Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Erin's Blog and Rune's presentation, part I

My daughter Erin has a new blog.  It's called Erin in the Woods.  In today's post, she wrote about writing while walking.  I was both happily amused and interested, because this has been a long-time habit of mine.  I write while I am walking, and I would say 3/4 of my NaNoWriMo novel (as yet incomplete) was written while walking.

Erin's Blog banner
(Click image to view larger)

Here is the banner from Erin's blog.  On the top right, in case you can't read it (click on it to see it bigger), it says, I am at my most content while walking in the woods.  I have felt this way most of my life.

Today, I wrote the following during my walk, which is an unfinished section fairly early in the novel.  And remember, a first rough draft, and not even finished yet:

            Rune had arranged to give a presentation on edible and poisonous mushrooms to Dr. Otis’s Mycology 101 class.  It was something Dr. ((Hanselman)) had arranged last spring when Rune had contacted Hanselman about doing a MS in Natural History Communications under him in the fall.  She was to give a series of presentation to various groups, and Dr. Otis was the first of these. 
            Rune had worked on the presentation all spring and summer.  She already had an extensive collection of slides and photographs, and she asked Peter Schilya to make drawings for her of the few things she did not have photographs of, could not obtain in time and wanted to talk about.  It turned out that Peter had lovely drawings of most of those already and only had to do a few.  He seemed pleased to be asked and Dr. Hanselman)) had arranged for him to get a projects course one credit for assisting Rune.
            Rune scanned all the slides and artwork and made presentation slides to go between and put them together in a digital presentation that could be shown with one of Larry Thompson's digital projectors.  She created a voice over for it and gave a copy to ((Hanselman)). for her project grade.  She intended to not use the voice over but to actually speak aloud in her own voice in real time so she could answer questions.  ((Hanselman)) was the chairman of the Forest and Environmental Communications department and Rune's major professor for her interdisciplinary master's degree.
            Dr. Otis seemed willing to have her lecture to his class and smiled at her when she arrived fifteen minutes before the class with Larry's digital projector.  Rune wanted to get everything set up and test it before the students arrived. 
            Dr. Otis disappeared as she was setting up and came back with two cups of coffee and some cookies.  "Larry dropped these off for you.  You and me, he said, but they must be primarily for you, because he doesn't usually give me cookies," Dr. Otis said. 
            Rune turned to look at him, because his voice has an unidentifiable note of jealousy or annoyance or something.  But he was smiling amiably and holding out a paper plate of cookies to her.  Rune set them on the projection cart next to the projector.  She didn't want to eat anything until she was sure everything was copesthetic.  She used one of Larry's tiny little notebook computers on the lower shelf to run the program through the projector.  She put her test slides up on the screen and everything seemed to be in order. 
            She took a bite of one of Larry's cookies and a sip coffee.  It was cherry hazelnut with sweetened vanilla cream.  She peeked at Dr. Otis.  He wasn't grimacing, so Larry must have sent up two carafes of coffee.  She knew from past experience with Dr. Otis that he hated flavored coffee.  He thought anyone who liked flavored coffee was a wimp.  Talk about an opinionated asshole.  Rune thought to herself.  He thinks that what he likes is right and what other people like is wrong.  Black and white.  But she smiled sweetly and sipped the coffee Larry had made for her.
            "He was wearing an APRON when he came with the cookies," Dr. Otis said, a note of disdain and disgust in his voice. 
            "I think he looks cute in an apron," Rune said, cheerfully, smiling sweetly again.
            She was pleased that Larry trusted her enough to allow her to take the AV equipment herself instead of insisting on coming along and setting it up for her the way he did for everyone else.  It's true that she was a high school AV geek, but a lot had changed in the intervening years.  Technology was changing in leaps and bounds.
            The first students filed into the classroom, talking quietly among themselves.  Rune stuck the dish of cookies on the bottom shelf of the cart and set her coffee where she could sip it when she got dry.
            Dr. Otis moved a little closer to her.  "You're not following Dr. McHaggerty's outline," he said, very quietly.  He had apparently deduced something about the order of her slides from the test slides that she had projected.
            "No," Rune said, "I have my own story." Again, she smiled sweetly.  Dr. Otis was rubbing her the wrong way, as he often did.  It wasn't his actual words, which seemed harmless enough, but his tone of voice, expression and body language.
            He was handsome in a huge bear-like way.  Like McHaggerty, he had a beard and longish hair, but his hair was curlier than McHaggerty's, and very dark.  His skin was dark, too, well-tanned, and his eyes were such a dark brown to be almost black.  His eyebrows weren't as bushy as McHaggerty's. 
            Like McHaggerty, he was large and strong, but his strength was not diminished as much by age as McHaggerty's.  Not that McHaggerty was weak; he just seemed not quite as bearish as Dr. Otis.   Dr. Otis seemed to shrink McHaggerty when he stood beside him.
            As Rune was thinking of McHaggerty, he and ((Hanselman)) appeared at the door and sat quietly in the back.  They, along with Dr. Otis, were on Rune's graduate committee and wanted to sit in on her actual presentation.
            Rune had a pang of nervousness and then relaxed.  She'd gone over the talk so many times she knew it by heart, and McHaggerty and ((Hanselman) etc had seen the recorded version and already essentially approved it.
            Rune smiles to herself as she forwarded the presentation through the three test slides.  Those slides were there so that she could test the equipment without anyone seeing any of the actual presentation ahead of time.  This was for the sake of any early-arriving students, but Dr. Otis hadn't seen it either.
            "This is one of our graduate students, Rune Carmichael," Dr. Otis said.  "She's working under Dr. (Hanselman)), Dr. McHaggerty and me and is going to give a slide presentation of edible and poisonous mushrooms.  As you know, Dr. McHaggerty, who is in attendance today, teaches a whole course on that subject.  This will serve as in introduction to the possibilities in that course.  Miss Carmichael has a BS in Biology, Natural Sciences and Wildlife Management from ESF, and I might add, graduated magna cum laude and second in her class.  Miss Carmichael . . ."
            Rune stood up.  She smiled at the kids.  They looked so young and wet behind the ears. When she was a freshman, she thought she knew everything.  Hah!  What a joke.  What a rude surprise, actually.
            ((Dr. Hanselman)) was sitting next to the light switches, and Rune turned to him and said, "May I have the lights?”

