“As my muscles weakened, my writing became stronger. As I slowly lost my speech, I gained my voice. As I diminished, I grew. As I lost so much, I finally started to find myself.” — Neil Selinger
On Sunday morning, the church bells in San Miguel de Allende are ringing wildly.
Carlito, my landlady’s skittish cat, is now happy to share the patio outside of the downstairs unit of the house where I’m living now in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
In spite of the heat of our summer days, it stays cool here. Since I don’t have to work, I’ve been able to focus on a creative project for days.
I left the house only once this week — to pick up a bag I’d ordered from a shop a friend recommended when I asked her where I could find a well-made, leather bag. I needed something big enough for a laptop, and with pockets on the outside for a cell phone, and a passport.
It was 9:30 in the morning when I got to the shop, and discovered that the store wouldn’t be open until 11. So I decided to walk down Pila Seca, away from the trendy shops on Zacateros, and find a place to have breakfast.
On Jesus Street, a few blocks away, I found a restaurant with a lush, indoor garden where hummingbirds come to drink the sweet nectar from the red hibiscus flowers, and the sugar water from the glass feeders that hang along the sides.
As I sat in the cool, green space of the garden, eating gingerbread pancakes with hot applesauce, and drinking fresh orange juice, and coffee — all for $5.00 — I stopped to write in my journal:
Forget the afterlife. This is paradise enough for me.
The best thing I’ve found in San Miguel, though, is the vibrant artist and activist community that’s here.
I’ve met so many intelligent and creative women — visual artists, photographers, political activists, and writers — who are passionate, growing, and curious.
They are proving to me that these years can be the happiest and most creative of our lives.
Jane Fonda is right, I think: the metaphor for ageing is no longer the arch: “you’re born, you peak at mid-life, and decline into decrepitude.”
The new metaphor for ageing, she says, “is a staircase that represents the human spirit as it continues to evolve upwards, bringing us into wholeness, authenticity, and wisdom.”
Even with physical challenges, we can still grow, and realise our potential. We can flourish.
Last week, I had coffee with my friend, Eli, the woman who introduced me to San Miguel Allende. She and her fiancé led the personal growth retreat I participated in last October, when I came to San Miguel de Allende for the first time.
When Eli and I were hiking along a trail in the amazing silence of El Charco, a botanical garden and ceremonial space about forty-five minutes away from San Miguel, Eli suggested that moving here might be the answer to my prayers.
As in the Paul Simon song, she “planted a seed in my brain that still remains, in the sound of silence.”
As we drank our cappuccinos last week, she told me I should be proud of myself for making this change.
I told her that moving here didn’t require too much courage, since I was so drawn to this city — the music and art, and the friendliness and beauty of the Mexican people — and I was ready for an adventure.
I told her that I didn’t come here to escape Donald Trump, but neither was I sorry to be away from the noise in the United States.
We talked about the many opportunities that exist in San Miguel de Allende for political action. And the alliances that have formed here as a result of shared concerns about what’s happening in the United States — the cuts to programs that benefit human beings, the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and the 20 percent rise in hate crimes against already vulnerable populations, since the election.
“I’d never wish Trump and his gang on anyone,” said San Miguel activist, Cate Poe, “but I have to appreciate the new ways this travesty has brought us together. After five months of house meetings and political actions, now we have each other.”
So, yes: I’m proud of myself for letting go.
Letting go of stuff.
Letting go of certainty.
Letting go of the familiar.
Lately I’ve been thinking about a Slovak proverb I heard quoted by a Jungian psychologist a few years ago. The saying is, “The gates of hell are always open, even at midnight.”
The Proverb was shocking, at first, but the more I think about it, the truer it is.
The saying speaks to what I learned at the personal growth retreat last October. In a moment of clarity, I saw that the quality of my life was totally up to me.
Eight months ago, I didn’t even know this joyful place existed.
As Eli likes to remind me, I didn’t even have a passport.
Now I have a passport, and an outside pocket on a new bag to keep it in.
