On a mainstream news ‘break’ for—how many years?—I’ve tried to find alternative paths to information more likely to hold meaning than the stock market. After recent Apache efforts to protect Oak Flat from copper mining foundered, I sought an indigenous success story to amplify those voices leading the way to a future that can work for all of us.
Witness then, self-described ‘warrior-blood’ Waorani leader, Nemonte Nenquimo of Ecuador. She has kept foreign oil companies out of Waorani homelands using a legal system long rigged against the earth. Success comes from the “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” requirement of the United Nations’ Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In the U.S., requirements for Tribal Consultation are not new, though recent Executive Orders seek to strengthen, or at least reiterate their presence. And the U.S. is a signatory to that U.N. Declaration. Lakota elder Faith Spotted Eagle, at a recent training, insisted that the often meaningless concept of ‘consultation’ gains meaning when understood as consent.
Author David Haskell begins his book The Songs of Trees in the multi-layered arms of a 50-meter tall ceibo tree in Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, a place long stewarded by 4 indigenous groups now gathered as the Alianza Ceibo, an organization Nenquimo co-founded. Haskell describes this location on earth as the “modern apogee of terrestrial biodiversity.” Like the interconnectedness Haskell describes in this one tree, Nenquimo’s eloquence is sourced in sacred ancestral guidance not limited to human DNA. Remembering our endless entanglement within the many permeable networks of the planet is how we move toward thriving.
My alma mater hosted a 1-hour, 7-person panel of alums discussing their work in climate change from a variety of perspectives. Phew, how much ground was covered: from legal battles playing out in the Netherlands, to social systems in SE Asia creating unnatural disasters out of extreme weather events, to persuading North American farmers to experiment with new crops as growing zones move. The topics raced forward, intensely compressed, leaving time for discussion.
What moves us? That question surfaces again. We know what causes this chaos. We know so many ways we could lessen the crisis. Is it hearing stories of how others step up, step forward that helps draw us along, or do we find motivation and urgency inside the heartbreak of our ongoing failures? Do we step cautiously to the cracks, the margins, the precipice, to peer into the darkness?
If you have a care in the world, you have a gift to bring–Indigo Girls. Yes, all of the above. Keep bringing your gifts, everyone. We need all the courage and caring we can find. And Thank You–
Do something DIFFERENT: frequent advice for expanding your mind, experimenting with ideas or forms, or…for some famous ‘Moderns’, moving to Paris.
In one sense, being an Artist In Residence at the Benedictine Monastery of St. Gertrude’s in Idaho is gonna shake up my regular (non-Christian) world. But from the words of those who live in community there, “In [both] prayer and creativity we take the risk of opening ourselves up, of listening, of being transformed and offering our gifts on behalf of the world.”
The monastery’s life also includes its working landscape, where members and friends “experience an interconnectedness with the land and recognize our responsibility to reverence and care for the resources it provides.” Here at home, i harvested my first raspberries yesterday, on the same day as their annual Raspberry Festival fundraiser. We’re already connected–even though the residency they have awarded me won’t start until November. Time now to consider the appropriate project of focus…
The Sonder Press publishes an annual collection of tiny stories that hold a large capacity to astonish. This year, series editor Nathan Leslie along with Guest Editor Elaine Chiew have pulled over a hundred pieces from a wide array of journals. The Best Small Fictions 2022 includes a flash fiction, “Permeable”, i imagined from news around northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters.
If corporations might be considered predatory, this story celebrates the idea of the heightened intelligence of prey, often a jump ahead. With a nod to an Escher painting someone showed me years ago, let’s celebrate the playful power of imagination to open necessary new ways forward.
Whitebark pine blister rust, introduced to North America, is changing the face of the continent’s high country. Not alone, of course–couple this with native pine beetle mortality, increased by a changing climate, accelerated by human dependency on fossil fuel burning, complicated by panicked political rivalries. Feedback loops aren’t always predictable, and scientists (and political leaders) sure prefer being able to figure things out.
