GRAND MANAN FIELD STUDIES IN WRITING

July 11, 2015
Background:
Our pilot program of Field Studies on Grand Manan has begun with Page Buono, Paco Cantu and Jan Bindas-Tenney arriving from Arizona on July 8. Supported by the Agnes Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice at the University of Arizona, the project plans to bring students from the Creative Writing Program to the island over the next five summers. They will work during a two-week stay on their own writing projects and with island youth to help them to tell their stories of coming of age in this place where sustainability of the local culture is deeply tied to the sustainability of marine life.

The goal is to spur documentary arts projects that will explore the story of Grand Manan Island (population 2500) and its 200-year history of traditional fisheries. We will explore how the arts and culture can contribute to our understanding of climate change and sustainability. Island culture is undergoing dramatic change with the decline of fish in the North Atlantic and the rise of corporate aquaculture. But climate change has also meant a boom for the lobster fishery, as lobsters move north for colder waters and new markets have developed in Asia.

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Page caught this iconic view of Swallowtail Lighthouse with the Grand Manan V rounding the bend on its way to North Head.

Day 1 and 2
We began Thursday with an early breakfast with the Grand Manan Rotary Club, where our group was joined by Carly Fleet who has been our able liaison with school and community.

Grand Manan high school teacher, chef and tour guide Robbie Griffin gave us a full day’s tour beginning with the first Anglo settlement at Bonney Brook in 1779, and running all the way from Southwest Head to Swallowtail. We were especially interested to see the new lobster tank storage facility and learn a bit about how lobsters find their way to market. We experienced true island hospitality throughout the day, but Robbie’s lunch was epic. Seafood chowder, lobster rolls and strawberry shortcake. What a welcome. Liam Watkins joined us for the day, a talented Grand Manan student (just graduated!) who had recently built himself a mahogany electric guitar.

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FieldStudiesSealCove

McLaughlin’s Wharf in Seal Cove

Day 2
We planned to do independent research on Friday (Paco contemplating border issues and island life, Jan exploring Dark Harbour and setting up interviews with fishermen, Page writing and making watercolors), but that plan was interrupted when I spotted from my second floor deck that the pile driver had been towed out to the herring weir known as Intruder. This was a rare opportunity for us to get out to Swallowtail and perch on the cliff above the weir to watch construction as the bottom stakes were driven into the seabed and top poles attached.

Here is the Intruder in previous summer, all strung up with twine and ready to capture herring that venture near shore.

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We ended the day with a beach fire and had a chance to see Liam’s amazing guitar–well, a few of them–and hear a few tunes from him, Mackenzie Russell and Harley Cary on a warm summer evening by the sea. Writers call such moments research. It’s a tough life.

FieldStudiesBeachFire

GUGGENHEIM FELLOWSHIP

AHD is thrilled to announce that she has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2015 to work on a new essay project titled, with homage to W.S. Merwin, “Lament for the Makers.”

Book tour, Nevada Museum of Art & Elliott Bay

Book tour has continued with the triennial Art & Environment Conference at the stellar Nevada Museum of Art. This gathering offers a pinnacle of inventive and collaborative art projects related to environmental concerns. Among the inspirational artists there was the stunning Petah Coyne.

Detail from Petah Coyne installation

Detail from Petah Coyne installation

Collaboration and field work were hallmarks of much of this work and I recommend exploration of artists David Brooks and Maya Lin, for starters, to feel encouraged about the talents being brought to bear to raise attention, conscience and action–“art that walks in the world,” as Bill Fox calls it. With great gratitude to Bill and his colleagues at the museum for the brilliant work in spurring this gathering.

Yesterday I read at the legendary Elliott Bay Book Company. A truly great book store filled with books and book lovers and coffee drinking readers. Great to reconnect with old friends there Sarah & Shelly & meet new ones. People always bring animal stories to these events. I was moved to learn about concerns here in Seattle for the elephants in the local zoo. Elephants in captivity so often carry great burdens of sadness. But, even more vexing, is that elephants in the wild carry perhaps even greater burdens of violence. It seems they may be the most beloved and most tormented creatures with whom we currently cohabit the planet. I learned also about the Mfubu Lodge and Gallery in South Africa http://mfubu.com on the edge on the Kruger National Park, a sanctuary for animals and people alike, all of whom need the solace of protected places.

