It was a sunny, yet breezy day in Seattle, when Justin, Anya and I were walking through the streets of downtown which with all the tall buildings became wind tunnels, and I was wishing I had three, or better yet four hands to keep my cape that was trying to escape, and keep my floppy hat and flowy skirt down while also holding a purse and umbrella, in case it rained. We were walking to the most unusual event about which we got a recommendation just a week before, to see a presentation about bees and mushrooms - two subjects that we were curious about, but in a very separate-from-one-another way. I think that by now, many of you are aware of the critical situation with bees for the past several years, and you also might have heard that in January 2017, the first species (the rusty patched bumble bee) was officially declared under the federal protection (more about it HERE). Several more types of bees are potentially endangered in North America. Bees are the essential pollinators of wildflowers, fruit and crops, and it is pretty obvious that scientists are concerned and looking for ways to help the bees, and therefore plants, planet and us, people. But what does it have to do with mushrooms?
At this highly educating and inspiring presentation, we had a unique opportunity to see and hear Louie Schwartzberg, an awarded cinematographer who made amazingly beautiful and heartfelt films for National Geographic, Disneynature and more (see Louie's website MOVING ART), and Paul Stamets - a visionary mycologist, or as we say now, the Mushroom Man (see Paul's website FUNGI PERFECTI), who even if you've never been interested in mushrooms in your entire life, I'm pretty sure will make you fall in love with them. He was greeted by the audience as a national hero, and let me tell you the theater was full (I suspect, mostly university staff and students, but not exclusively so). It's a good thing he's got a sense of humor, I think my head would be too big for my hat if I was in his shoes that evening. Have you noticed how truly great people are so humble and approachable, and hug-able in the best possible way?
Mushroom hunting with my family in Siberia, 1970s (click to enlarge)
Personally, I fell for mushrooms long before I heard Paul speaking, and even long before I learned this very word "mycology" (which was very recent, actually). Mushrooms are a part of my DNA, as I grew up with my own Mushroom Man - my Dad is an amateur mycologist, a huge fan of mushrooms, and I spent many years of my childhood going mushroom hunting with him. But what neither my Dad nor myself knew before this presentation, is that Paul Stamets made a revolutionary discovery that bees can stay healthy thanks to mushrooms! "We all grew up on Winnie the Pooh," he said in his speech. "But nobody made the connection before." Nobody, but Paul. Bees build hives in rotten trees because they eat substances produced by the mushrooms that grow there, substances that help them fight disease and live longer. Together with the team of scientists from the Washington State University, Stamets and his team performed research which proved the theory...that mushrooms are indeed good for bees! The sickly hives that were fed with mushroom extracts became healthier and their bees lived longer!!
I love that the venue for this event, the historic Moore Theatre, has a somewhat mushroom-colored interior. Built in 1907, it is the oldest operating theater in Seattle. Originally offering 2,436 seats, it was one of the largest theaters in the country at that time. At this point, the theater seats either 1,400 or 1,800 (numbers vary in different articles).
On the one hand, this new discovery is revolutionary. But on the other hand, it is no surprise, as Paul has studied mushrooms for decades, and he knows the role they play in ecological restoration. You would have to read Paul's work to learn more, but in a few words, fungi have an amazing potential to transform the health of the world - they are basically an immune system for the earth. Paul is involved with clinical research on cancer and HIV treatments using mushrooms. The story of his 85 years old mother who completely recovered from the 4th stage breast cancer is nothing short of a miracle. The woman is in her 90s now, she lives in West Seattle and is in good health and sharp mind, apparently beating her educated sons in Scrabble.
I have hardly done something like this before, but as soon as I bought tickets to this life-changing presentation, I also ordered this blouse which I was coveting for months since it first appeared in stores. And you know what, the story is a small miracle, but miracle nevertheless - the blouse was completely sold out at Lane Bryant, completely sold out at Nordstrom, and there was only one size left at the Melissa McCarthy site... and it was my size, and as soon as I made my purchase, it disappeared immediately from her site too! I think I found the very last mushroom blouse on the whole Internet! In my size! Clearly, it was waiting for me!
The proceeds from this event went to funding the Washington State University research on using mushrooms to save bees. I am so happy and proud that our family made a small contribution too!
PS Only now looking at the photos, I realize that my outfit reflects both mushrooms AND bees! Ha!
Linking to Visible Monday
Mushroom blouse - Melissa McCarthy (final sale)
Cape - Christian Siriano for Lane Bryant (last year)
Skirt - Isabel Toledo for Lane Bryant (old)
Patchwork boots - Naturalizer (last year)
Hat - via Lane Bryant (old)
Earrings - Chico's (old)
Clutch - via Eloquii
* * *