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.

On Ruin and Renewal

Grand MananAlison Hawthorne Deming pens guest editorial for Terrain.org

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.

Read full editorial >>

Brazilian Notebook: The Tree of Words

Detail, slave ship, Museu Afro Brasil.May 25, 2012. São Paolo, last day, last post.

We visited two stunning museums here, each of which moved us deeply both for the substance of their collections and the brilliance of design qualities in the their exhibitions and installations. First, the Museu Afro Brasil, which so powerfully tells the story of cultural relationship between Brazil and Africa, of slavery and the African diaspora, of the syncretism in art and religion that have developed from the fifteenth century to the present. We felt the terrible kinship of this society with our own, seeing a reconstruction of a slave ship and woodcuts illustrating the heartless ferocity of the slavers, every inch of a ship’s deck covered with human woe. No comfort to see a contemporary photograph showing a policeman arresting four black youths suspected of being robbers, thick ropes laced around their necks tying them together as they were being taken out of a cane field. Racism is hidden and subtle here, we were told, by our museum guide who had been a student at Howard University. It was very meaningful, she said, to have a teacher who is black, to talk about how we deal with diversity in our country. It is rare to see black doctors or professors here, she said, though schools are now required to teach Afro-Brasilian history.

Read full entry at Terrain.org.

Read the full Brazilian Notebook series at Terrain.org, too.

Brazilian Notebook: São Paulo

Sao Paulo, BrazilMay 24, 2012. São Paulo.

How to begin to encompass the experience of two days spent in a cosmopolitan city of 20 million? The Airbus, riveted angel of conveyance, drifts over the misty cerrado. When we descend, the city is there repeating itself for mile after mile of blocky white spires, gaseous air, stately European grace and accreted Lego-land geometry. The city’s intensity is cut with thick green parks. The city’s velocity is slowed by a transit workers’ strike, which is fine by me. It’s difficult enough to get my head around this density of human energy. As writers, we are students of patience anyway, and our state department motor pool driver is a dignified professional whose face never strays from calm focus.

We are arts ambassadors, as Alan has dubbed us. After speaking/reading/performing to over a thousand Brazilians in over twenty events in three cities during the past ten days, we feel deeply the diplomacy inherent in art. Art educates empathy.

Read full entry at Terrain.org.

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