Notes for a New Year and Decade

 

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Collect yourself, all the parts.

System by system link the pieces.

Mothering sustains poetry sustains friendship sustains marriage sustains earth.

Begin, attempt, try to allow yourself permission for not knowing. Allow the ground to give way under your feet at the thought of it.

When it comes to writing, may it first be listening, second be seeing.

Let it be wonder, third, and understanding last.

See your daughters safely to womanhood. Walk beside them while you can, and a little behind them when the time comes.

Carry an empty basket. Keep it as empty as you possibly can.

Show up for the protests, but remember, the resistance takes place in situ. 

Birds. It’s time to learn their names. And maybe how to read their flight for messages from the gods.

No, their flight is the gods.

And in the darkness: hold your prayer beads, murmur your prayers, enter the deep stillness that awaits.

Dostoevsky. Lots of Dostoevsky.

Become a map maker of inner and outer landscapes. Travel by way of pen, boots, poetry, Volkswagen bus, paper.

Witness.

Before setting out, do not think you already know what it is you will find along the way.

Face the future and the page and all the hard places with deep imagination.

Let your descendants whisper to you about what they love in the world they inherit.

Watch for the bend.

**

Thank you for the inspiration, Tonia Peckover! 

 

In the Trees

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Here we go, once again making our way through a place so familiar this tangle of trails could be my husband’s laugh lines. For two decades we’ve witnessed this forest covered in summer grass, in golden leaves, or in a thick blanket of snow with the screaming wind driving sleet against our cheeks. We come back again and again.

It is by constantly returning to it that I’ve come to belong to this place–which, it turns out, is not merely a trail, or a bioregion, but rather a multidimensional story unfolding through time and space. Or, as I like to think of it, the page we are written into.

The year turns in a similar way. Oh January, I know you. I’ve walked this season before.

Here is a quote from a review of Refugia in World Literature Today. Bailey Hoffner is talking about my poems (blush), but imagine that this starts with “We are”

…songs made meaningful through accumulation, each part functioning within a larger ecosystem of constant mutual impacts; no single sound a wind unaware of its dependence on the trees surrounding it.

Lovely to think about, isn’t it?

*

 

Between the Lines

Last month I silenced the roar of social media with one joyful click. Evenings have turned into a books, blanket, & teacup sort of affair. Daylight hours devoted to writing are, well, if still distracted, at least distracted with housework instead of scrolling.

With the arrival of the darkest weeks of the year, inner stillness has become my sanctuary.  Even the piled books teetering on my beside table seem noisy to me–and I find myself wondering what it would be like to just…stop reading.

What would it look like to embrace silence? To be surrounded in it as in a cloak, so that I am enfolded in quiet along with the darkness and cold that night has become.

At least, this is what I was wondering until I got hold of NPR’s 2019 booklist, at which point I put another dozen books on hold at the library.

In the spirit of the archive, here lies the recently excavated strata from my bedside table, revealing, as ever, a snapshot of my  current self (not everything is pictured):

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I found books on parenting without power struggles (help me, Rhonda!), a memoir on living without technology, a birder’s story of her unmechanized crossing of the Alaskan wilderness, at least five poetry books, the beautiful short story collection Sabrina & Corina. There’s more, but you get the idea.

Meanwhile, here are my dark season, Advent readings. The ones I swept everything else aside for:

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And here’s the one I couldn’t resist at all, holy intentions or not:

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What are you reading? I’ll put your recommendations on hold at the library…in January!!

 

High Desert Harvest

Have you met my book of poems? Allow me to introduce Refugia.

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Refugia’s poems grew out of this high desert landscape as surely as any juniper berry or cholla fruit.

They track inner tides of belief and doubt, and move in and out of the kitchen, dreamtime, and wild places. They witness the growing up of children alongside the decline of western conifers. They hold love, beauty, and despair in equal parts.

