Like Horses, We Falter When We Lose Our Way

The morning after the veterinarian injected the little white mare with a sedative, and then a lethal dose of barbiturates, the herd did not want to go out to the pasture. They stayed near the gate where the sweet elderly Arabian had taken her last breath.  “The timing is good,” the veterinarian had said. “Not too soon, and not too late.” She had taken care of Echo for many years. None of us wanted the thin mare to endure another hard winter, even with the herd beside her, even with abundant hay. The slender white mare had roamed these high mountain pastures for nearly thirty years. As other horses came and went, Echo’s presence remained as constant as the glow of moonlight over the meadows. She wasn’t a leader. She wasn’t an enforcer. She wasn’t even a follower. But like her name suggested, she was the mirror that reflected back to the other horses their sense of order, their sense that all was right in the world.  Like the vista of a deep canyon inspires us to shout across the water an…

Returning to Kindness: What the River and the Poems of Linda Hogan Teach Us

Women have been gathering at the river for thousands of years. It is where we have traditionally  come to greet the sun, to cleanse and purify ourselves, to find inspiration, to tell our stories, to create a vision for the future.

Torrey House Press, the publisher of Linda Hogan's newest book of poetry, The History of Kindness, writes that these new poems “explore new and old ways of experiencing the vagaries of the body and existing in harmony with earth's living beings.”

"There is no one like Linda Hogan," writes author Terry Tempest Williams. "I read her poetry to both calm and ignite my heart. A History of Kindness is a series of oracles rising from the page born out of a life of listening, feeling, responding."

For women, living in harmony with our bodies, and with nature, does not always come easily. We are often encouraged by society to embrace a lifestyle that is everything but harmonious with nature. We are led to believe that harmony with our bod…

The Earth, A Reclamation

The poem and poet's statement below, and accompanying photographs, first appeared in the May 2020 issue of Langscapes Magazine, published by Terralingua.Org. I wanted to also share with everyone reading  All Things Literary/All Things Natural. Thank you. 
ReclamationThey say the traffic in London has killed the song of the nightingale. When they serenade each other, they sound more like the honking of horns, the squealing of brakes, and so the nests
lie empty.
Yet a coyote sought shelter in a Chicago Starbuck’s last month, the closest thing to a cave he could find, stood shaking next to the cooler in the dark corner with the Odwalla juices and the caffeine drinks and the mineral water from Fiji. Just last weekend, in Santa Fe, in the hours before dawn, on the Plaza while the town slept, a mountain lion leapt through the door of a jewelry store, leaving a spider web of broken glass. In Denver, raccoons pilfer garbage beneath city streetlights.
Sleek Peregrines, with nesting boxes built…

Where the Condors Fly

I should be in Peru right now, visiting with the traditional weavers in my broken Spanish, dotted with poorly pronounced Quechua words, smiling at Elena, petting her lamb, telling her about the ewes we used to have in Wyoming, about the lambs my children used to raise. Our laughter would embarrass her, but her eyes would twinkle and suddenly we would be just two women standing on a mountainside.

I harbor a secret dream that rises up whenever I visit Peru. In the highlands of Peru, progress seems to stand still but time travels on, swirling among the ancient Apus where the condors fly, sifting through fields of ripening corn, floating down the Urubamba River, rising as mist that floats across the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu.

Time travels through the fingers of the Quechua weavers, too. Ancient patterns appear like magic in wool freshly dyed with crushed leaves that only a few days ago fluttered in the breeze.

"When you speak Quechua," I am told, "you convey emotion.…

What if God gave us a Do-Over? What if Kristin Flyntz's imaginary letter from the virus to us isn't imaginary after all?

If you haven't yet watched Kristin Flyntz's video (see below), pick up your journal, find a quiet corner, then click on the photo below. As you watch and listen, imagine our species making this earth our home for a mere 200,000 years. Imagine the 4 billion years that the earth has been home to as many as 8 billion other living beings. We are babes in the woods.

Consider, what if the human species is only one of a million sentient species? What if we are not even the most sentient species? What if the earth, and all life on earth, has been trying to have a meaningful conversation with us for thousands of years?

What if we suspend our disbelief, and watch this video with humility, with our senses engaged and our human egos disengaged? What if we suspend our disbelief, like we do when watching movies or reading novels, and pretend (just for 3.5 minutes) that we're not the smartest beings on the planet, that all life carries within it the same miracle of creation.