Conjecture about the potential source and meanings of rock art has never landed on any provable answer. The Wind River mountains above Wyoming’s dry basins offer stories to water our necessary curiosity, to foster unimagined connections, to inspire exploration. Grateful, again, to Joe Ponepinto and his team at Orca literary journal for giving one of those stories a home. Check out the solar eclipse of Two and a Half, just out in the April issue.
“…For us the Monument never went away. We will always return to these lands to manage and care for our sacred sites, waters and medicines. The Monument represents a historic opportunity for the federal government to learn and incorporate our tribal land management practices. Practices that we developed over centuries and are needed more now than ever….We battled for this Monument because it matters.”
– Chairman Shaun Chapoose, Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee and BEITC member
Two years ago a quick online search yielded a growing number of development threats that bloomed across this landscape when the recently designated National Monument was rapidly dismantled by the yo-yo U.S. political scene. That search inspired my flash fiction piece published this winter by Fourth River in their online Tributaries, just months after the federal government restored the original boundaries. This blog has covered other co-management successes, such as Indigenous groups in Canada partnering with their national government. The Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition worked diligently during the past years to be ready when the U.S. might be. Their leadership could light new pathways for others across this country.
Stepping away from the wilder outdoors, here’s a strange but domesticated book recommendation, providing a helpful excuse to avoid that frigid winter wind. Barn 8 is Deb Olin Unferth’s most recent–and most brilliant–writing so far. She takes us on a crazy romp through the industrial layer-hen world, for an unbelievably compulsive fiction read. Along with a story that follows fairly conventional rules for keeping readers flipping pages, she manages to pull our attention well beyond our navel-gazing selves.
For writers, Olin Unferth tosses in a gamut of unconventional experiments that provide grist for study. In one unrepeated ‘creative non-fiction interval’, she offers this:
“The Gallus, the wild jungle fowl of the early Eocene, or “pre-chicken,” tore along the ground through the trees. The ice swelled and receded, and the Gallus split into species and subspecies, constellations of them spreading and splintering, until a mere nine thousand years ago, when a band of her descendants, Gallus gallus domesticus, began to travel the world with the great explorers looking for more than their world had to offer.
At last, around 1600 CE, T. Rex’s pretty little niece stepped off the boat onto the wet sand shores of North America.”
Not only does Olin Unferth take us back in deep time, she pushes her narrative well forward, and her vision of that future is worth your attention. An activist manifesto without a single ‘should’–this treatise is truly a treat.
If your annual cycle offers summer space for slowing down in the heat, you might be looking for a ‘good book’ to take into the hammock you’ve strung between two shady streamside cottonwoods. If you follow the kinds of happenings on this blog, you may appreciate this recommendation.
Joining the growing list of great stories showing polyphonic glimpses into worlds unfamiliar to mainstream audiences, Sharks in the Time of Saviors illuminates a contemporary Hawaii through the 5 voices of one family. Rather than a single Hero’s Journey, or a single savior, Kawai Strong Washburn brings to life the tangled relationships of these individuals not just to each other but also to their times, their mythologies, and their landscapes, whether that be the Hawaiian homeland or the ambitions rising in California or Spokane.
So here’s to all of us, and to learning what the land has already planted inside our souls. Let this story unfurl those leaves, and may summer’s sun bring your fruits to ripeness.
For Women’s History (Herstory) Month, let’s hear it for the baby showers being held in Assam, India for the endangered greater adjutant stork, as organized and inspired by the genius and openness of Purnima Devi Barman, a woman rewriting the story of how conservation work succeeds. She delayed her PhD to first listen to the people in those few communities where these storks still nested. She heard the women’s joy in their motherhood, and helped them translate that to a pride in the increasing numbers of thriving stork babies, whether they nested in trees that might otherwise have been cut down, or foraged at the overflowing landfill.
THIS–this rare bird–is YOURS, and your gift to the important biodiversity of the world. In giving, these communities have received a renewed sense of themselves. In protecting and re-framing this former bad omen bird, they learn to re-frame their own agency in a changing world, and to understand the value of their resilience.