Thursday, June 7, 2012

Swimming in 'Shrooms

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.

I also loved Pollan's book The Botany of Desire, which is actually mentioned in my poem, "The Apple," in Blood Lotus #20 (p.37), and gave me tulip info for a poem called "Tulips" in After Hours #17. The Omnivore's Dilemma--the section on corn (zea mays)--was on my mind when I wrote "Cassandra Observes the Midwestern in September," in Arsenic Lobster. (Also, it was September, and I was observing the Midwestern landscape.)

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!


Maureen said...

That blue mushroom is amazing, especially in close-up.

Reading your post, I'm reminded of John Cage, who was quite the mushroom connoisseur.

Kathleen said...

There you go! The perfect Random Coinciday connection. Maureen, you know so much. I love that!

Hannah Stephenson said...

And, you know what else this reminds me of? The movie Adaptation....hunting plants and cobbling together ideas...

Sandy Longhorn said...

I'm thinking that the title of this post should get you as many hits as the mention of a hedgehog. :)

Love the images!

Collagemama said...

And in the coinciday spirit, I recently finished reading "Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay," about, among many other things, Black Mountain College and John Cage. During school break I've also read "Varamo" by Cesar Aira, and now "Billy Lynn's Long Half Time Walk."

Happy swimming.

Kathleen said...

Yay, for Random Coinciday connections!

I love Adaptation. Except for the parts that creep me out. And then I love it, anyway.

Oooh, Sandy, you may be right. I will have to watch the stats!

ron hardy said...

I love this piece Kathleen. Reminded me of an old interview in the Sun with Paul Stamets. He wrote Mycelium Running, a book about the incredible underground network that can run for a mile. The mushroom is just the fruit of this organism. Like tiny fiber optics. Works like our brain.

Kathleen said...

Pollan mentions that book in his book! And the acreage of mushrooms!!