The title (pronounced ref-you-jee-a) refers to places where plant and animal species can survive periods of unfavorable conditions and climatic shifts. It is a concept that fired my imagination and offered a glimpse of ways in which something might survive from the landscape I love and which is changing before my eyes. The strand of “yes, and” that refugia offered was one I took up and began following in my poems.

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In some poems, I turn to my ancestors, who, like most ancestors, know something about surviving loss. In others I turn to the future, leaving my testimony to whoever it is that comes after us, or maybe, as one reviewer put it to “the future self in each of us, reader and writer alike, who is afraid to come into being and grow at a time of such apocalyptic devastation.”

The back jacket calls me a “a bright and hopeful voice in the current conversation about climate change.” I don’t know if I agree, unless by bright and hopeful we mean raw and heartbroken. For me, hope is mostly an act of unwavering love for the land, and for those who came before us and will come after. Not succumbing to despair is the best way I know to honor their lives.

That, and writing poems to feed them with. 

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And so, introductions made, I invite you to feed yourself and your loved ones with these poems. Refugia is a great holiday gift–worth the price for the cover alone, not to mention the worlds within worlds that await you inside.

Learn more about it and read nice things folks have said here. Order a copy from your favorite bookseller, Indiebound, or directly from me. For a $20 check I’ll send an inscribed, signed, & wrapped copy wherever you like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November Lights

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Savoring the late light and the last trickles of river.

Savoring the child.

Savoring the music made early in the morning, in the rush before school. All those lovely notes that are so hard won.

Savoring the flicker of home-dipped candles burning on the altar. Almost out, and the dark nights are just setting in…

…though they say these glowing trees are a lantern to see November by.

Savoring the community that comes out for poetry, the book store that hosts it, the poets that make it.

Savoring these words by Mary Cisper: “Since each occasion is contained in every other, how is this not an orchard?”

How indeed?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold Threaded Days

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Gold, gold, gold. Gold coin, gold stream, gold forest.

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Golden autumn light, golden-hearted kin. Golden ground, golden memories.

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Golden days. Years and years of them.

Do you know how many times I had to strike “gold” from my book? My pages were as littered in it as the aspen forest in October.

I changed a few of them, anyways. What other word comes close? I miss each one, just like I will miss this golden season come winter, and this golden life when it’s done.

In Which We Occasionally Find Our Way

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Occasionally it feels like we’ve found our autumn rhythm, each morning creeping chillier and chillier towards dawn, the first golden leaves on the cottonwoods, the river suddenly dry after a six month season of trickling through the willows.  Occasionally it seems like we are in balance–a dinner planned more than 1/2 an hour before mealtime, the fruit tidily preserved in jars or the freezer and no longer swarmed in fruit flies on the porch, the homework done in time, the instruments practiced, the press release mailed. We make it to the mountains, barely. We make it to bed and dream what dreams we can before the next morning arrives, a sliver more darkness edging the new day.

Extraordinary things happen: A book release at the bookstore with a crowd that laughs and cries in all the right places, that celebrate with me the triumph of having translated the inner world to the page, to poetry. Unexpected things take place, like a correspondence with college students in Los Angeles studying Refugia followed with a video conversation that leaves me stunned at the wisdom and compassion of young poets, of young people. How fortunate I am to have such readers as these. They ask me about the making of poems, but also about hope, and about making art when the world seems to be ending. They ask about the ways in which generations merge–mother into daughter into grandmother. They ask about the proximity of beauty to death, and about how landscape informs language, creates meaning. They want to know about vulnerability. I have a great deal to say in reply.

I think about those questions, which are slight variations of the same ones I am always asking. I hold them lightly, but don’t let go. They swirl around inside me, make their way onto the page. Now and then, a poem happens. Not a lot has changed, really. I’m folding the laundry, jogging down the dry river trail, sweeping the floor. A couple mornings each week I drive in the darkness to the hospital to nurse those who are unwell. I light the candle, occasionally, at the dinner table. I say my silent prayers.