And a not-so-skittish cat, who is scratching at the screen door, wanting to come in.
Even the cat knows, as Joni Mitchell sings in Down to You,
“It’s down to you….
You can crawl, you can fly, too.
It’s down to you.
It all comes down to you.”
LIFE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL: Kids, Trucks, and the Love of Life
I met Francisco, a mixed-race, bilingual, three-year-old, at the Geek and Coffee in Guadalupe two weeks after arriving in San Miguel de Allende.
Adjacent to the coffeehouse, there’s an enormous yard with picnic tables set in the shade of gigantic palm trees, brightly-coloured lawn chairs that are perfect for reading, and a children’s playground where parents bring their kids to play while they relax with an iced latte or cappuccino.
Francisco’s mom was untying a large, golden retriever from a metal stool the dog was about to pull over, when I noticed her children, and said, “hola!”
Her son came over, and immediately began talking to me in that spontaneous, open-hearted way that kids sometimes do — as if he’d known me all of his life.
When his mom saw how happy I was talking to him, she gave me a warning:
“He’s going to want to talk about trucks,” she said.
Right away, he showed me his yellow dumpster truck with the big scoop attached, explained how it worked, and said he wondered what would happen if a persona got picked up in the scoop.
I told him that would probably be dangerous for the human being.
Next, he showed me his other truck, which had a recycling logo on the side.
When he’d shown me all the doors that opened and closed, he moved closer to me, and began to tell me what seemed like a serious story in Spanish until he yelled out the last part of the story, and howled with laughter.
He looked at me, waiting for my response; but, unfortunately, my Spanish was too limited then to get the joke.
I told him I noticed that one of his trucks was a recycling truck.
He wanted to know what recycling was.
I explained that recycling is when you use something, like plastic, over and over again. For example, instead of throwing your plastic bags away, you can give them to the people at St. Paul’s Church, and they will make mattresses out of them for children who don’t have mattresses to sleep on.
If you use things over and over again, instead of throwing them away, then there’s not so much garbage in the ground, and it’s better for the environment— the earth, the trees, and the animals — and it’s better for human beings, too.
It was hard to know if that explanation made sense, but he stood still for a while, contemplating it, and thinking about it, before he ran off to play with his friends in the playground.
His mother and I talked for a whileabout our recent moves to San Miguel de Allende, and how much we loved the city, before she ran off to prevent her two-year-old daughter from chasing the golden retriever she’d untied out of the gate leading to parking lot.
I wanted to say goodbye to him before I left, so I yelled across the yard, “Adios, Francisco!”
He looked puzzled. Who was shouting his name?
When he saw me waving, he yelled back in a loud voice, “Don’t forget what I told you about trucks!”
Everyone in the yard was grinning.
I assured him I would not forget what he told me, and, in fact, I thought about trucks all the way home. Now, I can’t help but notice each one:
The yellow dumpsters with forklifts; the fanciful trucks in the windows of the art galleries; the small pick-up trucks that carry vegetables down the narrow cobblestone streets to the local markets and grocery stores; and the flatbed truck my friend and I saw the other day that was stacked high with coffins, all wrapped in black cloth — a sight you’d only see in Mexico, where death is so much more in the open than it is in the United States.
But, so is the love of life more in the open in Mexico than it is in the United States. Every week there’s another festival, a new reason to celebrate in the town square, and another reason for fireworks at 5 a.m.
As I walked home from the Geek and Coffee after meeting Francisco, I thought about trucks; but I also thought about the beauty of children, their innocence and trust, the passion and excitement for life that exists in the youngest of children.
I thought about how eager they are to connect with us through stories, especially the ones that make them howl with laughter, and the sweet, patient way they look at us, waiting to see if we will get the joke.
At the hotel where the San Miguel Writers Conference took place in February of 2017, I sat by the pool, and enjoyed talking to a friendly older woman who, I soon found out, was Naomi Klein’s Mom.
It was a cool moment.
