This morning I started my summer lap swimming again! Wooee! I would have started Monday except for morning rain, distant thunder, and a temporary mix-up re: what the heck day is it? I was convinced that it was still June 3, and my receipt said that lap swim began on June 4. Yes, yes, I am number challenged and day-of-the-week challenged.
Then I strained my back lifting big dresser drawers full of clothes, which reminded me why I go so long without cleaning out the dresser drawers. (Bend the knees, bend the knees. I did. It's just the awkward bigness of these particular drawers.) I can swim with a strained back; it's just hard to get in and out of the pool! So I rested, and started today. Oh, joy! Oh, thrill. I love the water and gliding through it.
I have been gliding through The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, since last summer. I love reading this book, and have learned so much from it, but I kept reading it in spurts at just the right time. Also, I have to have my notebook or journal handy, as I keep writing stuff down from it and riffing on it. It has inspired several poems and numerous informal short essays in my private journal and public blog.
Yesterday, moving toward the book's conclusion in "the perfect meal," I was struck by many things Pollan said about hunters and foragers that apply to 1) being an artist and 2) being human. So I wrote them down.
Speaking of true "mushroomers," people who live in their vans and follow the mushrooms the way birders follow the birds (see The Big Year!), Pollan says, "They cobble together a living selling their mushrooms to brokers who set up shop in motel rooms near the forests, post signs, and pay the hunters in cash. Anthony and Ben [chefs who are taking Pollan on a mushroom expedition] aren't really a part of this world; they hold jobs, live in houses, and sell their mushrooms directly to restaurants. 'We don't think of ourselves as professionals yet,' Anthony said."
This wowed me. Anthony and Ben, who "hold jobs, live in houses, and sell...directly..." don't think of themselves as "professionals." They think of the guys living in vans as professionals. The guys who are fully committed to mushrooming and who risk everything!
Likewise, poets and artists, musicians and actors often cobble together their lives, taking what work they can find in their fields, committing fully, and risking everything. Their erratic schedules doing what they do best don't always allow them to "hold jobs," but I'm glad most of them can find a way to live in apartments, at least, though I know it's sometimes someone else's apartment and, yes, sometimes it's their cars. For a time.
I am very glad to be living in a house while cobbling a life together. And lap swimming. More gratitude.
And specific thanks to Wikipedia for the mushroom photos! Lactarius indigo by Dan Molter, for the blue stripes that are like lap swimming; Michael Maggs for the traditional red polka-dotted gnomish Disneyesque toadstool, Amanita muscaria; and Alan Rockefeller for the hallucinogenic Psilocybe zapotecorum. And, of course, Michael Pollan, for everything!
"You must change your life," said Rilke. So that's what I keep doing. I worked as an actor and director in Chicago, wrote for an encyclopedia, edited two poetry journals, shelved and retrieved materials in several libraries, walked beans, and was an assistant professor of English. Now I serve as Poetry Editor and Editor at Large for Escape Into Life, an online arts magazine, write & edit as a freelancer, blog "eight days a week," study the random, tend perennials, and listen to birdsong.