Sunday, April 24, 2016

Loren Eiseley: Immense

 
 



Once in a lifetime, if one is lucky, one so merges with sunlight and air and running water that whole eons, the eons that mountains and deserts know, might pass in a single afternoon without discomfort.

                  ~    Loren EiseleyThe Immense Journey




 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Love, Sex, Earth: Guest Post by Lorraine Anderson


My guest blogger, Lorraine Anderson, has just released a beautiful and inspiring anthology, Earth and Eros, with color photographs by Bruce Hodge. Anderson has an incredible gift for creating ground-breaking anthologies: she edited the renowned Sisters of the Earth, one of the first anthologies of women's writings on nature, and one of the most important books I've ever read. Earth and Eros is equally seminal. ~ Marybeth



 
 
There it was again, the Hallmark version of Eros: the winged boy with arrows in his quiver meant to strike lust into young hearts. In this guise, dreamed up by the later Greek satiric poets, Eros enjoyed wreaking havoc in the Greek pantheon, smiting the gods with inconvenient desires and provoking unrequited loves. Zeus falls for the mortal Semele; Venus falls for the mortal Adonis. Tearing and rending of garments ensues, as do offspring: from the former couple, Dionysus, that hearty partier.

But this is a trivialization of Eros that obscures its power to move postmodern people toward a rapprochement with the natural world. In the most ancient Greek stories, Eros is a fundamental cause in the formation of the world, representing the power of love to unite discordant elements and bind humankind together. It’s that sense that we urgently need to recover today. Properly understood, Eros is a force of nature, the innate life force that connects us to ourselves, to other human beings, to all other living beings on the earth, and to the earth as a living being. Eros is fuel for a revolution of the heart. And sex plays an essential role in that revolution.

Native American poet Sherman Alexie refers to sex as “the fog-soaked forest into which we all travel,” “the damp, dank earth into which we all plunge our hands / . . . / to search for water and room and root and home.” Sexuality is basic and universal, and its great beauty is that when we are naked, vulnerable, and aroused, when we are out of our minds and fully in our bodies, we are perhaps closest to our own nature and our own wild hearts. In that moment we know for certain that we are part of, not above, the animal kingdom.

All of the environmental sins of our time spring from holding ourselves above and separate from the great body that provides for our every need. When we see ourselves that way, we impose our own self-serving plans on the natural world. The catastrophic results are all around us. Sexuality draws us into relationship and makes us see that we are part of—not apart from—nature. When we understand that what we do to nature we do to ourselves, we are much more likely to respect and hold sacred the land and other beings. We are much more likely to listen to and cooperate with the great intelligence that informs all life around us.

So next Valentines Day, go outside. Listen. Listen to your own beating heart, to your deepest longings, and to the world around you. Listen hard. Listen as if your life depends on it.

 


Lorraine Anderson is editor of the new book Earth& Eros: A Celebration in Words and Photographs, which brings together prose and poetry by nearly seventy authors—including Gary Snyder, Terry Tempest Williams, Pablo Neruda, Diane Ackerman, D. H. Lawrence, and Louise Erdrich—to celebrate the sacred erotic dimension of humans’ relationship to the earth. Foreword by Robert Michael Pyle and photographs by Bruce Hodge.
 
 
 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Wendell Berry: Stand.


 

                     What I stand for is what I stand on.

                                                                                                 ~ Wendell Berry



 

Friday, December 11, 2015

HOWL: Guest Post by Susan Imhoff Bird

My guest blogger, Susan Imhoff Bird, is the author of Howl: of Woman and Wolf. Commemorating twenty years since the wolf’s return to the American West, Howl explores the passions and controversies surrounding nature’s most fascinating predator, while also delving into the reality of being human in today’s world.


My Alaska, My Wolf.

I dream Alaska. Immense, white. Fanged, feathered, furred. Hooded and gloved and without question, booted. Mukluks, Juneau boots. Huddled homes, expansive shorelines, seventy shades of blue to be discovered in sky and lake, river and ocean. Great and ferocious predators, thickened by fur and hardened by lot. Bears—black, polar, brown—wolverines and lynx, foxes, wolves. And the winged: bald and golden eagles, hawks and osprey, ravens and owls—great gray, northern hawk, and boreal—the fantastically named gyrfalcon, curving a path high above them all.