Ever since the election of Donald Trump, I’ve paid more attention to Naomi Klein — not only because of her writing on climate change (she’s the author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate”), but because every time I heard her talk, I went away with a reason to hope.
I think she talked many of us back from the edge of despair during those difficult, post-election weeks.
I told her Mom, Bonnie Klein, that every time I listened to her daughter, I went away feeling better.
As we watched her four-year-old grandson playing in the water with his grandfather, I asked her about Naomi’s spiritual background, and enjoyed our dialogue about the left-leaning Judaism that influenced her.
When her grandson came out of the pool, cranky, and needing a nap, we laughed about the joys of these golden years, which include sending kids back to the care of their nannies or parents when they get cranky.
I was happy that week, talking with the local people who were glad to help with the Spanish, dining with my friend who came with me to the conference, taking workshops, writing and sharing poetry, and listening to the addresses of the various writers (among them Mary Karr, Judy Collins, and the poet, Billy Collins) who encouraged us to put our stories into the world.
“There is a place in movements for people who know how to tell stories,” Naomi said. “Your voice wants to make a sound in the world,” the poet, Judyth Hill, told us, “but remember to write about what you’re for, not only about what you’re against.”
Naomi agreed: “Make space for what you want, not only for what you’re resisting,” she said.
In the evenings, we listened to the music in the hotel lobby. There was a good piano player who played the Great American Songbook (Gershwin, and Cole Porter), and a guitar player who played and sang my favourite Mexican song, “Cucurrucucu Paloma.”
Music and art are well integrated into the culture of San Miguel de Allende, and this is part of what drew me to this beautiful, multi-cultural city.
One day my friend and I were shopping at a local organic market, and we were startled to see four men carrying a casket down the street, followed by several guitar and violin players, and about a hundred people.
It was a somber moment, and yet we could feel the sustaining power of the music that is so much a part of the culture, and the life of the Mexican people.
The colours are amazing, too: the green walls with white accents; the oranges and reds of the old buildings that line the narrow cobblestone streets; the roof top gardens where bright pink bougainvilleas topple down over the orange brick walls; and the indoor courtyards with white lilies and red hibiscus that surprise you inside of rustic doors.
It was for the music and the art that I decided to move to San Miguel — but also for the economics: I learned I could live there cheaply, without a car, and the horrendous traffic of L.A..
It was bittersweet saying goodbye to the music students I had for so many years; still, something else called to me.
It was hard to explain.
“What? Why Mexico?” so many people asked me.
(Subtext: “Is she crazy?”)
During the weeks before I moved to Guadalupe, the neighbourhood where I live now, as I sold or gave away most of what I had, a line from a Jack Gilbert poem, “Tear it Down,” kept coming to mind. He wrote:
“…Love is not enough. We die and are put into the earth forever. We should insist while there is still time.”
We only have so many years on this earth. Will we spend them merely surviving, or will we take the risk, and answer the call to flourish? Will we live for security, or adventure? Will we follow the guidance of the indwelling spirit within us, that sense of inner knowing, or will we get caught up in what other people think we should do or say? Will we accept the status quo, or will we be like Naomi Klein and Judyth Hill, writers who call humanity to a different way of living?
There are problems in San Miguel, as there are problems in every city.
However, as I sit this morning at my favourite new hang, looking out the window at the colourful mural across the cobblestone street, and listening to the sweet melodies of a spanish guitar, I’m glad that I didn’t listen to the naysayers (including the naysayers within myself).
I am grateful for the poet who told me I should insist — but, shouldn’t we all insist? — while there is still time.
I know the feeling
of floating down rivers
in inner tubes,
the feeling of rivers then
and rivers now—
We were always dancing
in the orange kitchen alongside women
who looked like light.
We lived on our own strength,
by our own kind rules,
caring for the whole of life,
standing alone in our wisdom,
always with a stream in sight.
