ALL THINGS LITERARY. ALL THINGS NATURAL.

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

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

WRITERS OVER 40 ROCK!

According to The New Yorker's Summer Fiction issue, the odds of anyone writing anything of substance after they turn 40 are not good. That's disheartening, since I haven't seen 40 for more than a decade and in 2 days I'll be one year closer to 60. Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the The New York Time's Sunday Book Review, expands on that theory in his essay "How Old Can a Young Writer Be?" According to Tanenhaus, Herman Melville was 32 when he wrote Moby Dick. But Virginia Woolf didn't enter her prime until she was in her 40s. Pearl S. Buck was only 39 when she wrote The Good Earth, but she was 46 when she wrote Peony, the same year that she received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Should those of us in our 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond, content ourselves with literary obscurity?  Who are your favorite "over 40" authors?  What substantive piece are you working on? ANSWER THE POLL and help me compile an IMPRESSIVE list to fuel our over-40 ambitions!

Ambition. It's the one thing the writers featured in The New Yorker's Summer Fiction issue seemed to have in common, which I find ironic because I've been trying to learn these last few years to be less ambitious, less driven, to be less about striving and more about thriving. So this summer's newsletter is dedicated to things that help us thrive. Not the least of which is one another. Wishing you a brilliant summer solstice season!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

CLAIMING GROUND WITH A SNORT AND A BUCK AND A GOOD BOOK

THE WYOMING GLOW I brought home with me after this year’s Literature & Landscape of the Horse Retreat at the Vee Bar Ranch lasted for days. I literally beamed. Not surprising after a week immersed in some of the things I love the most—horses, stories about horses, other writers and artists, and the wide-open western landscape.

“I missed you all so much the minute I got on the plane, it nearly broke my heart,” wrote Cat, a guest from Massachusetts. “I'll never forget my week at the ranch, and your kind heart that made it possible for all of us to know each other.” Cat fell in love with landscape, the people, the horses, and most importantly, back in love with life.

Life HAPPENS on a ranch—life, and birth, and death, and renewal. The warmth and generosity of families like Kari and Brent Kilmer (co-owners and managers of the Vee Bar) does not happen by mistake. It rises up from life on the land as organically as do the wild spring irises. Kari’s grandpa ranches only a few miles up the road, at the base of the Snowy Range Mountains. This landscape is Kari’s homeland, the place where she was born and reared. Her husband Brent was raised in Wyoming, too—on a ranch near Lusk. His family has been living on that same piece of ground for over a hundred years.

Laura Bell’s new book, CLAIMING GROUND, (which I haven’t yet read) is intriguing for all the same reasons. “Her story is a heart-wrenching ode to the rough, enormous beauty of the western landscape,” writes the publisher, Random House/Knopf, “and to the peculiar sweetness of hard labor, to finding oneself even in isolation, to a life formed by nature, and to the redemption of love, whether given or received.”

I’m not just drawn to Laura’s story because she herded sheep in Wyoming's Big Horn Basin, or because she was, for a time, a cattle rancher, forest ranger, outfitter, and masseuse. But because she yearned to create a home and to find solid earth in which to put down her familial roots.

In the opening few pages of my memoir IN SEARCH OF KINSHIP, I write, “These stories are linked to the land—stories of our children, of aborted foals and orphaned calves, of summer fawns in the meadow, and of their fathers, the bucks, in the fall.”

How can we NOT yearn for a deeper connection with the things we love? How can we NOT fall back in love with life when we slow down long enough to actually live it, moment by moment?  Watch the horses. They show us how. They lift their heads and flare their nostrils at the morning breeze. They pivot their ears at the sound of our voices. They lower their necks at the pleasing strokes of our curry brushes. They let us ride on their backs and carry us on the wind. And then, when day is done, they reclaim their wild roots, kick up their heels and gallop across the tundra and into the sunset.

Yes, it’s true. It’s not just a cliché. It’s why we love them. Because they remind us that life is meant to be lived. With gusto. With a snort and a buck. With heads high and few regrets.

Scroll up to watch the 2010 Literature & Landscape of the Horse slideshow.  Hats off to Alice Liles and Jenny Wehinger for providing some of the slideshow photos.  To read Alice's blog about the retreat, please go to The Bright Lights of Muleshoe