What if God say…

The Coronavirus and The Eight Master Lessons of Nature: What Gary Ferguson and Mary Clare are Teaching Us About Living Well in the World

March 19, 2020 Update: Journalist John Vidal poses this question in The Guardian: "Is our destruction of nature responsible for Covid-19?As habitat and biodiversity loss increase globally, the coronavirus outbreak may be just the beginning of mass pandemics." Scroll down for the link to the article.

Did any of you, when you first heard that the coronavirus was sourced from a live-animal market in China, have this fleeting thought: What did we expect after centuries of treating animals cruelly? Did we think there would be no consequences?  Perhaps it’s time we look not only into the pathology of the coronavirus, but also into the morality of it.

We have always known there would be a day of reckoning. The bad news is that the final arbitrator might be Supreme Nature herself. The good news is that the final arbitrator might be Supreme Nature herself.

In Lesson Five of The Eight Master Lessons of Nature(“Our Animal Cousins Make Us  Happier—and Smarter”), author and good friend Ga…

Cummins' American Dirt and Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth: Can stories, even when they aren't our own, build bridges?

Jeanine Cummins is on the hot seat right now for writing American Dirt, a novel about immigration and life on the Mexican/American border, which was (until a few days ago) believed to become one of the most important novels of 2020. Oprah named it a Book Club Choice. Stephen King endorsed it, as did Ann Patchett, John Grisholm, Sandra Cisneros, and other notable writers. The New York Times and Amazon gave it the #1 slot. Rumor has it that the publisher paid Cummins a 7-figure advance.

A few days ago, the dirt hit the fan for Cummins and Flatiron Books (an imprint of MacMillan). The book tour was cancelled. Oprah was unusually quiet for a few days, then posted a video on her book club Instagram page allowing for an opportunity in March to discuss the controversy in more depth.

Suddenly, American Dirt was everywhere. And nowhere.

January 31st Slate Magazine published an article by writer Laura Miller, which discusses this question:

Will the American Dirt Fiasco Change American Publishin…

The Gifts My Father Has Given

In my hands I held a hardback copy of Jules Verne’s Classic Science Fiction, torn airmail packaging scattered at my feet. The inscription: “To Matt, with love from Grandpa Loren, San Francisco.” Why is my 75-year-old father sending my 9-year-old son a 511-page book? The inappropriateness of the gift irritated me—a gift hurriedly bought with too little care given.

But perhaps it was unfair of me to expect my father to know what a boy of nine would like. Then I remembered that spring, when we had visited San Francisco. Dad had sprinted after a cable car, grabbing Matt’s hand and leaping aboard. Later he plucked a nickel off the street.

“Matt, look! When you put a coin on the track—the cable car almost cuts it in half!” I can still picture them standing there, heads bent in mutual admiration.

Less irritated, I stared out the window at our dog Hondo, sleeping on the deck. He had been with us since he was eight weeks old. Gray hairs covered the muzzle of glossy black head, and the lids ben…

The Kindness of Mister Rogers, The Wonder of Nature

I was only a little surprised when I read in Mary Pflum Peterson's piece in The Washington Post that her 21st century kids liked, really liked, the original Mister Rogers. So much, in fact, that they binge-watched all the old episodes with her.

"He likes kids, Mommy,” her daughter said. “Kids know when a grown-up likes them.”

But it was her youngest son's comment that got my attention. 
“And he’s not too loud,” her son added. “When we watch him, there’s no noise. You don’t have to worry about anything.”
Our modern world is, most often, a noisy place. Which is not the same as being filled with sound. And for Peterson's son, noise is worrisome. 
We live on the edge of a forest, and rarely is the forest silent. Fall is filled with the sounds of chickadees caching their winter supply of seeds and insects, black Abert's squirrels trying to outrun the red fox squirrels, crows warning away intruders. 
As I sit here in the quiet stillness of our log home, snow is sliding …

Isn’t that the whole freaking point of fiction?

If you read fiction, chances are you’re drawn now, more than ever, to stories that help you escape today’s polarizing politics. Nostalgic stories. Futuristic stories. Stories that draw you into worlds other than your own.

Penguin Random House editor Sally Kim, during a panel in New York City at this year’s BookExpo (the industry’s mega trade event), suggested to the audience that readers are urgently craving perspectives that are not their own.

“Which, of course,” she said, “is the whole freaking point of fiction.”

So why is it so hard for us, when it comes to politics, to lift the cloak of opinion from our own back and crawl inside someone else’s skin—just for a minute?

We do it all the time when we read fiction—we jump from one character’s point of view to another’s without batting an eye. We lose ourselves in a scene where the author takes us deep inside the heroine’s innermost desires, and them—bam—we’re taken inside the mind of the man who’s about to break her heart, and we under…