Carolyn Studer, 2016
photograph by Sabrina Walden, 2016
ABOUT THIS POEM/PHOTOGRAPH PAIRING:
Devi Lockwood is poet and environmental activist who is traveling around the world collecting stories about climate change and water. I wrote this poem after interviewing her and listening to some stories from her travels. Devi is writing blogs about her travels for the New York Times. She’s on her way to Morroco.
Sabrina Walden is the daughter of my friend, photographer Beate Walden. Sabrina is a senior in High School in Zug, Switzerland. At the time she took this photograph, she was about 10. It spoke to Beate of rivers and light.
“…shake my future challenge our first world’s
capitalist consumerist criminal one
of perpetual purchasing shake my future past the edges of the known…”
I first heard about ecofeminism at a wisdom-sharing conference I went to last October in New Mexico with Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker, and Dr. Hyung Kyung Chung.
Dr. Chung, a Christian liberation theologian and Buddhist Dharma teacher from Korea, described herself, in one of her talks, as an “ecofeminist.”
Ecofeminism, I’ve since learned, was first coined by the French feminist Francoise d’Eaubonne in 1974. It has taken many forms, but all ecofeminists make a critical connection between the way we dominate and exploit the earth, and the way we dominate women.
“To heal the wounded earth,” Dr. Chung said, “we need to heal the women.”
As I listened to Dr. Chung’ and Gloria Steinem talk that week, I heard the echoes of Native American Indian writers I’d read over the years who regard the earth not as a resource to be exploited, but as a relative to be honored.
Beate Tsosie, a Tewa Indian poet and environmental justice activist from whom I took several poetry writing classes that week at Ghost Ranch, told me that Indian people still refer to the earth as their mother, and strive to live with the earth sensitively, respectfully, and harmoniously.
Native American Indians and ecofeminists alike are critical of patriarchal and hierarchical systems which have left those at the bottom broken, marginalized, and struggling for their very lives.
Both stress the importance of replacing those hierarchical systems with circles where dialogue and healing can take place, and decisions can be made democratically and collectively.
For the Native American Indians, it should be noted, healing is not only about the curing of disease, but the restoration of relationship — first with ourselves, then with the earth and with others.
At our last poetry class, Beate asked us all to go outside, listen to the earth for five minutes, and then write about it.
As I stood on the ground with the fall leaves under my feet in the vast space of Ghost Ranch with the beautiful friends I made there — women with whom I shared many laughs and much joy — I listened.
I heard the earth’s gratitude for the witness of the women who were there that week.
I became aware, in a new way, of the earth’s life-giving abundance, and extraordinary and selfless grace.
I heard in the tall and stately cottonwood trees that grow there — trees more beautiful than any cathedral could be — the healing music made by the wind and the leaves.
A balanced returned; and I felt restored.
You don’t have to be a feminist or a womanist (as Alice Walker calls herself), to understand the connection between our human well-being and the well-being of the earth, or to see how patriarchal/hierarchical systems of domination have harmed us, the earth, and our relationship with one another.
Endless wars, oppression, unspeakable suffering, and now the ecological crisis we are facing, have turned us toward healthier ways of living.
Some feminists, including Gloria Steinem, see the ecological crisis as the wake-up call we need to find new ways of living and relating to one another and the earth.
She wrote in A Revolution Within twenty years ago:
“Disasters like pollution, a new species extinction every few hours, biospheric degradation, and the threat of nuclear annihilation are all powerful reasons to overturn the centuries of the either/or, Man-against-Nature paradigm that got us here. To think about taking our place in nature instead of conquering it is a deep change in the way we see ourselves and the world. It means changing from binary and linear thinking to a cyclical paradigm that is a new declaration of interdependence.”
Recently I listened to a talk about climate change by the scientist Jeremy Rifkin. He said the solution to the crisis is the expansion of our human empathy.
Empathy isn’t something we need to manufacture; scientific studies have shown we are wired for it. Without it, we would not have survived.
He said we need empathy not only for those in our religion, tribe, or nation, but for the human species as a whole.
Alice Walker said something similar in a talk she gave at the “Earth at Risk” conference in San Francisco in November of 2013.
