Blogging on all channels will be light until autumn. You’ve probably noticed the crickets around here, so I thought I’d pop in and offer a peek at what I’ve been up to, which is by extension what I plan to do with the approaching summer.
Perhaps you’ve noticed my tweets about South Park Seattle and other neighborhoods? That’s because one of my favorite projects right now involves writing for neighborhoods around South Seattle. For these projects I get the opportunity to meet with local merchants and learn their stories. Then I do my best to tell those stories for print and web use. Our goal is to help attract new customers from around the Puget Sound area by sharing the unique goods and services to be found in these communities. Did you know that there are over 30 languages spoken in homes throughout the Duwamish Valley? There’s a load of history surrounding the Duwamish River. I’ll try to share the best things I learn along the way.
If you’ve missed the tweets and want to learn more about South Park Seattle, I recommend these starting points:
Poetry & Prose
The solstice is just a couple days off, and I feel good about staying on track with my writing goals for 2011. Sometimes it has been a challenge for me to set aside significant time for working my own creative material. Life happens. This year I’m spending more hours writing and editing my stories. I’m powering through spiral-bound journals with greater velocity. I’m also taking more time to submit one or two finished pieces—at least once a month.
For the poets in the audience: among my foci this year is prosody, and if you’re interested in honing the music of your poetry (or if you’re just among the curious who would like to learn ways to read and enjoy poetry) I suggest these reference materials as starting points (which I borrowed from Kitsap Regional Library bookmobile—love your library):
The poem’s heartbeat : a manual of prosody by Alfred Corn
I also checked out this book, but had to return it before I had time to read: All the fun’s in how you say a thing : an explanation of meter and versification by Timothy Steele. If I get back to it I’ll let you know what I think.
It wasn’t the refresher course in the rules of scansion that excited me about these books. What I did enjoy was each author’s use of examples, philosophical musings, and allusions to the evolution of language. It’s always a good to be reminded of the intimate relationship between poetry and breath. (It’s also nice to remember that I’m not the only over-analyzer on the planet.) If I had one wish about these books, it would be for less emphasis on poets and poetic forms that I already know. I’m on the quest for similar books which address poetic traditions and forms from other regions. If you know me, you know I’m not much of a gal for tradition. But there is much to be gained from the careful study of those predecessors who had way, way more self-discipline than I do.
Reads & Critiques
So what else am I reading? The stack is tall, but my favorite interest this year is slipstream. I blame it on the folks at GUD (review here) and a cappella zoo (review here). Years ago someone told me I was writing magic realism, which was before I’d even heard that it was a genre folks wrote to. Now that I’m a more of an active reader, I’m curious to learn about the evolutions of speculative fiction and slipstream. What I know is that I love well-done specfic and slipstream, and I’d like to learn to write a story that’s as effective as it is ethereal. If you’re interested in slipstream, I recommend this title (originally recommended by a cappella zoo): Feeling very strange : the Slipstream anthology, edited by James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel.
Part of the reason I’ve returned more than a few unread library books is that I’ve gone into critique partner overdrive. It started last winter when I wanted to add a couple people to my critique exchanges to help keep me active. May rolled around and I had somehow accrued 10 critique partners, including one full manuscript exchange (not a short story but a rather ambitious novel). What I love about critiquing is not just reading newly-forming work, and not just challenging myself to share feedback that’s useful, but the act of the exchange itself. I think it makes me feel alive as a writer to trade with someone else who’s hacking away at the same mountain, hoping to strike a vein. Just remember, all ye who venture to pursue the full-manuscript critique: it’s worthwhile work, but you must be prepared to donate a significant chunk of your life to get it done.
Do you love trees? Sure you do! Blog, pod, vid, whatever medium you like, share a tree, orchard, garden, or forest from your neck of the woods. Then send us the permalink at the Festival of the Trees. Our monthly blog carnival is hosted at a different blog each month and celebrates trees in all their forms. The upcoming issue is our fifth birthday! That’s right – we’ve been blogging trees with folks from around the world for five years. Join the party at Dave Bonta’s blog Via Negativa.
If you’ve been reading my blogs these past years you know that for me, health and garden are intimately connected. While I didn’t finish moving the compost pile (did I mention that life—and the occasional flood—happens?), I did stick with my other health goals from 2010. I don’t do my qigong every morning, but I’m pleased to be in much better health this year, most especially because it means I can stay productive in my work. My new 2011 health goals include restarting my yoga/dance routine. I’m renting the upstairs of a farmhouse with big open floors, so it’s a great time to dust off my books from the Evergreen days and get my form back. The rental is located on a short neighborhood street with lots of trees, so my other simple goal is short, daily walks. I love being a writer, but it does require a fair amount of sitting. My final word for you all this summer: make time for recess.
welcome to the party – grab a shovel!
A happy intersection of events resulted in the planting of 15 trees at the homestead this March. Our new saplings were procured from the Pierce County Conservation District annual native tree and plant sale in Puyallup, Washington. I discovered their sale only just this year thanks to the magic and happenstance of the Internet.
