I couldn’t believe she said it — an elderly woman in La Crosse, Wisconsin, short and frail as she exited the boat dock, holding my hand to steady herself. We’d just finished a backwaters cruise on the wildlife-packed Mississippi River, where I work in the summertime as an ecotour naturalist, teaching all ages, all comers from around the world. A great gig. I meet thousands of people, including senior ladies who tap my arms and elbows with tightly folded dollar bills — tips for a job well done. Or so I’ve thought.
Posts from the ‘Literature and the writing life’ Category
In Hopi culture, as I recall from my graduate work in environmental education years ago, there are people who serve as kachinas, or ancestral spirits, during religious ceremonies. Imagine colorful, otherworldly costumes and pulsing, drum-driven dances. There are mudhead kachinas, too — clown-like spirits who poke fun at the serious types. Like Jon Stewart, I suppose — good laughs along with insight.
I was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in July 1969, two weeks before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The next month, at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in upstate New York, 500,000 people gathered for rock and roll, free love, and a whole lot of marijuana — and thanks to three days of rain, a let’s-get-naked mud bath acres and acres wide. The following May, in northeast Ohio, the National Guard killed four college kids during a Vietnam War protest at Kent State. Neil Young immortalized the tragedy in a song: “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming…How can you run when you know?” Read more
Ever wanted to be a wilderness ranger? I tried it one summer when I was 38. Things didn’t go as planned.
Check out my short narrative “SAR Talk,” appearing recently in The Common in its online department called Dispatches. The journal “publishes fiction, essays, poetry, documentary vignettes, and images that embody particular times and places both real and imagined; from deserts to teeming ports; from Winnipeg to Beijing; from Earth to the Moon: literature and art powerful enough to reach from there to here. In short, we seek a modern sense of place.” Read more
As a tree hugger since childhood, the kind of kid who actually looked out the car window during road trips with his parents, before Game Boys and iPods and other gizmos stole all the scenery, I loved maps. And I still love them today as a writer and environmental educator. Maps help us investigate the ties between people and landscapes, how places shape who we are and how we in turn shape them. Read more
Good news! I’m now a staff writer for Hothouse: A Place of Inquiry, an online magazine at Newfound Journal. Exploring the Midwestern United States, I’ve been asked to focus on the arts however I’d like to interpret them as long as it’s “an inquiry of place” — the journal’s overarching goal. Well, here goes, my first stab at being artsy and Midwestern and place-based, starting with…you guessed it…corn. After all, we’ve got a lot of it and everybody knows it. Let’s shuck off the stereotype and enjoy ourselves: Read more
Do you have a scar that tells a story? Here’s mine: “a jagged five-inch gash” on the left side of my head.
Read “The Big Bang,” my recent essay in Poydras Review. Below is an excerpt, though please turn to the journal to enjoy the full piece. It may be a short tale, but the words loom long in my memory, starting at five years old. You could say I first wrote them in flesh, using barbed wire instead of a pen. Read more
Many thanks to Soundings Review for publishing my personal essay, “Manly Labor.” You can find the full piece in the recent print issue, Fall/Winter 2012. The journal includes 80 or so pages of poetry and short stories, essays like mine and writing for children and young adults, even interviews that keep it all down to earth. Soundings Review is one of several endeavors led by the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, which offers an MFA in Creative Writing and an annual conference on Washington’s Whidbey Island. Beautiful country, indeed. I once called it home. Read more
I’m thrilled to publish a new essay in Flycatcher: A Journal of Native Imagination. Below is an excerpt, though please turn to the journal for the entire 5,000 word piece. And while you’re there, check out the whole lineup of poems, stories, essays, and artwork. As editor Christopher Martin notes, “Flycatcher strives to explore what it means — or what it might mean — to be native to this earth and its particular places.” Right on, I say. Keep exploring. Be native! Read more