“Friendship is the way we resist,” she said,
“for it is friendship, not only in one’s community, but especially with the people of other places in the world, that I believe must be the bedrock of our resistance to tyranny, brutalization, militarization, incarceration, as well as any other madness dreamed up by the sociopaths who would humiliate, eliminate or control us.”
The South African ecofeminist poet, Malika Ndlovu, wrote,
“ that howling wind
that crashing sea
that breaking earth
that starward tree
all revelations of where the treasures be.”
“Defeatism is a product of linear thinking and I am not a linear thinker. I meander. I am a river and I am alive and that, at least, is cause for celebration.”
Devi Lockwood, a recent graduate of Harvard University, received a Gardner & Shaw Postgraduate Traveling Fellowship last year to collect stories throughout the world about climate change and water.
Devi has already travelled to Tuvalu and Fiji, and is now in New Zealand.
I’m one of her biggest fans, and was delighted when she agreed to let me interview her about climate change, what makes her an optimist, and what keeps her moving. Here is our interview. I hope you enjoy hearing what she has to say as much as I did.
What caused you to do this? Did you have an “aha moment” that woke you up to the problem of climate change?
I believe that storytelling (and, more importantly, listening) is a form of activism.
All struggles are interconnected, and I see my particular version of storytelling-and-listening-as-activism as having several complicated root systems, many of which are only becoming clear to me as I travel & become more self-aware. Let me try to tease out one:
I have been in love with life for a long, long time. I first voiced it to Julie Hartley, director of Centauri Summer Arts Camp (http://www.centauriartscamp.com/), sometime back in the early 2000s when I was a camper there in the poetry program. After one of our campfires (full of acoustic guitar and singing and storytelling and the beauty of people just being themselves), I went up to Julie and announced:
“I think I’m in love.”
I couldn’t have been more than thirteen years old. Julie’s smile was gentle, taking me in, my knotted hair and notebook and hopelessly big smile. I avoided washing my hair for days to keep the smell of the music and woodsmoke in my hair.
“Someone special?” she asked.
“Oh, it’s not a person!” I laughed. “I think I’m in love with life.”
Julie’s eyes softened. “That’s the best kind of love.”
Zinnias, stout and stiff,
Stand no nonsense: their colors
Stare, their leaves
Grow straight out, their petals
Jut like clipped cardboard
Round, in neat flat rings.
Even cut and bunched
Arranged to please us
In the house, in the water, they
Will hardly wilt– I know
Someone like zinnias: I wish
I were like zinnias.
I had never seen or heard of a zinnia before, but suddenly I knew what it felt like ––– the power of that poem stays with me still (thank you, Valerie).
I strive to write things that communicate that kind of elusive truth: a fragment of a story that must be told. I am drawn to poems that change the way I breathe.
My environmentalism stems out of all this love:
the desire to be attentive,
to leave the world oh-so-slightly better than I found it.
Climate change? Well gosh.
I don’t think that there was a single moment, but I did take a course called “Natural Disasters” at Harvard with Prof. Brendan Meade to fill my physical science requirement. The course lectures focused on the physics of earthquakes, Prof. Meade’s specialty, as well as landslides, tornadoes, forest fires, and the like. At the end of the term we learned about the physics of ice melting and changing sea levels and the fact that some ice sheets are so massive that they have their own gravitational pull––when that ice turns into water, regions locally may experience a net sea level fall, whereas the sea level rise will happen on the complete opposite side of the planet. The communication of water from the Arctic to Chile fascinated me. I have since forgotten the finer points and equations we learned, but the basic concept (and this holds true in plate tectonics, to an extent) that a small movement in one place can have a massive effect elsewhere––how cool is that?
I’m attracted to complicated things, to questions.
I started feeling compelled to act on these issues after taking another course, Politics of Nature, taught by Prof. Ajantha Subramanian. We learned about the Environmental Justice movement (http://www.nrdc.org/ej/history/hej.asp) and then applied that kind of thinking from everything from the Bhopal disaster to the Boston transportation infrastructure: our own backyard.
