the famous cloud forest mountains. It was only nine months after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and the heaviness of that disaster had been weighing on my heart. 

Midway through the hike, I felt inexplicably drawn to this beautiful, exotic mushroom growing off of a tree. It was calling me, beckoning me. I approached it with reference and awe, and heard it speak to me. It told me that yes the land was suffering from the disaster, but that the regenerative power of nature was even stronger than Fukushima, and that the earth would recover. This was before I had any knowledge of fungi, the mycelial network, and the capacity for certain types of fungi to decompose and clean up toxins like oil spills and nuclear waste. So years later, when I watched the film Fantastic Fungi, and they spoke about this, bells went off in my head. That’s what the mushroom had been talking about! Fungi’s capacity to regenerate and heal the Earth from these man-made toxic disasters! 

How do you regularly interact with mushrooms? 

I like to take a lot of medicinal mushrooms, like Lions Mane and Cordyceps. But I think that the fungi kingdom is here to teach us how to live in symbiosis with other living beings. There’s a message here about reciprocity. So I really try to reciprocate all that fungi has done for me. Whether it’s by tending to the soil, and feeding the mycorrhizal fungi underneath the earth; or by advocating for the preservation of fungal diversity as a board member of The Fungi Foundation - I am constantly directly or indirectly trying to partner with and give back to the fungi kingdom (or queendom!)

What mushrooms are you the most inspired by?

I don’t like to play favorites, but I owe so much of my healing and creative inspiration to the Psilocybe species. And I also have high hopes for the Pestalotiopsis microspora - which can turn polyurethane into organic material, naturally! Basically a plastic eating fungi!

My body, mind, and soul are most connected when…

I am living in a reciprocal and harmonious symbiosis with all other living beings, as I learn to find my rightful place in the ecosystem. 


Instagram: @natkelley

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