Friday, July 10, 2009
Mushrooms, Growing Our Writing, and Parabola Magazine
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to Parabola magazine or check their submission guidelines, go to http://www.parabola.org/.