Showing posts from 2011

Why Write? Paying Homage to Northern Lights aka Marry Your Dreams in 2012

Sometimes I miss a certain place, like the aspen draw on the ranch in Wyoming where Thimbleberries grow thick by July, and where snow gathers by October, staying until May.Sometimes I miss a person, like the young Greek girl Antigone whom I barely knew, but knew well enough to lie on a hill near the Acropolis, beneath the light of a full moon counting the stars as they came out.“Ena Dio Tria Tessera,” she taught me, pointing at the sky. “One Two Three Four,” I echoed back. Today, I am missing a magazine, and the vision that it brought to the world before publication ceased.  Northern Lights, published by Deborah Clow O’Connor.  "What does it mean to lose Northern Lights?" asked Charles Finn.  "It is like asking what it means to lose a star from its place in the sky." WHY WRITE? asks The Center section of the Summer 1998 issue.The answers of seven writers were printed, including essays by Jane Hirschfield, Ellen Meloy, and C.L. Rawlins.But the piece that I saved, tha…

Horse & Human: The Mysterious Link

Horses have been studying humans from across the safety of a river, or from the overlook of a high ridge, or from across an expanse of grassland, for thousands of years. The oldest archealogical evidence links horses and humans as far back as 400,000 to 600,000 years ago, not as companions, but as prey and predator. When horse and human first touched because of a far more benevolent mutual curiosity, we may never know. But horses have been a part of the human heart, and of our history, for time immemorial.
We incorporate their beings into every aspect of our lives. We celebrate their presence in our art, our stories, our lives. You can view Chinese painter Xu Beihongat's beautiful images through January at the Denver Art Museum.  In Washington, DC at the National Museum of the American Indian, the exhibit A Song of the Horse Nation, created by museum scholar Emil Her Many Horses, celebrates native arts and the horse, the impact of the horse, and the decline and revival of the hors…

Alone in the West?

THEY SAY WRITING IS A SOLITARY THING—as if we are all lone wolves howling into the wind with only the moon as our companion.  Yet from the first writer’s conference I attended as a freshman at the University of Colorado in 1970, whereReader’s Digest managing editor John Allen befriended and encouraged me, to a 1996 reading at The Writer’s Voice in Billings, Montana, where Kim Barnes and I read from our memoirs, to the upcoming reading and panel discussion at The Tattered Coverfor the new anthology West of 98: Living and Writing the American West,I have found writing to be about community. 
Writers support other writers.  Especially western writers.  If author Laura Pritchetthad not suggested my name to the editors of West of 98, my essay might not have found its way into the collection.  Thank you, Laura!And had John Allen not tucked me under his wing when I was only 18, I might never have held onto this dream.  But he did.  And she did.  And they did.  And we all do.
Opening my contri…

My Horse Agrees with Author D.H. Lawrence

My great religion is a belief in the blood, the flesh, as being wiser than the intellect.  We can go wrong in our minds.But what our blood feels and believes and says, is always true.The intellect is only a bit and a bridle. 
I like this quote from D.H. Lawrence (Lady Chatterly's Lover). When I get on my horse's back, he reminds me that we do best as a team if I ease up on the reins, and quit pulling on his head.  Farside responds more quickly to gentle leg pressure around his center, his girth - when the calf of my left leg is close to his heart, that blood-pumping organ that propels us literally and metaphorically.    Last weekend, at the 2011 CampExperience retreat, I asked the 240 women in the audience to stand up, grab a partner, and try to lead each other around by the head. Mayhem ruled until they switched their hands from their partner's head, to the middle, the core.  Our bodies like balanced, centered movement.  I think we like our stories that way, too.

Eve Ensler's SUDDENLY, MY BODY: watch it, then write what matters

I just watched Eve Ensler's powerful new 12-minute video on TED. I immediately wanted to reach out to all the women in my life. And to all the men who love but are confused by the women in their lives.  Please don’t miss Suddenly, my body. Watch it with a friend. Watch it right now. Watch it tonight with a glass of wine or in the morning with a cup of tea. Watch it with your mother, or your daughter, or your husband, or your son. Watch it with your journal in one hand and a fistful of earth in the other. 
Eve's story reminds us of our deep kinship with nature, of the emotional link between the bodies of women and the body we call Earth.  If her story reminds you of your story, seek out a healing moment in a place of intrinsic beauty--a moment as perfect as a flitting butterfly poised on a wild flower.  Let nature pollinate you.  Let it feed your art.  If you must choose between reading the rest of this post, or watching the video, please watch the video.

Sometimes on the river w…

What do Butler's A Small Hotel, Louv's The Nature Principle, and Abram's Becoming Animal have in common?

