• Ali & Joe

    Ali & Joe
    Please introduce yourself & give us a glimpse into your world. Where are you located? What are you currently creating?

    A ~ Greetings! My name is Ali and I live in the foothills of the southern Appalachian mountains in northwest Georgia on unceded Cherokee land. I’m an herbalist and one half of Forest Folk Fungi, a small batch medicinal mushroom apothecary. We create tinctures that combine the healing properties of mushrooms and plants. We’re careful foragers and dedicated growers as well. We keep a large garden (for our apothecary as well as our kitchen needs) and spend a lot of time backpacking in the mountains of our region. Lately, my focus has been on my local community—tending another family’s vegetable garden as a side-gig and developing my practice as an herbalist with local clients. And we’re always kneeling at the hearth of Forest Folk, asking what else we can do for our beloved business and our fungal allies.

    J ~ Hello good people! My name is Joe and I am co-founder of Forest Folk Fungi. I currently live in the foothills and mountains of Southern Appalachia, tending a small homestead and apothecary with my dear wife Ali. Creating relationship with fungal friends, plant allies, the earth, the elementals, and people is what fills my days.

    Can you tell us about a childhood experience that was profound or life changing? Or a memory that still resonates with you today?

    A ~ When I was about 11 years old a friend’s father took us to visit a place called Hooper’s Bald in the mountains about a hour’s drive from my home. In the Appalachians, balds are summits or crests covered by grasses and shrubs where heavy tree cover would otherwise be expected. Standing on the bald and looking out over the blue-grey expanse, I felt the presence of the divine. It was uncanny at the time and I didn’t have words for it, but the experience of my heart dilating and coming into contact with something enormous, mysterious, and yet also interior has stayed with me always.

    J ~ One of the biggest childhood experiences for me was when I began to fall in love with the temperate rain forests and deep mountain coves of the southern Blue Ridge. As a young boy on family trips to Western North Carolina I became enraptured by the pristine beauty of the mountain creeks cloaked in rhododendron. It was deep within these rhodo thickets that I began to really explore the landscape and make relationship with the plants that reside there. Rock hopping up and down the mountain creeks, wading and trodding along soaking wet, surrounded by the magnificent forms of the rhododendron filled my spirit with radical amazement. It was by journeying through these environments that my love, respect, and gratitude for the richness of the natural world began to take root in my being.

    What daily rituals or practices if any, connect you with the spiritual realms?

    A ~ Tea ceremony, listening to and making music, long walks, sleeping outside, drinking spring water, prayer, listening, and exploring the liminal space of the dreamtime!

    J ~ Getting out into the woods for a long walk really seems to fill my spirit. Creating music and song and spending time in meditation are also daily practices that I cultivate in my life.

    What parts of the world do your ancestors come form? What inspires you most about your ancestral cultural background?

    A ~ I owe family members on both my mother and father’s side a debt of gratitude for preparing two beautiful books of my family’s genealogy going back generations. This is a profound privilege and it should not go unsaid that so many of us have no way to excavate the names and stories of our ancestors—genocide, slavery, and all manner of oppression and repression have made it so. I’m still working out ways to deepen the work of decolonization in my ancestral line. There are many layers of both oppressor and oppressed. The medicine traditions that I belong to help me to work on an epigenetic level with shame and fear, and also with love and joy. Based on the information that I have, the British Isles figure prominently in my people’s history of place, as well as Germany and France. I’ve traced my pure matrilineal line back to Wales in the 17th century. I’d also like to acknowledge my great great grandmother Mary Roughton Banks as a person who I feel very curious about. Visitations during dreamtime have also given me a window into the realm of the ancestors, and are one that I find particularly potent and revealing. For instance, I repeatedly heard the name “Brittany” over the course of several years until I finally realized that it may be a connection coming through from Breton ancestors. I am most inspired by my deep ancestors’ earth-honoring, nature-based life ways. May their wisdom live again.

    J ~ My ancestors come from Slovenia, Croatia, and Ireland. I think what inspires me the most about my heritage is that generally speaking, ancient cultures of these regions had deep relationships with the natural world. It was this connection to the land that influenced their early beliefs, practices, and customs.

    How do you stay connected with your Ancestors?

    A ~ I feel most connected to my ancestors while I’m in the forest and in my kitchen. My life’s practice is to continue deepening my ability to listen to the seen and unseen world, and the quiet whispers of the forest are a master teacher in that regard. Wild places have been one of my greatest allies in learning to become more and more sensitive to life. Kitchen craft also holds a special place in my heart—working with my hands to create meals and medicine, centering my energy around the hearth of my home, and tending the flame of domesticity all bring a kind of sacred balance to the parts of me that yearn for the wilderness and connect me with the flavors, scents, textures, and tastes of my ancestors.

    J ~ In sacred ceremony through the modalities of song, music, and prayer. It’s within this space that I really begin to feel the presence of my ancestors watching, protecting, guarding, and guiding.
    Where in nature do you seek inspiration / healing / refuge? In other words do you have a “spot” or activity? Please describe.

    A ~ There’s a deep, jade-green section of a nearby creek that we visit frequently. Once, we saw an otter catch a giant crayfish (we call them crawdad’s here), and when the water is high we go swimming. Floating on my back in this pool, looking up at the sky while listening to the underwater sounds, is something I cherish.

    J ~I find and receive healing for myself through extended backpacking trips in our local mountains and also on retreats in the Peruvian Amazon. It’s these moments of solitude in pristine nature that allow for deep release, guidance, and realignment in my life.

    What is the last good book you read?

    A ~ I just finished reading Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard of Bingen by Mary Sharratt, about the 12th century German Benedictine abbess, Christian mystic, writer, philosopher, composer, and herbalist. It’s beautifully written and gripping—historical fiction has been a great tool for me in adding texture to my imaginings of what life may have been like for some of my ancestors in the deep past.

    J ~ Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn

    Where can people find you and your work?

    A & J ~ In the hollers and hills of Northwest Georgia and online at forestfolkfungi.com and Insta @forestfolkfungi