These trees were lovingly planted during a wonderful spring rainstorm on March 14th, and with all the wet and wonderful forces of the waxing moon in Cancer to inspire them. Five Birches and ten Spruces are now growing where evergreens were removed some 15+ years ago by the original property owners. Our land is well suited to these tree species because it has lots of healthy, wet soil with good drainage.
If you follow the trio of trunks of the tallest hemlocks to the ground, you’ll see where the new trees are now tucked. The land dips down in the foreground, which will give the new trees a few years to get some height before the 10-year-old White pines, Douglas firs, Red cedars and Hemlocks overshadow them. The t-stakes visible in some of the pictures below were probably used for a horse corral; they will be reused in the future when we embark on the Great Chicken Adventure.
15 trees & 15 celebrations
1. For Mothers & Grandmothers: Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)
2. For Fathers & Grandfathers: Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis)
3. For the Festival of the Trees #58: celebrate tree celebrations!
5. For Arbor Day 2011: shovel-dance in the rain!
6. For the Spring Equinox: get out and dirty while robins sing the sun up.
7. For the International Year of Forests 2011: Forests for People! Reach into the Earth and connect.
8. Reparations: replace trees sacrificed for the foundation of a happy home.
9. Reparations: replace trees sacrificed for the satellite dish of an awesome internet connection.
10. Gratitude: give thanks for the gifts of health and friendship and work and fleeting wisdom.
11. Humility: give thanks for the gifts of lessons learned and challenges faced.
12. Friends Departed: sustain the memories of those who have shared their love and are now beyond us.
13. Friends Arrived: seed a little hope in the shade beneath a rock, see what grows out.
15. Just Because: because there is simply no such thing as ‘too many trees.’
Come out and party
with me! Soil your fingernails,
dig in, plant a tree!
November 2010 was marked by our first road trip through the Great Basin region of Utah and Nevada. For the Thanksgiving holiday we rented a vacation home in the Pinyon-Juniper woodlands outside of Cedar City, Utah.
The home offers dog-friendly trails among cedars (Juniperus osteosperma) and piñons (Pinus edulis), which we enjoyed with a fresh, cold snowfall at our elevation of 6,000+ feet.
These two tree species and their companion shrubs form low, wind-twisted, sun-hardened canopies, and grow in what sometimes appears to be 90% rock.
Shaggy-barked Utah juniper is known locally as a cedar, and is the namesake of Cedar City in southwest Utah. The bright blue-red berries are in fact the fibrous cones and an important food source for local wildlife. A fresh lick of white snow makes blues, reds, and greens shine bright against the sky.
Piñon, as I learned from locals, are harvested for pine nuts by members of the community to be sold on the commercial market. (How often have you thought about the effort that goes into that little packet of pine nuts from the grocery?)
There is a bit of plant lore available for cedars here, and piñon here. I would like to know more of the local stories about these trees, and I plan to do additional reading. (Future blog posts will include a list of the books which I collected at info stops during the road trip.) If you have a resource suggestion for southwest Utah plant lore, I invite you to share in the comments.
The cedar-piñon canopy is low and somewhat fragmented, which makes for a fun tree-fort-like forest. Clumps of trees form dense, shady stands which you’d have to belly-crawl to explore beneath. At the highest point on the trail lives the queen of the hill:
She presides over 360-degree views of the Great Basin rhythm where mountain follows valley in successive, colorful symphonies. The more time I spent in this region, the more I felt a growing (and welcome) sense of quiet. The Great Basin is a good setting to empty oneself and prepare to be receptive to new thoughts or projects.
We saw a lot of snow and drove a lot of ice during this trip, including a “blizzard-like” event in Cedar City, complete with blowing, swirling snow. Morning snow track reports revealed the nightly comings and goings of jackrabbit, deer, elk, raccoon, and a feline, although I doubt I was lucky enough to be tracking a lynx. (Note to self: must improve track identification skills).
I caught a few glimpses of jackrabbits which makes me believe that the locals were the black-tailed jackrabbits (Lepus Californicus), but I cannot be sure. In fact, had I known at the time that many hares turn white in winter, I might have had better luck spotting them! (The hawks clearly knew what was what, as we saw many hunting from the highway, plus one dino-sized bird, the identity of which remains a mystery).
Blog about trees and send your links for the next issue of the Festival of the Trees, hosted by Rebecca in the Woods. We’re looking for hosts from June forward. Got a blog and an interest in trees? Volunteer to host an issue of the Festival and grow a graft to your community of bloggers. Hosts from all disciplines and persuasions are welcome, as are fresh takes on trees and forests.
Plant geeks, high thee hence for botanical bounties à la Berry Go Round 37, courtesy of returning host The Phytophactor. (PS – Berry Go Round has open slots for hosts in 2011 as well. Volunteer your blog and your plant prowess!)
Forthcoming at Brainripples: more Utah road trip reports in coming weeks, some look backs at the 2010 garden, and satisfying book recommendations.