Well, for one thing, the first two book titles made the list of Oprah's top 27 summer reads.  The third, Becoming Animal, should have, but didn't. 
A Small Hotel,Robert Olen Butler's latest work of fiction, is an unapologetic romantic story of a couple in love for nearly 25 years but now in the throes of separation and divorce.  (I first met Butler about six years ago at a Narrative Magazinefundraising dinner in Santa Fe, New Mexico.)  Butler read fromIntercourse, his 2008 collection of irreverant short stories that, through humerous paired dialogues, allow the reader to romp through imagined sexual moments of some very famous characters. It's a very "fleshy" book, but more about "connections" than separations, which is the theme of A Small Hotel.
Richard Louv's latest book, The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature Deficit Disorder is also about separation (you'll have to look a little harder for the sexuality, though one…

Fierce and Hopeful Attachments

I have a file box on my desk next to my Storyteller Doll with clippings torn from magazines and newspapers -- uplifting stories of people reconnecting to the land.  These stories appear in diverse publications, like Native Peoples Magazine and High Country News, or The Quivira Coalition Journal and the Nature Conservancy, even the World Ark and The Denver Post.

The Omeg family in Oregon has planted blanket flowers and catmint around the perimeter of their cherry orchard so that threatened bumblebees, mason bees, and even sweat bees will have blossoms to sustain them. In the heart of Navajo country, Tammy Herrera is reconnecting people to the land and helping teach horsemanship to youth through a feral horse 4-H program (see pg.22 of pdf).

In a small Amazon village in the Oiapoque region of northern Brazil, children are helping to restore native populations of tracaja, the green and yellow river turtles. In Colorado, prison inmates are training mustangs that are later ridden by patrolm…

Inside the DAM: Roxanne Swentzell, Mud Woman, and The Whisper of the Land

Sometimes, the most memorable moments for an artist or writer are hidden. Sometimes our work itself is hidden.

Several weeks ago Roxanne Swentzell told me over dinner and a glass of Blue Moon that she had inserted a PVC pipe into Mud Woman’s center to stabilize the 10-foot-tall sculpture. “But now I have this space that runs from her head to her heart,” she said. “I need to put something special in it. Maybe you have a poem about Denver?”
Mud Woman is monumental—certainly not hidden.The DenverArt Museum commissioned Roxanne to create the piece for their new Native American exhibit and, after months of planning, Mud Woman is coming to life. The sculpture, officially named Mud Woman Rolls On, is the first thing that greets visitors when they step off the 3rd floor elevator of the DAM, Denver’s world class art museum.
Roxanne, a world class sculptor, will be working on the piece all spring and summer.  Rox is from the Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico.Her roots go back thousands of years.She…

Celtic Blood, Cherokee Blood, and Nature's Earthly Spirits

When I asked my redheaded Great Aunt Violet, who died many years ago but in whose western saddle I still ride, to tell me what she remembered about my paternal grandmother, she said, "Well, besides being a crack shot with a rifle, Helen was part Irish, and part Cherokee, and that wasn't a very good thing to be back then."   Aunti Vi was from the Dunton clan, my father's clan. "We have Scots blood," was the pronouncement, and I took it to mean that Scots blood was somehow superior to the Irish blood my grandfather had married into.  The Cherokee blood was rarely mentioned, and never with "princess" lineage claims.

In David M. Emmons book, Beyond the American Pale: The Irish in the West, 1845-1910, he points out interesting contrastsbetween the "wild" Catholic Irish, and the more respected Scots Irish who had been the Protestant dissenters.  And he draws interesting parallels between England's attempts to rid Ireland of the Irish, an…

Research is not a dirty word. Or: A story about an elk, an eagle, and two-hearted women

Writing is not just about what we already know.  It's also about what we wish we knew.  At this juncture, where facts and experience meet curiosity, inspiration takes root.  Passion and our emotional connection to a story may form the heart, but research gives a story legs; it keeps the story moving forward and keeps writer and reader engaged.  Research is exploration.  It is venturing into unknown territory, and the tension created between knowing, and not knowing, like a taut rubber band, can catapult us into someplace new.

Take this elk, for instance.Large antlers serve bull elk well during the rut, when they're sparring to test strength and endurance and hopefully gather up a harem of cows. But twice this winter, my neighbors and I have seen big bulls tangle with the orange plastic mesh fencing used on construction sites. This particular bull is a member of the large herd that lives here in our mountain community, and we've all been concerned about him. "When do …

Behind the Chutes: Filmmaker Ann Lukacs On the Art of Storytelling

I first met award-winning filmmaker Ann Lukacs in Gunnison, Colorado back in 2004 when I was speaking at a Writing the Rockies conference.  My topic, "Embracing Passion: In Our Stories and In Our Lives," seems to be a guiding motto for Ann, too. Last Tuesday, she was the keynote speaker at Dr. Ellie Greenberg's Feminist luncheon in Denver (Greenberg is the co-author of In Our Fifties: Men and Women Reinventing Their Lives and of A Time of Our Own: In Celebration of Women Over Sixty), where she shared with us her journey as a filmmaker, and her devotion to the story beneath the photos.

A few of Ann's professional credits as a cinematographer include Pirates of the Caribbean, The Bucket List, Honeysuckle Rose, Blues Brothers, and Coal Minor's Daughter.  Check out the New York Timesfor a list of movies featuring more of Ann's work behind the camera.

But the movie that seems closest to Ann's heart is the documentary Behind the Chutes.

"This is a projec…