Literature Amid the Cypress and Eucalyptus

Some twenty of us carpooled down to Point Reyes National Seashore early one chilly fog-thick afternoon. We walked down (and then slowly up) some 300 steps to the lighthouse following our intrepid guide, marine biologist Sarah Allen, author of Marine Mammals of the Pacific Coast.She trained her scope on a flock of shore birds invisible to the naked eye. Soon , someone spotted a whale blow, the foamy exhalation of this giant majestic creature. We gasped and rushed to the best vantage point. Why does a group of otherwise fairly serious adults seem to melt at the sight of whales? Is some basic creaturely connection at work?

Are the boundaries between humans, “animals,” “nature” really boundaries at all? What are our  responsibilities to our fellow creatures, to our island home? These and other questions were discussed during a lively, colorful, musical, literary and delicious conference we attended: Geography of Hope 2015. Some of our all-time favorite writers on women and the environment gave presentations: Susan Griffin, author of the groundbreaking work: Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her which birthed the eco-feminist movement; Rebecca Solnit whose recent bestseller The Faraway Nearby gained much critical acclaim; Kathleen Dean Moore, co-chair of the conference, whose Moral Ground: Ethical Action for the Planet is a must read; and Gretel Ehrlich whose stunning Solace of Open Spaces is just one of some 14 powerful works. Award-winning poet/activists Brenda Hillman and Robert Hass read from their moving, engaged and lyrical works.

We were introduced to writers we want to read: Ann Pancake, whose novel Strange As This Weather Has Been describes a West Virginia family devastated by mountain-top removal. Her new collection of stories, Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley is on our spring must-read list. Also Camille Dungy, poet of Smith Blue; and Robin Wall Kimmerer, environmental biologist, author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. (Order any of these from Canio’s and get 10% off).

Session questions asked: “What is the work of a writer in a wounded world? What are women’s gifts and responsibilities in the work against carbon catastrophe? What are the metaphors we need for a new world?” We met enormously talented, committed, friendly, hospitable, concerned people. We ate well, sang (slightly off key), laughed, shed a tear or two, worried about the drought, recycled. We thought about what could be, and committed to do our part toward a more sustainable future.

Kudos to Kate Levinson and Steve Costa owners of Point Reyes Books, an exceptional independent bookshop in the heart of town. These two courageous souls are the energy and inspiration behind this extraordinary conference. Since 2008, Kate and Steve have presented outstanding literary festivals that celebrate what’s best about the creative human spirit. Live well & love Earth!

See more about the conference at this Orion magazine blog post: https://orionmagazine.org/2015/04/postcard-from-california-re-storying-the-world/?utm_source=Fresh+April+1%2C+2015&utm_campaign=FRESH+4%2F01%2F15&utm_medium=email

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