ALL THINGS LITERARY. ALL THINGS NATURAL.

A blog for those who desire a more creative relationship with the natural world.

WINNER 2013 COLORADO AUTHORS' LEAGUE BLOG OF THE YEAR AWARD!

"Your recent blog about the tender return of your loved ones to the earth was moving, graceful in words and inspiration. Your words always come from the heart and intellect. A rare and insightful combination." Rolland Smith, former news anchor for WCBS-TV in New York, recipient of 11 Emmy Awards

We've nearly reached 150,000 pageviews. Thank you!


RETURN TO HOME PAGE

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mushrooms, Growing Our Writing, and Parabola Magazine


Wine kept cool in dark cellars. Whiskey aging in oak barrels. Bread dough set out to rise on the counter. A chicken breast marinating in soy and ginger. The lacy white filaments of a mushroom root buried in damp compost. A poem fleshed out, then tucked away in a drawer. The germinating seed of a short story. The landscape of a novel unfurling after a dormant winter. All these things do better given time to ripen.


We’ve had abundant moisture this spring and early summer. The Rocky Mountains are awash in wild flowers. And wild mushrooms. They’re everywhere. Sprouting stubborn caps in gravelly soil. Pushing up through needle-covered ground beneath ponderosas. They’re in the sun. In the shade. Under logs. Next to rocks. Growing in between the bunch grasses and among the penstemons.


Several years ago, the Wyoming Center for the Book asked many of the Wyoming Arts Council literary fellowship recipients and a few other notable authors living in Wyoming to write essays for the anthology Deep West: A Literary Tour of Wyoming (Pronghorn Press, 2003). They asked us to explore how our work had been influenced or not influenced by life in Wyoming; what our views were on regionalism in literature; and what issues of Place interested us.

We were given almost a year’s advance notice. Plenty of time to let an idea percolate. Of course, writers as accomplished as Annie Proulx probably didn’t need much time. But I did. I felt deeply rooted to the landscape where I lived, but also felt deeply rooted to the Colorado landscape from which I had come. When I spent fourteen days in the depths of the Grand Canyon and felt totally at home, I ventured to ask myself: What is this thing called Place?

One of the writer’s resources that I keep on hand, and have been subscribing to for several years, is Parabola, published by the Society for Myth and Tradition. What I love about the magazine is that each issue explores a single theme from a multi-cultural perspective. Want to know more about humanity’s place in the cosmic order? Read the “The Tree of Life” interview with Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai in the Fall, 2007 issue Holy Earth. Want to know more about knowledge? Read Mara Freeman’s Celtic essay “Eating the Salmon of Wisdom” in the Spring, 1997 issue Ways of Knowing.


Several months before the essay was due, I sat down with Parabola’s Summer 1993 issue, Place and Space, and began reading. I highlighted passages and quotes from essays. I savored epicycles and reread poems. I fell gratefully into the responses of Robert Lawlor in the interview with him “Dreaming a Beginning” in which he talks about the Aborigines of Australia. “In a sense we are all indigenous people in that we are all of the earth,” he said.

In a sense we are all indigenous people in that we are all of the earth. What a comforting thought--that each of us is indeed native to the earth. I let that thought simmer for several weeks, perhaps for a few months. Not in a preoccupied way, but in the quiet way evening shadows have of creeping over the land. What I read crept over me and the essay began to form itself, even though I hadn’t yet written a word. It was gestating in the dark chambers of my heart and mind.

I was preparing the writing. Not procrastinating, but preparing--garnering wisdom so that I would be wise enough to write.


“What is this thing called place?" I eventually asked the reader. "How can we be so deeply rooted to it, yet so easily transplanted from it? If a sacred place is where two worlds intersect, can it also be a place where two stories meet?”

In posing these questions for myself, and the reader, I came closer to understanding what I did not know--an important step in growing stories, and wisdom.

Writing, and preparing ourselves to write, allows us to unearth hidden knowledge, hidden meaning, and hidden purpose. It’s best not to rush these things. When we plant our ideas in the compost of time and allow some distance from them, they often rise fully formed, and perhaps if we’re lucky, even with a touch of brilliance as breathtaking as a mushroom pushing up from the earth.

Mushroom photos by Page Lambert, taken near Mt. Vernon in the foothills west of Denver, Colorado. If you would like a copy of Page's essay, "This Thing Called Place," please leave a comment here on the blog requesting one, along with your email. Or contact Page directly at page@pagelambert.com. To subscribe to Parabola magazine or check their submission guidelines, go to http://www.parabola.org/.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the reminder. When life gets busy and I'm "not writing", or I have to take a break, do the research and feel the story perculating within me, I often wonder if I'll lose the thread. And I don't. And as you said, when I ask the question, the answer arrives, often in surprising ways. I look forward to reading the Parabola essay! Aloha, Heloise

Page Lambert said...

Heloise, good to "see" you here! Thanks for the comment and, yes, it's good to know that when we let ideas germinate, the thread is still there when we allow ourselves to stay connected to the passions and emotions that are fueling our desire to write that particular story or poem or essay. Hope you enjoy the Parabola article!
Page

Janet Grace Riehl said...

I love Parabola Magazine. Good to hear it mentioned here.

Also like the idea of preparing to write in order to be wise enough.

Janet Riehl

Page Lambert said...

Janet, thanks for stopping by! I need a cyber cafe here so I can invite people to stay for a latte or cup of tea. Yes, Parabola is a fabulous magazine. One of my career highlights thus far was having an essay published in the issue on Hunting. I love the world perspective on a particular issue one gets when reading all the pieces. Hope all is well in Missouri.
Page

Kathy Kaiser said...

