Thursday, October 10, 2013

535 manuscript pages. Oy. That is all I have to say about The Conversation today.

I must rein in my obsession for mushroom hunting. So far I've crammed four quart bags of cooked mushrooms into the freezer and filled a quart jar with dried mushrooms, and now I've got three giant trays of newly picked mushrooms drying out in my living room. This doesn't take into account the quart of stir-fried mushrooms we ate last night, the quart that Tom roasted over the fire a few nights ago, and so on and so on. No one needs this many mushrooms.

Today's activities include vacuuming the living-room rug, working with young people on their writing, watching a JV soccer game, enduring parent-teacher conferences, and playing the fiddle licks for "Wagon Wheel" at a bar in Guilford, Maine. And probably mushroom hunting.

Anybody want any mushrooms?

Facts about mushroom hunting

1. As Tolstoy points out in Anna Karenina, mushroom hunting can be very romantic.
In the Levins' house, so long deserted, there were now so many people that almost all the rooms were occupied, and almost every day it happened that the old princess, sitting down to table, counted them all over, and put the thirteenth grandson or granddaughter at a separate table. And Kitty, with her careful housekeeping, had no little trouble to get all the chickens, turkeys, and geese, of which so many were needed to satisfy the summer appetites of the visitors and children. 
The whole family were sitting at dinner. Dolly's children, with their governess and Varenka, were making plans for going to look for mushrooms. Sergey Ivanovitch, who was looked up to by all the party for his intellect and learning, with a respect that almost amounted to awe, surprised everyone by joining in the conversation about mushrooms. 
"Take me with you. I am very fond of picking mushrooms," he said, looking at Varenka; "I think it's a very nice occupation."
"Oh, we shall be delighted," answered Varenka, coloring a little. Kitty exchanged meaningful glances with Dolly. The proposal of the learned and intellectual Sergey Ivanovitch to go looking for mushrooms with Varenka confirmed certain theories of Kitty's with which her mind had been very busy of late. She made haste to address some remark to her mother, so that her look should not be noticed.

 2. When it comes to mushroom hunting, Nabokov's mother was just like me, except that she has a cloak and I've never said, "Pouf":
One of her greatest pleasures in summer was the very Russian sport of hodit' po gribi (looking for mushrooms). Fried in butter and thickened with sour cream, her delicious finds appeared regularly on the dinner table. Not that the gustatory moment mattered much. Her main delight was in the quest. . . .

On overcast afternoons, all alone in the drizzle, my mother, carrying a basket (stained blue on the inside by somebody's whortleberries), would set out on a long collecting tour. Toward dinnertime, she could be seen emerging from the nebulous depths of a park alley, her small figure cloaked and hooded in greenish-brown wool, on which countless droplets of moisture made a kind of mist all around her. As she came nearer from under the dripping trees and caught sight of me, her face would show an odd, cheerless expression, which might have spelled poor luck, but which I knew was the tense, jealously contained beatitude of the successful hunter. Just before reaching me, with an abrupt, drooping movement of the arm and shoulder and a "Pouf!" of magnified exhaustion, she would let her basket sag, in order to stress its weight, its fabulous fullness.

3. Mushroom hunting promotes anxiety. If I don't look for mushrooms today, they might not be there tomorrow. "The Mushroom," says Dickinson, "is the Elf of Plants":
'Tis Vegetation's Juggler--
The Germ of Alibi--
Doth like a Bubble antedate
And like a Bubble, hie--

4. Mushroom hunting requires a zest for danger, or at least the whiff of a zest for danger, or at least a soupçon of a whiff of a zest for danger. Remember, Babar was able to found Celesteville only because le roi des éléphants a mangé un mauvais champignon.

P.S. Felicitations to the great and wonderful Alice Munro, who has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Sometimes things work out exactly as they should.


Ruth said...

Ah, mushrooms. Would that I were closer. Gently sautéed with butter and balsamic vinegar, heavenly.

Wagon Wheel, the latest American anthem. Last weekend I heard it and happily sang along with it with 2 separate bands. One, the band I often travel with and the other an Irish string band!!

Carlene said...

Dawn, why not freeze 'shroom creations? Like quiche? Or cream of 'shroom soup?

Bobby Keniston said...

I have fond memories of Tom Robbins' thoughts on mushroom hunting in "Another Roadside Attraction"!
Also, while I haven't read as much of Alice Munro's work as I should, what I have read made an impact on me. Congratulations to her!

Dawn Potter said...

I don't know Robbins's mushroom commentary; I'll have to check it out. And, Bobby, Alice Munro is probably my favorite living writer in any genre. She writes about the cold middle of nowhere with clarity and passion. Her rural Ontario bears more than a little resemblance to rural central Maine.