Surrender to nature’s time

Every now and then a theme bubbles up from my thoughts out on the trail. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the shared agency we have with nature. About how once we enter the forest, we’re experiencing life on mother nature’s terms.

Spiders have woven webs across the trail, not to make a sticky mess for me, but because that’s where they live and what they do. Herons are out on the lake fishing for their lunch–not posing for pictures. Our experiences in the natural world are necessarily passive, if we’re to respect the sovereignty of other species and their homes.

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I hiked a trail recently looking for a particular tree, a trail marker tree, but along the way I allowed myself to see and discover other interesting things happening. I spent more time than I intended, but the hike refreshed me and in the end I was full.

David Abrams writes about our embodied experiences in the natural world in his book, The Spell of the Sensuous:

This wild expanse has its own timing, its rhythms of dawning and dusk, its seasons of gestation and bud and blossom. It is here, and not in linear history, that the ravens reside.


Are you craving a slow afternoon with nature? Cyndy Wolfe and I are planning a Nia and Nature Journaling event on OCTOBER 4TH. We’d love for you to join us out at Timberlake Earth Sanctuary to dance, make a nature journal, and spend solo time with nature. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

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Hermit huts

This past summer I explored the California coast with my husband and our two teenagers. We flew into LA and headed north from there. For the first week it was an adventure a day: the Avila Adobe in historic Los Angeles, Ojai, Morro Bay, Silicon Valley, Tiburon, Mt. Tamalpais … miles of California landscape flew by each day as we made our way up to Trinidad in Humboldt county, where we spent the rest of our vacation time. From the heat and palm trees to the endless fields of greens and orchards of olive trees, sea otters and zebras, up towards field after field of grapes and into the land of the giant redwoods: we got to see a broad picture of life there on the west coast.

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  In two weeks, we couldn’t hope to see all there was. We had more suggestions and ideas than we had time, so we took things day by day and found the places that suited our mood and whims that day. And each day had a story to tell. I recorded bits of stories in travel journals, and I’m hoping to bring back memories of the stories we found on our west coast adventure, one short essay at a time.

Between San Francisco and Trinidad, we couldn’t resist stopping to see the Hermit Huts at Hendy Woods State Park. A relatively small park, Hendy Woods hosted a Russian immigrant named Petro Zailenko who lived alone in the woods for nearly two decades.

This was our first venture into the redwoods, and the forest swept us into a fairy tale for a few glorious, mysterious hours. Petro built his huts out of fallen limbs and burned out tree stumps, surviving on squirrels and whatever he could scrounge from surrounding farms and park visitors. He even dismantled shoes that he found, sewing them back together to make complete pairs in his own size. According to some articles posted in the park, he was satisfied with his lot in life and lived fairly comfortably, considering the circumstances. As romantic as it sounds to live in the woods, I imagine it was a tough life. It gets cold in those woods, and he had only what he could find in his limited area. Still, he had made peace with it, which I suppose is the best answer for anyone. His story is a reminder to us that gratitude is both possible and necessary. If he had plenty, so should we.

Yes, but is it practical?

rainbowbooksWhen I started graduate school in 2011, I was concerned that spending more time in school would be a frivolous act. As it turns out, it wasn’t.

It took a year for me to gather enough academic momentum to apply, because grad school is really designed for 20-somethings, what with all the classes that run past 9pm and all. I discovered during the process that my ancient credits from Before Kids weren’t going to get me anywhere, and I had to start over. I took the GRE and a few undergraduate-level courses to get the writing samples and recommendations I needed for my application, then I applied and got in. I was disappointed that the track I wanted within the Department of English had been cut — there only remained a slight ghost of the writing and editing track, so I did what I could.

Turns out, that was a delightful turn of events. The department has what they call a Minor Field Plan, which let me take coursework across disciplines. The resulting list of coursework from my requirements and electives has boosted my knowledge base in environmental issues. Plus, I learned most of what I wanted to know about editorial work in producing The Friendly Naturalist, which has been a lush playground for learning. I’ve done everything from calls for submission and making the final selections, to design work using the Adobe Suite, to working with the printer and doing the accounting and distribution. It’s been great, and yes, it’s been practical.

Here’s a list of the courses I’ve taken and projects I’ve done:

Master of Arts, Department of English (Expected in December 2014)
Minor Field Plan: Nonfiction writing and environmental connections

Bibliography and Methods:
ENG 701 Mary Ellis Gibson
Seminar paper: Contemporary uses of commonplace books in daily writing practice

Literary Theory:
ENG 742 Risa Applegarth
Semester project: Book proposal for a manuscript advocating for contemporary use of commonplace books

Literature:
ENG 630 Karen Weyler, early American literature
Seminar paper: Manuscript culture in colonial Philadelphia
Learned how to use digital archives
ENG 730 Karen Kilcup, American environmental literature
Semester project: Team edit of anthology of 19th century nature writing for children
Recovery project: 19th century children’s magazines
ENG 734 Maria Sanchez, American women authors

Electives:
ENG 535 Terry Kennedy, Independent publishing / Literary entrepreneurship
Launched and produced seven quarterly issues of
The Friendly Naturalist
ENG 623 Craig Nova: Creative Nonfiction
Wrote three extended essays (have two sent out to journals, wish me luck!)
Fall 2014 ENG 746 Contemporary Rhetorical Theory Steven Yarbrough

Minor Field Plan – Environmental Connections to writing
ENG 622 Karen Kilcup, Writing and editing internship
Research assistant for monograph on 19th c. nature writing
Recovery work using the digital archives
MLS 600 Charlie Headington, Ecotheology
SOC 589 Sarah Daynes, Ethnographic research methods
Conducted field study at Lake Brandt Marina Park
HEA 608 Environmental Health (fall 2014)

2014 NCWN Spring Conference: editing workshop