Thank you, friends along the road for welcoming me and Zoologies. On to Olympia for reading 7 PM October 13 at Orca Books then Portland for reading 7 PM October 15 at Annie Bloom’s.

Book Tour, Elephants and Territory Drive

Sonoran Bird of Paradise

This week the University of Arizona Poetry Center hosted a book launch and reading for me and the marvelous poet Susan Briante. We had over 200 people in the audience. Tucson is a great town for writers and books. I’m grateful to live in such a community. As I share stories from this book, I am coming to learn how much people love to hear the one about the two elephants I met at the Little Rock Zoo. At the reading last week up at the Grand Manan Library, a woman in the audience who had clearly been moved by the story bought a copy of the book for a friend who had worked at an elephant refuge in Maine. Yes, Maine. A place in Hope where elephants could retire in peace. Something had gone terribly wrong there and an elephant had trampled his keeper to death. A bad day for an elephant can be perilous for a human being. She was giving the book to this other woman who had been there in hopes she might find some consolation in its pages. That is my hope. And in Tucson I heard story about an elephant grieving for a man he’d been close too, lingering over the place where he’d died and repeatedly touching the ground, maybe even stroking it.

This morning I had some time to walk near my new house off Territory Drive in the Tucson foothills. The desert is radiant green right now after a hearty monsoon season. Sonoran Birds of Paradise exploding into late bloom. Fairy duster too. This neighborhood is right near the base of the Santa Catalinas, so that the mountain presence is always in conversation with human habitation. There’s a lot of said habitation up here, but in my neighborhood the houses and condos are laid out in such a way that the desert remains gorgeously in tact. Walking along hilly Territory Drive and appreciating the visual balance between land and houses, I remembered the master work by Rene Dubos, The Wooing of Earth. He wrote that the landscapes we love are most often not ones that speak of pristine wilderness but rather landscapes such as Tuscany or Vermont where the scene suggests a long and balanced relationship between land and people, patterns of use that speak of an equanimity between nature and culture–or perhaps a seamless presence in which there appears no boundary between the two. They become one at least in mind’s eye and that is a nourishing vision.

Grand Manan Book Launch 9/24/14: Blog Post

Book Signing at Library with Deb Davis

Book Signing at Library with Deb Davis

Swallowtail Lighthouse

Swallowtail Lighthouse

Herring Weir

Herring Weir

September 25, 2014

Last night the Grand Manan library hosted the book launch for Zoologies. We had a great island crowd of about 45 people, a few of whom had to race down island from the ferry that arrived at 7 PM. I’m grateful to our host Kendra Neves for her hospitality–and the delicious cakes and fruit provided for all to enjoy after the reading. Our family’s cottage on Grand Manan came to us through the generosity of a librarian, so this night was special to me. In 1956 when our family first visited here, driving up from Connecticut and taking a ferry that slung cars with a winch onto its deck, we stayed at the long-ago demolished Rose Cottage Inn. We all fell in love with island’s grand beauty and rich history as a fishing culture. “We’re going to buy a house,” my mother declared. She was a very determined woman. “We can’t afford it,” my father argued.” “We will use Frances Shed’s money,” she declared. And that we did, buying a small cottage built in 1864 on the long bank near Castalia. Frances Shed had been the librarian at the public library in Wethersfield,Connecticut in the 1930s when my parents moved there from NYC. My mother befriended her, often hosting her for Thanksgiving dinners and such. Frances, a modest women of quiet and proper demeanor, had no family. When she passed, she left her small stock portfolio to my mother. So in the mysterious ways of personal history, libraries have ferried me to this special place and moment.

 

Can’t Wait for Zoologies? Check These Publications!

Bobcat in tree

Though Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit will publish this fall, you may be eager to get your hands (and eyes) on some of the essays appearing in the book before it comes out. Here are a few of the book’s prose pieces now available or out soon. Enjoy!

“The Pony, the Pig, the Horse”
Ecotone

“Sacred Pig”
Eleven Eleven

“Patativa, Chimera, Bobcat”
The Georgia Review

“The Owl, Spotted”
Fall 2006 : OnEarth

“The Animal Spirit”
Orion

“The Cheetah Run”
Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments


And three excerpts available on this website:


 Bobcat photo by Kramer Gary, courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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