My Alaska is massive, resplendent, its edges blurring into towering, snow-sculpted mountains, bereft of trees. But if you peer closely, large paw prints traverse the slopes, dissolving into shadows cast by boulders, by landslide, by earthen tumult.

When I started studying wolves, I went on a late spring day to a valley that had, a month before, watched its snow melt into the ground and drip from banks into its rivers. I saw but one wolf that sojourn, though I’d hoped for more. I stood with a bevy of others, squinting into scopes, and watched the solitary wolf tear sustenance from the carcass of a bison calf. The Lamar Valley was well-filled with bison, cranes, and coyotes, while eagles spiraled above and a grizzly family pawed through a rotting tree trunk on a far hillside, but of wolves, I glimpsed only the one.

I returned to Yellowstone five months later, arriving the day after a blizzard, and learned to search for wolves on snow-dusted sage plains, on rocky outcroppings, on ice-laced creeks and tree-dotted buttes. Alaska, I thought, is more like this. I saw wolves—two who circled within forty feet of where I stood on frozen boots, two more a hundred yards away, and a family of eight who lounged atop a ridge, brought to near life-size by a powerful scope, whiskers flicking, eyes blinking, an exchange of paw swipes by two black cubs. Another morning, a pack of wolves was so far away that in my scope, they were lumps of gray-brown upon a rocky hill of gray-brown. Still others I tracked as they ran through winter-stiff grass and across ice bridges, only to disappear again in the shrub.

Soon I began to dream a wolf. She travels sloping mountain flanks, she sniffs for fellow and foe. She looks upon the world through eyes of gold, which glow on moon bright nights. Life is spent in snow and sun and rain, in pursuit of elk, caribou, moose, that routinely elude and escape. She sleeps curled nose to tail, she naps while the sun is high. She partners for life. She howls to bring her family close, and she howls to warn others away. She is guided by hunger, by instinct, by love, which are often one and the same. Her coat is a hundred shades of time-worn granite. My wolf is wild in every way, with a spirit so wide its edges blur. Into mine.

In my Alaska, live wolves. In my wolf, lives Alaska.


Find out more about Howl and Susan Imhoff Bird at www.susanimhoffbird.com

 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Coming to Pass: Guest post by Susan Cerulean and David Moynahan

 
Welcome to guest writer Susan Cerulean and photographer David Moynahan. Susan and her husband Jeff have collaborated with David and his wife Crystal for more than a decade--creating books and events, and exploring Florida's coast and other wild places from the Suwannee River to Iceland to the Virgin Islands.  Below is an excerpt from their newest collaboration, "Coming to Pass: Florida's Coastal Islands in a Gulf of Change".
 

 
 

I once watched a woman collecting live sand dollars from a shallow bar off St. Mark's. She waded near me, knee-deep, fumbling for the flat rounded animals with her toes, and then pulling them to the surface of the water.

"What are you going to do with all those sand dollars?" I asked. For fear of crunching down on their shells, I had been stepping cautiously through the water column.

"I'm collecting them for party favors for my niece's wedding," the woman replied. She wiggled another palm-sized dollar free from the soft sand, and added it to the blue plastic bucket she carried.

"You know they are alive, don't you?" I asked. Her bucket brimmed with at least a hundred sand dollars. Their fine brown moveable spines, which formed a felt-like coating over their shells, waved impotently in the cool air.

The woman drew back, no doubt sensing the judgment I couldn't keep out of my voice.

"Yes, I do," she said. "So I'll have to soak them in bleach and let them dry before I can paint them for table decorations."

To this day, I cannot think what more I could have said to that woman, or done.

You know they are alive, don't you?

The deep pathology of our time, wrote cultural historian Thomas Berry, is to consider our rights and our story as human beings to be different from those of the rest of creation. One of the many consequences of such thinking is that it leads us to believe that our future is unrelated to the fate of the rivers, the shorebirds, or the sand dollars.
 


