ALL THINGS LITERARY. ALL THINGS NATURAL.

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

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fear of Art: Creature from the Black Lagoon

The other night, I had a conversation with a doctor who wants to come on next year's "Weaving Words & Women" retreat in Peru. She confessed, though, that the idea of "being creative" intimidates her. A doctor? Now that's an intimidating profession.
Why is it that the word "creative" causes the pulse to race and palms to sweat? The words "create" and "creature" are rooted in the same Latin noun: "creatura." Like procreate, or bring to bear. Yet the word 'creature" isn't especially intimidating (unless its the Creature From the Black Lagoon). But we seem to think that "creation" is more about how the world was formed, than about how we desire to shape our own dreams, more about making ART, than leaving a simple track along life's path.
What if we put a new spin on creativity, and on all the ways we, as human beings, express ourselves, all the ways we bring our vision to bear on the world around us. How can nature, and animals - our fellow creatures - help us to do this? What is it about being in their presence, or being outdoors, that enables the creative process?   
NATURE LOVES CHAOS--that messy, murky process of creation.  Yet within nature's chaos lurks a grand design.  Does our creativity also have a wild, chaotic side?  Like nature, writing and art and cooking and gardening--all those ways we organically express our creativity - can be messy. There is always deadfall and debris. 

How does nature and the animal world unleash your creativity?  I would love to know.  I hope you'll leave a comment.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Epic Nature of Life

Last night, for the umpteenth time, I snuggled on the couch and let myself be engrossed, mesmerized, entranced, enraged, impassioned, and yes, infatuated, by the movie Last of the Mohicans. James Fenimore Cooper on the big screen - frontier romance writ large, bigger than life, panoramas that spread from horizon to horizon, close-ups that show every vein on every leaf, every scar on Magua's face.   It's hard to find an onscreen villain more frightening than Wes Studi. And have you ever seen such romance as that between Hawkeye and Cora Munro?  And what about the clash of cultures?  Stolen land?  Nation against nation?

Each time I watch the 1992 movie based on the second book in Cooper's The Leatherstocking Tales, I ask myself if I am brave enough to WRITE BIG.  Not safe, but BIG. Fearless.  After the movie last night, I came into my office and without turning the lights on,  typed this declaration:

There is nothing more beautiful than human tragedy and triumph. Nothing  more beautiful than a man protecting the woman he loves, than a sister shielding a sister, a man giving his life for the woman he knows he can never have, a father seeking vengeance for the death of his son, a woman killing to protect what is hers.  There is nothing more beautiful than a woman hungering for a man, nothing more beautiful than a brother loving a brother, nothing more beautiful than a father's love for a daughter, nothing more beautiful than friendship between man and woman and child.
Watch Movie Trailer
Can I write such a story? Am I brave enough?  Can I see the beauty in the pain?  Do I love humanity enough?  Can I set aside my own fears, my own smallness, my own frailties, and enter the fathomless sea of human experience?  Can I envision a story that lives outside the borders of all I know, yet comes from the depths of all I feel? 

The answer is YES.  Yes, we can write these stories.  Yes, we are brave enough.  Yes, we can set aside our smallness and our frailties and reach for that deeper part of ourselves that knows there are GREAT TRUTHS in this world, and it is these truths about which we must write. 

Book's endpaper by N.C. Wyeth
Be brave.  Write the BIG story.  Be fearless in your belief  that there is nothing more beautiful than your struggle to hold onto all you believe to be sacred, all you believe to be eternal. 


Trust the humanity of each character who finds his and her way into your imagination.  Trust that life is meant to be lived with passion, full throttle.  Dip your pen into the center of your own beating heart and paint a timeless image on the rock wall of the world. 
Pictographs at Lathrop Canyon
Leave something behind that is worthy of the path laid before you.  Footprints in the sand.  Handprints on a cliff.  Even the deer leaves tracks, and the winds form dunes, and the rivers carve their canyons.  Write your story.  Tell the greatest truth you can tell.  Believe in the epic nature of life.
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THE MOHICAN TRIBE TODAY: "Contrary to early American literature and Hollywood license, the Last of the Mohicans continue to outlive James Fenimore Cooper's book-ending prediction. We are alive and thriving in a beautifully forested section of Northern Wisconsin." 
THE 2013, 10th Biennial JAMES FENIMORECOOPER PRIZE Competition: Honors works of literary fiction that significantly advance the historical imagination. The winner will be chosen for its literary quality and historical scholarship. Sponsored by the Society of American Historians.