I want to talk to someone about Wendell Berry

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 in my (then) small town, 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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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 personal is the political

My older brother died before I was born due to a heart condition that doctors can now successfully treat with advanced surgeries like the one Jimmy Kimmel describes here:

So, with tissues out and proverbial protest signs up, a few Thank Yous:

  • Thank You mom and dad for going through what must have been a horribly traumatic process and still deciding to have me and Adam;
  • Thank You scientific research for helping prevent similar grief; thank you US Congress for increasing, rather than decreasing funding for science despite the proposed budget (keep up the good work!);
  • Thank You Affordable Care Act for insuring me and everyone else who has pre-existing conditions when nobody else would; and finally,
  • Thank You everyone in countries where socialized health care exists for being a bit more compassionate and recognizing that most Americans did NOT vote for Trump before responding with something like “you voted him in, now deal with it” whenever someone expresses their grief about what is going on in the US right now.

Don’t rob yourself of the now: Timmy’s tribute to José as a balm for those who grieve

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My interview with climber, comedian, friend, and _____* Timmy O’Neill is now live on Xero Gravity, please check it out!

Timmy was a consistent presence during my Yosemite years, and he recently wrote a beautiful tribute to our late friend José, asking:

How do you bring someone long gone, back to life, and what are the physical and emotional artifacts that allow you to personify him?

I feel similarly trying to describe Timmy; *there are precious few words for describing those people who just vibrate at a higher level, even when they are still with us Continue reading

Chris van Leuven: my other “brother”

chris-vlChris van Leuven spent quite a bit of time at our house in high school, so much so that I often thought of him as the third sibling in the family. Things at his house weren’t going that well, we gathered, but neither my brother nor I asked many questions. Instead, we would bring him home after our afternoon sessions at the local boulders or climbing gym. We’d let his endless stream of words, spoken in such animated, rapid succession that anyone else would have struggled to comprehend, melt into our own stories from the day. Often, all three of us would be speaking at the same time, but that didn’t hinder our understanding.

In the Spring of 1996, I was just finishing my first year of college in Montreal while Chris was actually living our high school dream of dirtbagging in Yosemite Valley. Continue reading

In search of home

This song is everything I need right now:

As a words person, I’m frantically trying to learn the language it takes to describe the sonic landscapes that are really doing it for me these days, and thanks to everyone who’s been patient with me in trying to get more of it into my system (Evan Scott Matt and for the Flume tip, Samyak)!

It’s got all the swelling instrumentation, sweet layered vocals, and slow-attack bass of this:

…but with far more appropriate lyrics for my current state of mind: that strange sort of “anticipated grief” or pre-nostalgia that comes on the verge of a purposeful decision that’s going to change a Whole Lot all at once. [I’ve written previously about the related feelings that come after the shift.]

Plus a healthy dose of the same overall feeling — that I love, by the way — of Continue reading

Good grief

Yesterday Dean let me know that Stanley, a long-ago friend of mine that he was still close to, has passed.

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Each time I hear news like this, I remember my other since-departed friends from that era of my life, their number growing with the number of years since I have been in touch with any of them. And so today I think of Jose and Micah in addition to Stanley.

Jose

Micah

[All photographs (c) Dean Fidelman]

Continue reading