Susan Cerulean is a writer and activist who lives and works in Tallahassee, Florida. She has produced a small shelf full of books about her state, and especially loves being with and observing wild birds. Her nature memoir "Tracking Desire: A Journey After Swallow-tailed Kites" was named Editors’ Choice by Audubon magazine. This excerpt is from her latest book, "Coming to Pass: Florida's Coastal Islands in a Gulf of Change," with images by David Moynahan.  Please subscribe to her blog about nature and activism at www.susancerulean.com
 
David Moynahan is an award-winning conservation photographer living in the Florida Panhandle. His goal is to help raise awareness of the precious natural world that still surrounds us. At this time of spiraling environmental crises, too many of us have become exceedingly disconnected from nature. By adding his work to the efforts of environmental groups, scientists, and policy makers - honoring the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" - David believes that we can re-inspire awe, respect, and stewardship of our remaining wild places. 
A Florida native, David grew up in Miami, with Biscayne Bay, the Everglades and Keys his extended backyard. He spent his youth exploring the seashores and studying the creatures that lived there. Early on, he began to paint and photograph seascapes, fishes, birds, and abstract compositions from nature. Photography became the basis of his journal-keeping as he explored biology, medicine, art, travel, and parenting into adulthood. Over the past decade, his love and respect for the natural world, eye for composition, and long photographic experience have converged into the diverse and striking images that make up his work today.
http://davidmoynahan.com/

 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Jules Verne: Happy.






     With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?
                                                                                                                         ~ Jules Verne



 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Igniting the Primordial Fire: A Guest Post by Annalisa Barelli

Welcome to guest blogger Annalisa Barelli, who lives and works on Washington state's Olympic Peninsula. Through her visual art, writing, teaching, and activism, she exemplifies what can happen when art, nature, and advocacy link arms.

Autumn Sea (2009) mixed media on wood

Life is a collection of moments. Even when we gaze outward from earth into the depths of space, we find history reflected in the stars. Sitting on the edge of a mountain, I contemplate my place. The mountain was birthed millions of years prior to my existence, erected from fiery eruption, chiseled by glacier, smoothed by tide. As I rest upon the basalt rock, I feel into all of the moments that have made my own life possible. It is a lineage so long that faces and places disappear into the void, like the uncharted galaxies above. In this expansive view, the separateness that my mind constructs fades and I am returned to a place of connection.

Within The Flame (2015) mixed media on canvas
Walking down the mountain, I no longer can tell where the ground meets my feet or where history ends and I begin, yet in the vacancy of my unknowing I am more alive and more in awe with simply being. I am not a separate self, contemplating the world for meaning; I am part of a much larger expression. And it is here, reconnected to the essence of creation, that I am flooded with the color, vision, and feeling that seeds the growth of my art.

She, Untitled (2012) mixed media print of watercolor and digital alteration on paper
Nature has a way of igniting the inner primordial fire. The spark within that loves deep, beyond cognitive reasoning or any need to possess, into the core of life itself where creativity thrives. With receptivity and trust, the colors and images emerge and there is little room for control. For me, making art has always been a practice of attuning and allowing. In many ways I don’t feel like the creator, but rather a witness to creation. 

Through the Veil (2015) mixed media of acrylic, gouache and gold pigment on canvas              
It is my belief that the role of art is to challenge the mundane and carry visions farther, to bring together what was once perceived as separate, and to make each moment as beautiful as possible. The word inspiration at its root means to breathe. Just as the spark needs a wind to ignite the flame, our lives need inspiration for sustenance. For me, the greatest responsibility of art is legacy. It is not significant that the paintings or stories live on long after I am gone. What is most important is that I live colorfully, moment to moment, leaving my own unique mark on the world around me. 

 Creative Fire (2014) illustration of watercolor, gouache and ink on paper

I hold firm to the belief that we are all artists because we are all expressions of creation. When we open to our inherent nature, our moments become the canvas, the stories, and the songs. When we connect to that inner fire and recognize our own life as an expression of a much bigger creative force, we add more to the present moment. Our presence is transformed into a living, breathing art that endures long after we've left our mark. 


Annalisa Barelli is a visual artist, writer, and environmental activist. She resides on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State where she creates, teaches, and inspires. She is involved with the Protect the Olympic Peninsula group; learn more on her blogpost Activism as Art. You can visit her website at annalisabarelli.com and purchase her work at shop.annalisabarelli.com.