To live by moons

What would it be like to live by moons…or times of blooming, fruiting, migrations? What would it be like to know only what your eyes can see, fingers touch, the tongue to taste? To be prey and see oneself as another of the animals, a part of the garden? Was the Old Testament’s parable of Adam and Eve about that break? The tree of knowledge being a departure from an ecological mind?

Where do I live? If I had no address, as many people
do not, I could nevertheless say that I lived in the
same town as the lilies of the field, and the still
Spring, and all through the neighborhood now there are
strong men tending flowers.
Beauty without purpose is beauty without virtue. But
all beautiful things, inherently, have this function –
to excite the viewers toward sublime thought. Glory
to the world, that good teacher.
Among the swans there is none called the least, or
the greatest.
I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in
singing, especially when singing is not necessarily
As for the body, it is solid and strong and curious
and full of detail; it wants to polish itself; it
wants to love another body; it is the only vessel in
the world that can hold, in a a mix of power and
sweetness: words, song, gesture, passion, ideas,
ingenuity, devotion, merriment, vanity, and virtue.
Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.

Jack Kerouac in Florida

Florida is still a mysterious place to me. It may be red neck, a senior haven, conservative, environmental disaster, but it is also sophisticated, energized, liberal, and gorgeous country more varied than any state in the union.  I have discovered to my surprise that Florida is a haven for great writers. Riding home last night our public radio,WUWF,  featured Bob Kealing—an Emmy award-winning journalist and author. Kealing wrote Jack Kerouac in Florida: Where the Road Ends to chronicle events in Kerouac’s life that are little known. Kealing as journalist found people who were close to Kerouac and was able to find manuscripts and letters that fill in blanks in the life of the beat generation’s guru. He also helped establish the Jack Kerouac house and writer’s residence in Orlando where Kerouac lived with his mother. Explore this site and then listen to Bob Kealing’s 25 minute presentation at University of Central Florida where he talks about how he found the Kerouac materials and the establishment of the Jack Kerouac house.

Voting in Little Earth of United Tribes

New Yorker Article by Louise Erdrich about voting “in Little Earth of United Tribes” –  a Native-preference housing development within the larger city of Minneapolis. Read this to experience the local democratic spirit among America’s tribal communities where the spirit of democracy thrives. On this granular level Erdrich delivers oh so well—kids standing in long lines in the dark, waiting to vote; Erdrich buying pizzas (“they were low on grease”); brought down to street level, to rural  country roads and hamlets. Feel the power of the vote as they are delivered where “little old grandmothers” serve cupcakes and coffee and voting booth drapes match the window curtains…where someone turns on the headlamps of their truck to light up the voting place for the latecomers. Its the real stuff from one of our country’s outstanding writers.  Miigwechiwendan

Who We Are

A writing project is filling my free time and thoughts when not working at something else, cleaning or taking care of business: exploring seven works of fiction that each deals with the relationship of Native Americans and European Americans. The works were written between 1940 and 2012.  Three are written by Europeans (Iola Fuller, Margaret Craven and Geraldine Brooks), and four by authors whose ancestries include indigenous grandparents or parents (Waters, Silko, Alexie, and Erdrich).

Each story is set in a different area of the United States with historical time ranging from 1808 to 2012. As I have reread them, studied them, learned more about each author (online interviews, family member’s recollection, and formal research) I deepen my understanding of my country, of me, and our historic relationship to people of non-Anglo descent.

Why is this so important to me? It concerns my life-long puzzle over my culture’s exploitation of nature for profit and for power. Until I was 30 I never associated that exploitation with oppression of people whose nature is close to the earth: indigenous societies, women, African-American slave cultures and children. A realization came to me this morning as I considered these relationships in light of the long history of the human culture. Recent mitochondrial DNA research traces modern people back to a common matrilineal line in Africa about 175,000 years ago. Researchers trace migrations of these descendents into a world-wide migration, the formation of ethnic groups across the world. This took place over millennia and there are a lot of uncertainties but the general phenomenon is corroborated by different lines of research, and the more people learn about their individual DNA linkages, this picture will become more accurate. In the meantime the fact that ethnic groups no longer recognize their common origins is tragic and has led to war, oppression, hatred, and ongoing misunderstanding about our common humanity.

The degradation of natural resources arises in the context of these misunderstandings at a deep personal level. I had never made that connection and this is what I hope to write about in my new book, Who We Are.

Put on a pot of coffee…

It is a soft quiet Sunday on the Gulf coast. Downtown the annual arts festival must be a busy,  and the time when artists realize in the last few hours that its time for a sale! Out on the barrier island of Santa Rosa the beachcombers are luxuriating in a November day in the 80s.  Bet the water is tourmaline emerald. King and Spanish mackerel are being hauled out over the Pensacola Beach Pier and dolphins and reds are teasing the fishermen.

I’m home atop my upstairs condo with a view of old oaks and blue sky filling with white stratus clouds. I feel a change.  The last few days of cloudless, warm easy days may be on their way out chased by the Polar Express.

On my mind are friends and family and Americans in the Northeast in devastating circumstances who are trying to heat a cup of coffee, stay warm, and wonder whether they’ll work tomorrow or kids to school. The heavy realizations crowd in on us: we  are naked and unprepared for the storms on our horizon.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, with our sense of being exceptional, to respond to the call to refrain or curtail our fossil-fuel addiction. We’ve had nearly 50 years to seriously think of it and do something but we have not. Now that sinks into the national consciousness with the familiar boardwalk caving into the sea.

Each time a disaster happens there is an opening, because “things as usual” are paused. Into these moments of suffering and confusion are opportunities for insight and action. We’ve experienced this phenomenon personally when sickness or tragedy sweep aside the normal flow of our work and home lives; we may learn something new…or not.

For years I’ve wondered at America’s poor ability to learn from her mistakes. Great wealth and a land of abundance and a hard working people have staved off this fact. Now it sits with us, an unwelcome guest. Time is running out.

We should welcome this uninvited hulking presence, put on a pot of coffee and have a conversation. Let down the guard and fess up. It would do us good and maybe lead to some moderation in our behavior, and maybe even more.