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.
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.
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.
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.
Six poets in residence at the amazing, futuristic, eco-exploratory Biosphere2. Check out the poems in a special feature on Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments.
Read and listen to Alison’s poem, “Morning in the Lung”, in the series.
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”
“Patativa, Chimera, Bobcat”
The Georgia Review
“The Owl, Spotted”
Fall 2006 : OnEarth
“The Animal Spirit”
“The Cheetah Run”
Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments
And three excerpts available on this website:
“Cormorant,” “My Cat Jeffrey,” and “Dogtags”
Bobcat photo by Kramer Gary, courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A winter storms into its galactic arms. New York City took a major hit. I happened at the time to be on Grand Manan Island watching the Bay of Fundy churn, the surf rake rock against rock on the Castalia shore in front of my home.
I’d come to my family’s retreat in Atlantic Canada for a much needed week of writing. I was reading an essay by one of my Tucson students about gang life in the city. “If he was going to slang,” she wrote, “he’d better get strapped up.” A drug dealer was out for justice over the mismeasure of his goods. He was heading for a club, armed and righteous. This is not fiction. This is the daily life of one student, a woman who comes to class wearing a white wife-beater that showcases her spectacular tattoos. She has a smile as warm as Oprah. Sometimes there’s a sheepish quality to it, as if she’s asking, “What am I doing in this movie?” She knows how to use a Glock. “You’re gonna need it,” her boyfriend said, looking after her. She’s lost so many friends to the street, she’s afraid to count them. Still, she feels pride in belonging, hanging with a guy who wants to put Tucson on the map, wants to make it as badass as L.A. or New York.