What to Do Now?

Every morning, I post a haiku and photo on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. That observation in words and imagery of a moment in time, of the natural world, of a bit of beauty is my way of reminding us all to take time to engage with the real world beyond our digital devices. To be aware and mindful, to be grateful for the miracle that is life on this numinous, breathing planet. 

Wednesday morning, after the election, I was moved to post a statement in haiku form, rather than my usual poem. (I’ve written about the rules of classical haiku before; here’s a reminder if you’re interested.)

what to do now? 

stand for kindness, compassion, respect

for all on earth

That statement felt right at the time, and still feels right. My mission in life is to reconnect us all with nature and its power to heal, inspire, and inform. Research shows what we might guess intuitively: time spent in nature–the more natural the better–is a powerful cure, restoring our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Nature is also a teacher, showing us the value of diversity (ecosystems comprised of more kinds of species are generally healthier and more stabile than those with few), cooperation (species cooperate as much as they compete), and what I would express as hope (life finds creative ways to continue, though not always the way we would most prefer). 

As I know by my own experience with our formerly decaying industrial property and its block of urban creek, restoring nature can revitalize our neighborhoods and communities, clean the water and air we depend on, and provide homes and food for the wild species who are our partners in making earth a nurturing place. It can in fact, remind us that miracles are possible, given time, thoughtful action, and a loving and persistent commitment to the work. 

So as I’ve gone through this post-election week, writing, talking with friends and family, hugging strangers, and taking long walks around Santa Fe, I’ve kept that haiku-form statement in my mind. It helps to have something positive to focus on. 

Today I spent some time with the migrating salmon sculpture that Richard loved to visit whenever we came to Santa Fe. I thought about how salmon smell their way home to their natal streams from thousands of miles out in the open ocean, how they swim upstream to get to their spawning grounds, leaping waterfalls if necessary.

And I thought about these carved granite salmon sculptures, forever swimming upstream in the waterless high desert. “Doing the work” as my friend and fellow writer Steve Edwards said tonight on Twitter. 

I am re-committing myself to doing my work, to my mission to reconnect we humans with nature, our home and teacher. I am more determined than ever to do that work with kindness, compassion, and respect for all. With, as I like to say, my heart outstretched as if it were my hand. 

Walking home to the casita where I am staying this month thanks to the generosity of the Women’s International Study Center, I looked overhead and noticed that next year’s leaf buds are already swelling on the cottonwood trees. Those cottonwood trees are doing the work, steadily continuing in the business of life–making food, growing, healing their wounds, reproducing, and when the time comes to move on, moving on to leave room for new life. 

That’s heartening. Life continues. 


If you’re in northern New Mexico, please join me and my fellow WISC resident, playwright DS Magid, for a presentation about our work at Collected Works Bookstore this Wednesday, November 16, at 6:00 pm. DS and a local actor will read her 10-minute play about May Sarton and the boulder in her garden, and then DS will talk about her project here, a longer play on Sarton and gender issues, among other themes. (A strikingly relevant theme.) I’ll talk about the book I’m working on, The Ditch & The Meadow: The Power of Native Plants and Passionate Plantswomen to Restore Communities and Mend the World. (Also pretty darned relevant.) I hope to see you there!

The Gift of a Month in Santa Fe

I’m back in Santa Fe and beginning a month-long fellowship at the Women’s International Study Center. It’s an honor–really a miracle–to have the gift of time and space to simply research, read and write for a month, with no obligation other than to give one program on my work, tentatively scheduled for mid-November at my favorite Santa Fe bookstore, Collected Works

The casita where I’m staying is around the corner from Acequia Madre House, the home of the Study Center, and the real-life historic adobe that was home to three generations of interesting and talented women–artists, businesswomen, preservationists–whose Santa Fe legacy began in the 1880s.

The three women of Acequia Madre House

Even though none of them lived in Santa Fe year-round, the three, Eva Scott Féneys (1849-1930), her daughter, Leonora Scott Muse Curtin (1879-1972), and her daughter, Eva’s granddaughter, Leonora Frances Curtin Paloheimo (1903-1999), were influential in the arts and cultural life of the city they adopted as their own. 

My bedroom at the casita

The casita where I’m staying is an adobe house bigger than my place in Salida (it’s got three bedrooms and two baths) that looks to have been built in the early 1900s, and has been well-kept up. The center has furnished it with everything a resident might need to be comfortable, down to books and a wifi network, dishes, and even art, including some by the three women. 

The living room (yup, that’s a working kiva fireplace!)

The kitchen, my favorite inside hang-out… 

I’m fortunate to be sharing the casita with one other fellow at the end of her month-long residence, Stanlie James, a feminist scholar of african-american studies and gender studies at Arizona State University, and the new Vice-provost for Inclusion and Community Engagement. She’s as warm and funny and smart and interesting as the picture suggests, and after 24 hours of sharing the casita, I feel blessed by her perspective and company.

Stanlie James

The third fellow, playwright, composer actress, and poet Deborah Magid will arrive sometime in the coming week, overlapping for a few days with Stanlie.

This heavenly gift of “time out” in a wonderfully comfortable setting to focus on just one project is thanks to both WISC and the Paloheimo Foundation. Huge gratitude to WISC and its Executive director, Laurel Savino, and Program Associate Jordan Young, for the opportunity!

So that’s where I am, and what I’ll be doing for the next four weeks. I’ve had a great first full day of my fellowship, including writing the first 500 words of a piece called “Imagine Being a Plant,” partly inspired by friend and extraordinary author Craig Childs‘ book, The Animal Dialogues. The essay will go into the book I’m here to work on, so it’s a great start. And I walked about five miles, exploring the neighborhood. 

Now it’s time for dinner (a ham and green chile croissant with a salad of baby organic greens–yum!) and then some reading before bed. Tomorrow I may spend some time in the little back yard, sketching fall leaves. I could get used to this life… 🙂

The sunny little backyard with an apricot tree just losing its leaves