I want to talk to someone about the introduction of Wendell Berry’s book, The Art of Loading Brush

LoadingBrushI love Wendell Berry. I think I’ve read more of his books than any other author’s. I’ve had the honor of seeing him speak on three different occasions. When he came and spoke to a rapt crowd at a packed barn, I was thrilled that he signed my post-it-note-laden, cover-is-delaminating, I-recommend-it-to-everyone-who-expresses-an-interest copy of The Art of the Commonplace. I have had nothing but massive respect for the man and (most of) what he stands for.

With that context in mind, it kills me to admit any crack in my admiration for Mr. Berry. Now that I’ve started examining that crack, however, I’m realizing that I’ve had a few misgivings all along. This has sparked a familiar sort of grief: the grief that comes from removing someone from a pedestal I had them on.

In the first essay in The Art of Loading Brush (Counterpoint, 2017), “The Thought of Limits in a Prodigal Age,” Mr. Berry repeatedly compares screen addiction to drug addiction, but worse “because it wears the aura of technological progress and social approval.” Continue reading

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Aimless Love: a poem by Billy Collins

Aimless Love
by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lake shore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door—
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor—
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

Original source: Billy Collins, Nine Horses, Pan Macmillan and Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2003, accessed via Pan Macmillan on 9 August 2018. Continue reading

Dean Fidelman finally getting the kind of attention he deserves (and not only for StoneNudes)

I met photographer Dean Fidelman while living in Yosemite National Park in 1999, and for years I invested everything I had—physically, energetically, spiritually, and financially—into his StoneNudes project. This attempt to build a something that would financially support a complete immersion into art, nature, community collaboration, social activism, and a life well-lived sparked a sense of purpose I’ve been both refining and expanding ever since. Though I ultimately chose to distance myself from the always-fraught business side of StoneNudes, Dean and I have remained very close friends and artistic collaborators.

Climbing podcast Enormocast recently published not one but two entire episodes’ worth of an interview with Dean (here’s Part 1 and here’s Part 2), and they’re fantastic. As someone who came of age listening to climbers’ yarns around Yosemite campfires, and who regularly groans at the media’s lazy sensationalization of Dean’s work, I have to say that it is a rare treat to hear the man himself explain, at length and very eloquently, why he does the work he does.

All other accounts leave out what I believe are the most important elements of his story: his deep appreciation for his mentors, his community (including those who have left us), the places that inspire his work, his commitment to giving back, and the reality of what it’s like to walk in his shoes… the mismatched shoes of our deceased friend Sean, as the case happens be.

This year marks the 20th and final edition of the StoneNudes Calendar, and I’m thrilled that Dean’s Kickstarter campaign is doing so well! Continue reading

Botox for butts (and other fancy GI health tips)

One of the changes I’ve had to get used to upon moving to New Zealand is that medical offices exhibit very little of the American paranoia around client privacy. And so, in addition to things like Doctor Sam asking Scott whether we’d gone on the hikes he’d recommended to me during my last visit and our dentist giving Scott shit about the fact that I am long overdue for a cleaning, everyone in the waiting room at the gastroenterologist’s office got to hear about my upcoming colonoscopy.

I won’t go into the details about my symptoms other than to say they warrant the procedure; my grandmother had to have her colon removed at a relatively young age, so we’re proceeding cautiously.

The doctor explained that one of the possible treatments (depending on what they find, and how I respond to other options) may involve Botox. I missed all the articles about “Anal Botox” that apparently made the social media rounds last year and found this fascinating, immediately texting my brother:

Screenshot 2018-08-06 at 7.14.07 PM.png Continue reading

Rainy Sunday recipes (and one for Summer)

Earlier today I ran across this Susan Ertz quote:

Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Really?! I love a rainy Sunday, and immortality sounds… exhausting 🙂

I’ve spent the last several rainy Sundays cooking up way too much food in my new multi-cooker. I know I know, I’m super late to Instant Pot Mania!

Of all the pressure cooker recipe sites I’ve checked out, Amy+Jacky is (are?) my fave so far. They’re from Hong Kong, and offer lots of recipes that are faster versions of things that I learned to cook from my dad (like jook). I LOVE their Cook’s Illustrated / scientific approach to discovering the best bone broth formula, and can vouch for the results!

Amy+Jacky are also really big on umami flavors, which means I’m suddenly learning that adding fish sauce and soy sauce to chili and beef stew recipes (etc) makes them taste So Much Better.

While I’d love to be cooking up a big batch of something hearty and yum today I’ve been cut off, for three reasons:

Continue reading

The Journey: a poem by Mary Oliver

Here is a poem that Spring Washam included in her 2017 book, A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage, And Wisdom in Any Moment. I love how it dovetails with William Stafford’s The Way It Is:

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations —
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Continue reading

The problem with sharing poetry on the internet: how to properly cite poems found online

I’ve been taking Buddhism classes at the Auckland Buddhist Centre almost nonstop since the beginning of the year, and on top of that, have been reading a lot of books by / about / for people committed to living Buddhist practices more fully. One of the unexpected results of this activity is that I am regularly encountering poems that are both “old friends” and many that are completely new to me.

These days I’m far more interested in keeping track of my favorite poems than I have been in the past. As someone who appreciates both accuracy and giving credit where credit is due, sharing poems on the internet feels fraught with peril… and it gets worse when I’m often using the internet to track down poems I encounter in the wild, remembering only fragments. Copyright infringement and amplification of errors and misattribution, Oh My!

Example: the Countee Cullen poem I shared recently is actually quite a bit longer than the portion that I (and many other people before me) shared online. I certainly didn’t realize how much more there is to it until I went looking for a reputable source; I considered including the whole thing in my post, but in the end opted to reproduce the “error,” Continue reading

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters: a poem by Portia Nelson

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
            There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
            I fall in.
            I am lost … I am helpless.
                       It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II
I walk down the same street.
            There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
            I pretend I don’t see it.
            I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
                        But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III
I walk down the same street.
            There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
            I see it is there.
            I still fall in … it’s a habit.
                       My eyes are open.
                       I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV
I walk down the same street.
            There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
            I walk around it.

Chapter V
I walk down another street.

Continue reading

Self care and art as acts of resistance

It’s hard to deny that there’s a lot of shit going down in the world right now. As the daughter of two immigrants (into the US) and an immigrant (into NZ) myself, what’s happening at the US border hits me in a particular way, and there are so many other examples we might point to around the world.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to stay open to and present with this sort of unpleasantness, for a couple reasons. First, I believe it is important to actually SEE and GRIEVE these atrocities, rather than pretending they don’t exist or that they don’t hurt. And more importantly, I believe we must be present to what is going on if we might hope to effectively address any issues that are not in alignment with our own values.

And so I have been super inspired by a few things that my friends have shared this week. They remind me that there are so many ways to contribute to upending the status quo, and so many ways to take care of ourselves as we do that work. Continue reading

The Solstice is Our Anniversary

The paradoxical thing about monogamy, for me at least, is that it took someone who doesn’t insist upon it to inspire me to live it so willingly.

Read on for two poems (one that speaks to the inevitably-ephemeral nature of relationships, and one that speaks to the phenomenon I described above), the story about how Scott and I came to find ourselves in a relationship the second time around, and a bit of Wendell Berry’s ever-inspiring wisdom. Continue reading