Within this context, climate change becomes an environmental injustice: often the communities who contribute least to the problem are those most affected.
I was hooked on doing something. And so here I am, listening.
You’ve been collecting stories about water and climate change in your travels. If you had to select one story to tell for Earth Day about your travels, what would it be?
It’s always difficult for me to choose just one thread of story, but these two come to mind:
What person or persons have you met that have touched you? Changed you?
I meet people who change me every day. Really, it is magic. Something about the cardboard sign opens up possibilities for face-to-face connection. Not everyone I talk to has a story to share, but most people are interested in the project.
I spent the last few nights in Riversdale, New Zealand with a new friend named Zella. Her whole house is awash in color––reds, oranges, affirmation. She is a being of light. Zella and I stayed up late watching movies and eating vanilla ice cream with frozen berries on top. We talked about Life with a capital L: the hard work of inviting our fears to the table, the necessity of mindfulness––of revolution. We pontificated on the kind of activism that begins within. After a few days of dancing in her kitchen, Zella started calling me “wood nymph.” It makes me smile.
Zella told me a water story about the internal geography of rivers in her life, how swimming in rivers in Colorado, Montana, and now in Riversdale, New Zealand brings a sense of continuity into her life. Her voice says it best:
Who knows what tomorrow will bring.
I heard Jane Goodall speak last year at All Saints Church, and she said we should not “think globally” because it’s too depressing. We should focus our efforts on what we can do locally, and gather with others who feel the same way we do.
Do you agree with that? Why or why not?
Oh, what a great question! As a peripatetic soul, my definition of “local” is a moving target. I feel most alive when I am constantly in motion, whether I’m on a bicycle cycling from town to town, dancing in the kitchen of a new friend, or engaging in a conversation that lets off at a different place than where it started.
I believe in activism that begins face-to-face.
I believe that listening is the best gift I have to give to this world.
I believe that when we focus in on bettering the lives of the people around us––of actively saying thank you and the little gestures that let people know they are appreciated, are loved––that there is a ripple effect out into the abyss.
I believe that our thoughts have ripples, and that we actively create the world around us.
I believe that the world is made by people acting in it.
I believe that no two people are alike, and that if someone garners more energy from thinking about global issues and someone else is inspired to act locally, that there’s absolutely no problem with that.
We need all kinds of thinkers. All kinds of doers. Most importantly, we need thinkers who do.
I focus on the particular nitty-gritty detail of one-on-one interactions because it is where I feel most comfortable, most myself––in that mode of listening.
And yet global thinking is so necessary. Dialogue about Antarctic ice sheets and sea level rise in Tuvalu and strengthening storms and changing weather patterns worldwide needs to happen. And yes, it can be depressing. But as long as that conversation is accompanied by some kind of shift, some kind of change––no matter how small––then we are moving somewhere.
And movement is what I’m all about.
To quote the promotional materials from the September 21, 2014 People’s Climate March in NYC (my first stop on this world-wide trip!), “Para cambiarlo todo necesitamos que todos participen.”
It takes everyone to change everything.
Many people have a “we’re fucked, we’re doomed” response to climate change, which makes it so hard to talk about. When I read your posts, I don’t hear anything like this attitude coming through.
Are you optimistic?
Hm. I don’t know what I am. I’m me? Let’s see.
I believe in the beauty of small things. Wispy clouds. Poems written by local poets. Nautical themed earrings made by an artist from the southernmost city on the planet. Small actions. Thank you notes (http://anincompletecatalogofthanks.tumblr.com/). Washing dishes while dancing to ABBA. Smiling. Storytelling.
Does this sound mushy?
I guess I’m an optimist after all.
I garner no energy from being fatalistic. I have listened closely to people who are fatalistic (and will continue to listen closely to anyone who has a story to share with me), but pessimism is not my jam.
