Week 1 with Julianne Lutz Warren

I feel as if I’ve posted this everywhere, but I’m going to put it here as well. Julianne was awesome! Appreciate her work, her manner, her mind, her writing, her gentle listening . . . so much. All our institute faculty leaders meet with us for three days, followed by a field trip, and then the week-end, when we are to visit the area and work on our projects, due at the end of the month. I’ll miss Julianne, even though Simon Ortiz, our leader this week, will I’m sure also be wonderful.

I put this same post on the GWS Travel Blog, but I promise not to duplicate myself in the future….I’m catching up. Anyway, I recommend anyone to go here to read her paper “Music Beyond the Senses” (link below). She presented it on Tuesday of the first week. It was a fine, fine talk about hope and the environment, with bird songs–the hermit thrush, starling, albatross, and then after she finished her talk, a chorus of the three, along with other birds, endangered and some extinct.  I didn’t share this during the time when others were expressing their reactions, but I did tell Julianne afterwards. My mother, who loved nature almost as much as she loved music, was a devotee of birdsong. Her favorite may have been the thrush–almost from the start of Julianne’s talk, I felt my mother coming closer and closer, and finally she seemed to sit down beside me and to listen with me.

I thought I would tell Julianne this in a matter-of-fact way, as in, “Thanks, your talk let my mother in, and she thanks you, too.” But I was overcome with tears. Instead I said something about how we daughters become our mothers. It’s sometimes a bit of a shock when we, who thought ourselves such distinct beings, say things or react in ways that tell us how much a person’s voice, her gestures–the way she positively lit up when a thrush’s song interrupted a mundane moment and made it magnificent–are now internalized, through memory, and have altered who we are.

My mother would have been weeping through that talk. I didn’t know when I sat down in front of that Audubon painting what invocations were about to happen, what spirits might be within earshot–whether my mother was biding her time, seeking her entry–or whether I was the one longing–or whether the “Music beyond the senses” was pulling all of us to a place where something extraordinary might to happen.

After I got back to my room I was looking around for the phrase, “If rain is the Earth’s tears, then the Earth is inconsolable.” Julianne Warren’s talk:


I’m attending the NEH Rethinking the Land Ethic Faculty Institute in Flagstaff

Less than a week into the month-long NEH institute, and I’m learning so much. The readings are very good–how could they be other than depressing, but also stirring and beautiful. I came here to learn about sustainability and the humanities–and I am–but also about myself, my world. I guess that’s what it means. My reading list has gotten ridiculous, but I’m well into thinking about an essay of the same title as the course I’d like to develop and teach in the spring: Writing the River.

Just for instance, look at the work of Basia Irland: http://www.basiairland.com/bio/

Kodiak Ghazal

My “Kodiak Ghazal” just got accepted in the journal 5×5, coming out in the next week or so. Here it is:

Kodiak Ghazal

At dusk, the Kodiak reaches a heavy paw into the rushing stream—
the salmon a shower of gold and light against the darkening stream.

I see them rimmed in white, a snapshot from a dream, though sometimes
the bear looks up at me and then my heart is a roar that silences the stream.

Is she the Other or do I see myself hungry and full of purpose
pulling something from its known world, now a blooded stream?

She locks me with her stare, a whuffing at her curling lips, nose high,
body rocking as she rises above her hind legs, water streaming.

The eyes are ancient, close-set and keen for preying, body hot
and reeking of musk and earth and fish from that mountain stream.

Last night I felt the water slip along my sides, inhaled it and let it out,
racing reflections through a sun- and shade-splattered stream.

And tonight I had to choose between the sound of gasping and the raking
at my heart, bear them both or surrender one to the spirit stream.