Your question about place is a rich one. I've always wondered what attracts us to certain places and why other places repel. What's the magic combination?

the natural world as home said...

Hi Kathy, your question is a good one too. What does attract us to certain places? When my sister, raised in Colorado, moved to Hawaii 30 years ago, she felt that we were like trees, and needed to find the soil best suited to us. Are we then "native" to certain landscapes, as are plants and animals? Despite our ability to migrate the earth, and even the heavens? I explore some of these questions in the DEEP WEST essay. I'll be glad to send a copy if you would like to read it in its entirety. Thanks for visiting! Page

Cynthia said...

Dear Page,

I just read your blog and would very much like to read your essay:

"This Thing Called Place"

It is so true, that sometimes it takes time for thoughts and ideas to ripen before one can write about them. As long as you don't leave it too long before getting it down on paper. . .sometimes they lose their freshness.

Cynthia Darlene Carlson

Page Lambert said...

Cynthia, you bring up a good point. It is important to get down the details while they're fresh - the sights and sounds and smells and emotions - all the textures of an experience. That way, after you've had a chance to contemplate the meaning of the experience, you have the physical and emotional world on which to hang the philosophical. Thanks! I will send you a copy of the essay.

turtlewoman said...

Hello, Page. What a wonderful concept - allow time to write, allow time for ideas, thoughts,and feelings to percolate, to mature and to be ready to put onto paper or computer screen. I often feel guilty about not always writing all of the time. Sometimes we need time to think without being rushed.

Thank you for the link to Parabola. I am going to check it out right now. I sent you an email requesting your essay in its entirety.

As for your cyber cafe - I'm enjoying a glass of iced tea with you as I read your blog. It is about 112 degrees here in the Sonoran Desert today - has been this way for over a week now. Our next electric bill will truly rival the national debt.

Lindy in AZ

Page Lambert said...

Wow, Lindy, 112 degrees in the Sonoran Desert. It's a pleasant 75degrees up here at 8000 feet in my rustic mountain community. No air conditioning! But this winter, of course, will be different! Thank you for your comment about often "feeling guilty." Seeing the world through the eyes of a writer entails far more than writing. It's a way of BEING in the world and taking time to create a dialogue with the world and you are right not to rush this. I'll email you a copy of the essay right now. Thanks!

Elaine said...

“What is this thing called place?”
This is a question I have asked myself too frequently since moving from the prairie of eastern Montana to the subhumid tropics of southwestern Nigeria. I felt bonded to the land in Montana. I felt comfortable in it and was comforted by it. Will there ever come a time when I would feel the same reassurance from the land in West Africa? Here in Nigeria I struggle in developing a sense of place. I find it hard to write as I seem to use that sense for writing.
Is it only a matter of time? Now that I am in my second cycle of seasons they begin to have some glint of familiarity. Although subtler than the movement of seasons in the northern plains, the changes are still evident: trees bloom and leaf out, birds migrate, and the humidity changes. Gradually I learn to recognize, if not understand, this new environment.
Is it necessary to name all that is around me? I know it has been important to me to learn the names of the birds. Knowing to look high in a palm when I hear a malimbe or search the heads of the tall grass when I hear chirping mannikens helps to make me feel apart of my surroundings.
I doubt I’ll stay in Africa long enough to feel at home in the same way as the American West. But I do wonder if it could ever happen.
I look forward to your essay. May be I will learn to let it all percolate.

the natural world as home said...

Dear Elaine, thank you for your note, and for sharing a little about your journey from the plains of eastern Montana to the subhumid tropics of southwestern Nigeria. You made me think of the wonderful memoir, OUT OF AFRICA, by Isak Dinesen. It's a book well-worth rereading, especially in regards to sense of Place. I couldn't help but notice in your note that the phrase "feel a part of my surroundings" was spelled "apart of my..." - how amazing that a single space between two letters could result in two such different meanings - perhaps the subconscious was at work here.

Elaine, please email me your email address so that I can forward a copy of the essay. Your "blogger" profile is private, so I couldn't access it.

All the best, Page

Joyce Gellhorn said...

Page,
I read with interest your 2009 blogs and think I voted---but am not sure it went through as I not sure that I was successful i signing up for your blogs. So here I shall vote again.
My very favorite blog was the one about your father on 3/20/09. The voice felt authentic and the nature as solace to your grief resonated with me. Hearing the voice of your ancestors in the canyon was a powerful image.

Another blog I really like: 7/10 on Mushrooms and sense of place. Particularly liked:
What is this thing called place?" I eventually asked the reader. "How can we be so deeply rooted to it, yet so easily transplanted from it? If a sacred place is where two worlds intersect, can it also be a place where two stories meet?”

In posing these questions for myself, and the reader, I came closer to understanding what I did not know--an important step in growing stories, and wisdom.

Writing, and preparing ourselves to write, allows us to unearth hidden knowledge, hidden meaning, and hidden purpose. It’s best not to rush these things.


The blog on Nov. 8 about the Irish author, C.McCann, introduced me to another voice that I do not know. I want to read some of his work.

The Jan 17th blog on How Animals Make Us Human was interesting ---at looking at the parts first and then bringing them together for a whole picture.

Other blogs---3/11 about Roxanne and the group poem--lovely
4/20 Lessons from the Land---How important it is to be in tuned with all aspects of our life and nature in terms of life and death.
1/20 Kids and Chores to build interconnectedness.

All of these were good and I had a difficult time choosing what would be in fifth place.....
Thanks,
Joyce