            “This was my grandmother, Teresa Elena Carmicael,” Rune said, as the first slide filled the screen.  It showed a old sun-browned woman with a square face, grizzled braids wrapped around her head and a bit of a scowl on her face. Rune smiled at the scowl.  Grandma, she thought, never liked having her picture taken.  She was holding a basket full of mushrooms.  Rune smiled at the look of surprise on Dr. Otis’s face.  He had expected she would begin with the slides she had put up first.
            The next slide showed Runes grandmother in a gingham dress and a mismatched apron, bending over to pick mushrooms.  “My grandmother was Italian and came to America from the ‘old country.’  She gathered wild edibles to supplement her family’s diet, including mushrooms, and she was my first teacher.  These are the first mushrooms she taught me to collect and eat as a child.”
            The next slide showed a close up of a white mushroom with pink gills from slightly below, and was followed by several white mushrooms with pink gills and brown gills in a hand. “Grandma called these field ‘mushrooms,” Rune said.  "The first mushrooms my grandmother taught me to collect are Agaricus campestris, which are closely related to the white mushroom commonly sold in stores, the cultivated button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus.  I've been collecting and eating them all my life.  Campestris means 'of the field,' so field mushrooms is an appropriate name for it.
            "Few mushrooms can easily be confused with this field mushroom, Agaricus campestris.  Grandma told me never to collect a white mushroom with white gills.  Most of your probably already know that Amanita phalloides and several other similar poisonous Amanitas are white with white gills.  They are so poisonous that it's not even a good idea to touch them."  Rune showed some slides of Amanitas.  As long as you do not pick any white mushrooms with white gills, you should be safe from the deadliest Amanitas.
            "Another mushroom that could be confused with the common field mushroom, Agaricus campestris, is a close relative, The yellow-staining mushroom, Agaricus xanthodermus.  This mushroom makes some people quite sick, whereas others can eat with no apparent problem." Rune showed a slide of a mushroom cut in half.  It resembled the common field mushroom but was colored yellow at the base in the bisected part.  "in addition to the obvious yellow coloration at the base of the stem, this mushroom has an odor of phenol similar to carbolic soap.  The smell is unpleasant and strong when cooked, so you would be unlikely to eat it."
            "Some sources cite Clitocybes as being similar to Agaricus, the field mushrooms, but this is only true if you're dyslexic." Rune showed a slide of a pink mushroom with white gills.  "If you're dyslexic or forgetful, mushrooming may not be a safe hobby for you.  I'm dyslexic and forgetful, but I seem to be able to remember that the edible mushrooms have white caps and pink or brown gills.  I suggest if you have any doubt about your ability to remember this, don't eat wild mushrooms."
            "Again, the edible field mushrooms look like the regular store-bought mushrooms, white caps with pink or brown gills."  Another slide, this one showing Agaricus campestris cut in half. It lacked the yellow coloration of the similar species.      
            A picture of Rune's grandmother holding small tan mushrooms came up next.  She had a pained looking half-smile.
            "The second mushroom my grandmother taught me to collect and eat was a small tan mushroom she variously called a toadstool and a fairy ring mushroom."  Another shot showed the mushrooms growing in a circle.  A third shot showed their peculiar hat-like shape. “Toadstools,” Rune said, are often considered poisonous, that is, anything called a toadstool is usually thought of as poisonous.  Everyone in my neighborhood when I was a child called these toadstools and were horrified that we collected and ate them.  But they were good.  And I am still alive.” (to be continued--on my next walk)

the next part is located here


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the shout out, Mom! Maybe some day I'll be writing novels as I walk too. :-)

merrytait said...

Poems are good!!! :-D

(And, novels are good!) :-D

I like both.

John said...

great work Mary and fascinating too!

John said...

Read the 2nd part but couldn´t leave a comment. Great photograph of the young Mary.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Thanks John for your two comments!! :-D I appreciate it!!!!

bluerose said...

That's really interesting about writing while you walk. I'm sure I'd trip or run into something. Must be a genetic trait :D

I'm off to read part 2 - really enjoying this!