The threats of climate change are very real. I feel their weight. I felt their weight when I lived for a month in Tuvalu, collecting stories from those people who called the coral atoll––highest point 4m above sea-level––their home.
And yet (and yet)––
there is joy in Tuvalu,
a nation that might be engulfed by the ocean in my lifetime.
There is dancing,
community feast days,
card games, big stars,
volleyball matches played on the airport runway at sunset,
the crashing of the waves.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is always little bits of beauty wrapped up in the awful stuff. I’m off to find those. That’s where my focus lies.
While the world still moves,
and we are still alive in it
there is reason to celebrate life.
If I ever feel that “we’re fucked” kind of despair, I withdraw into the beauty of motion. What is happening outside me and what is happening inside me are not distinct. It is my job to find the beauty in the everyday. To listen.
Defeatism is a product of linear thinking and I am not a linear thinker. I meander. I am a river and I am alive and that, at least, is cause for celebration.
Naomi Klein sees in this crisis the impetus to make changes that will benefit us all in the long run.
What changes do you hope we will make?
What is the first thing we should do?
I wish that people had more courage to ask questions,
to question authority.
I wish that political decisions (or possibly all decisions?) were not ruled by a utilitarian calculus that hinges on the question: “Will this make me money?”
What would happen if we asked, instead:
“Will this action enrich the lives of the people around me,
the non-human world, too––
will this action benefit the place I call my home?”
And home is wider than four walls and a roof, mind you.
We get out of the community what we put into it.
I use the word “community” here to denote human and nonhuman actors: the ocean and sea lions and the air and tui birds and the groundwater supply. Everything, gloriously interconnected.
I wish that we did not glorify those who stockpile money. What use is there in that?
Do you have information you want to share about the kickstarter campaign you started so that you could travel by ship and not by airplane?
Well, it’s done now, but I’m happy to announce that I will be taking a cargo ship from Auckland to Melbourne in mid-May aboard the ANL BINDAREE.
The campaign was a massive success––the goal I set to raise in 30 days was achieved in a day and an hour. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that I couldn’t sleep.
At the moment I’m in Invercargill, New Zealand––totally amazed that I managed to get myself all the way down here to the southernmost city in the world. It’s practically in Antarctica! Well, not quite. But still. The wind is positively Antarctic in origin.
After Australia, who knows?! Possibly the Philippines? or Indonesia? It depends on where I can get to by boat and by bicycle.
If you could recommend one book to read, what would it be?
Today I picked up a book of poems called Markings by Bluff poet Cilla McQueen. In it she meditates on the landscape of Bluff. Environmental themes weave in and out.
Here’s a few stanzas I love from her eighteen-page poem “The Autoclave.”
It was magical finding these poems in my friend’s crib in Waikawa (crib is the word they use in the south island for a bach / cottage / get away from home-home), just two days after having spent the day wandering and writing in Bluff myself.
I’ve been enjoying your poetry. If you have a poem to share, I’d love it.
Well, this poem is oldie but goldie––and recently won me first place at the Geraldine Future Living Festival (http://www.futurelivingfestival.co.nz/) poetry competition! For this honor I was the proud recipient of a bottle of local beer, a locally grown apple, face oil, and many hugs and well wishes from those gathered at the poetry reading. This is without a doubt my proudest poet moment of late.
But the birds? On that day
rain rose not fell. Every-
one stood with their heads to
the ground, doctor’s orders,
to increase circulation
touch the divine, or maybe
to levitate). But those birds
trapped in puddles, caught
in a mid-day bath (as fear of
a fire when showering)
just disappeared, up:
Did they know? Did they bother
to say goodbye? And on the ground,
what held up the trunks of trees,
if not flow of water upside down?
In the evening newsreel, Niagara Falls
was a torrent, a vertical column of water
and some poor soul in a barrel
was just going up and up and up,
a drip a speck a drop in the ozone layer.
Then we were all on a quest
to ask the sky for our water, please
we are thirsty and dizzy from pressing
our ears to the ground. And she said:
it was never yours to take.