Life is a maelstrom right now.
Book tours have always been this way, but this one has been stormier than usual. Largely because of all the publisher duties I’ve taken on with Buck, Buck, Moose, which have me at a computer for at least a solid hour every morning doing grunt work. Most days it can be tough to find that hour.
I’ve left my own vehicle behind in California, and have begun the longest stretch of the tour, which now involves lots of airplane rides and rental cars. Hotels are the norm, but I do sometimes get to stay with friends.
My time is rarely my own. Interviews, business meetings, and book events nearly every single day. I can’t complain too much, though, and it helps pay the mortgage, after all. And, at these events, I meet you.
This is a good thing. A great thing, actually.
Much of the reason I do these marathons is to physically connect with you at each mile marker. I am always happy to see old friends, stoked to meet people with whom I correspond constantly online (but have never met), and humbled by the folks who have driven huge distances just to attend: So far the woman who drove from the Adirondacks to Buffalo, and the man who drove from Fargo to St. Paul hold the record for longest drive.
Every evening, I am, effectively, the groom at a wedding. It is so important for me to get a chance to talk with you that I rarely get to eat the food (at least when you do; sometimes I get a plate afterwards), drink the wines and sit and really talk. Just too many people.
At the end, I sit at the restaurant bar sipping Scotch, completely spent emotionally after pouring myself out for sometimes six straight hours. There’s even a physical toll: It is not uncommon for me to walk three miles just flitting about the room greeting and talking to everyone. (But hey, this helps walk off the Scotch, right?)
This life is as exhilarating as it is exhausting.
It could be easier, I suppose, if I were a different kind of person.
A reader named Erik said I seemed like what he called a “situational extrovert.” He’s right. As outgoing as I am at events, it is not who I am all time.
Normally I don’t talk much, and am alone quite a bit. I need to be, in order to do research, explore this wild, edible world of ours, and, most of all, think.
It’s the reason I haven’t posted very often this fall. I can barely find the time to collect my thoughts, let alone work on images and craft decent prose. I am lucky in that today I have a spare two hours after an unusually lovely night’s rest. I am writing this in a Starbucks near the Buffalo airport, doing my best to tune out screeching toddlers and the hiss of steaming milk.
But all is not all boom and crash. Every so often, I snatch a moment from the maelstrom.
A few hours wandering the woods of Wisconsin for mushrooms. A day in the Minnesota grouse woods. A morning in Montana gathering Oregon grapes. A fishless, but rejuvenating, afternoon on Lake Monona in my old hometown of Madison. And there are even smaller moments, like the sight of an anise hyssop plant, doing just fine growing in a crack near an abandoned lot in urban Milwaukee.
These are my oases in the desert, the experiences that allow me to drink greedily from Nature’s glory, in the hope that they sustain me until the next one comes along in a few days, or, sometimes, a few weeks.
This is also when I savor my time with my old friends, because they are the beneficiaries of whatever it is I bring back. Roast woodcock. Hen of the woods mushrooms. Oregon grape syrup. Seared entoloma mushrooms with real-deal Mexican salsa verde, made from tomatillos, onions and chiles harvested from the backyard garden.
I need these times as much as I need silence, or at least time when I don’t need to talk to anyone. It is the yin to the yang of book tour, and without it I’d go mad.