Hello Good People!
The transition to our new life here in the great MN continues. We've spent the month of August swimming in the lake, harvesting incredible produce from the garden, and putting food up for the winter. In the last few weeks I have canned Yellow Tomato Jam, Corn Chowder, and many jars of Arabiatta Sauce. It is the most satisfying kind of work: hard and finite. I look forward to the taste of summer that I will treat myself to in November, December, January, and on.
And like any transition, I find myself thinking very hard about things that are very hard to think about. Yesterday Sam took me and Finn and Siobhan on a long walk through a restored wetland protected and cultivated by Saint John's University. We walked slowly on a tilting boardwalk through the tall grasses and shallow green water smelling of manure, that fecund smell of deteriorating biomatter. The boardwalk became a path through dark Eastern Hardwoods. And just beyond the ridge I could see another forest begin, the white grey of the boreal forest. Sam tells me this collision of forests is the mark of biodiversity resulting from living at the very point where the glaciers descended and would go no further. Our path continued into a restored Oak Savanna and Prairie melange. At that point, the mosquitoes became ferocious and I was no longer waxing poetic.
But I came away feeling very deeply this same sense I have had now for months - that I am standing in the flow of time, and watching it stretch out behind me and watching it stretch out before me. And there are small signs - how my hands are beginning to age. And there are very very big signs - how my three month-old daughter can laugh and stare and seem to see right through me. How in a weird way, my son Finn seems to know me better than anyone (is that a first kid thing?). I feel lucky and I despair my own death, and I feel carefree and I am burdened by choices, all at the same time. Now isn't that living?
Then this morning I am listening to MPR, hearing the economy defined as "everything that people make and do and buy and sell," and it occurs to me again how insane capitalism is when you consider how precious and finite life is. The very idea that a people's economy - that which creates and impacts a family's livelihood - could be predicated on how many unnecessary things can be invented, patented, produced, marketed, sold, bought, consumed, accumulated, wasted, and thrown away. It is curious as a practice, but it is appalling that such a practice can be defended or worse: normalized.
I am reading an incredible story, The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, of his journey through Australia in the effort of understanding the Aboriginal's practice of singing their country and keeping it alive and whole through the continued songs that march every inch of ground. The book was written in the early 80's. Hear this message from one of the white men Chatwin spoke to while on his journey: "Today, he said, more than ever before, men had to learn to live without things. Things filled men with fear. The more things they had, the more they had to fear. Things had a way of riveting themselves on to the soul and then telling the soul what to do."
And later, a central figure in the book, Arkady says, "The world, if it has a future, has an ascetic future."
So I am challenging myself to an ascetic future, to consider how to do more making and doing, more remaking and trading and giving, and less buying and selling and accumulating and throwing away. More generosity, and less hoarding. Now isn't that living?
In this edition of Iambrown:
- Vote for East Side Community High School
- The Great Republic of Rough and Ready - New Album!!
- Dreaming Man, Face Down - New Book by Mark Conway
Vote for East Side Community High School!!
This comes by way of my dear friend Elise Stone of the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble. Her daugher is a student at East Side Community High School, which is located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. ESCH is eligible to become one of 20 schools that will receive half a million dollars from Kohls Cares, through a contest being run entirely on Facebook. The need to be in the top 20 of schools to receive the most votes, and right now they are ranked 54th. Currently, ESCH is the ONLY PUBLIC SCHOOL to have made it into the top 100 schools, and the only New York City public school to have made it this far. Unlike many of the private schools in the competition, ESCH doesn't have the resources to offer free iPods as incentives to get folks to vote, so the school's principal has been camping out in front of the school to raise awareness and get out the vote.
I had the privilege of working with staff at ESCH in 2008 when I learned about their 100% Respect program, and used many of the principles of their program in my work with the Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women, which was at that time housed in the same building.
Voting ends tomorrow, so VOTE TONIGHT!!
The Great Republic of Rough and Ready - New Album!!
My dear friends Elissa Spence and Sam Stein, the inestimable musicians who make up the band GRRREADY have released a new album, The Angel of Death. They play
"spare reimaginings of blues, folks, and country music."
If you are in the New York area, you can see them play at the following upcoming dates and locations in September:
9/12 Pete's Candy Store
9/15 The Tank, as part of their Puppet Playlist series
9/19 Asbury Methodist Church (Yonkers)
If you are outside of NYC, check them out online, and buy the new album. You won't be disappointed. I listen to these folks as often as I listen to Erykah Badu.
Dreaming Man, Face Down
Dreaming Man, Face Down, a new book of poems from Mark Conway, is a gorgeous and challenging meditation on death and dying. I have been reading Mark Conway's poetry for years (I have the privilege of his friendship because I happened to fall in love with his son), but I have only just begun understanding it since I have become a mother! It is deep, raw, irreverant, humorous, and electrifying. Poet Marie Howe says of his work, "Oh Lord, read this book. It made me laugh out loud and put my head in my hands. It made me look out the window and be glad."
Mark Conway will be giving a reading to celebrate the release of his second book on Friday, September 3rd at Micawber's in St. Paul, MN at 7pm. Be blown away.
You can buy the book on amazon, or from any big bookstore.
About the Author: Mark Conway is the author of Any Holy City which won the Gerald Cable Book Award and was short-listed for the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Slate, American Poetry Review, and Ploughshares. He lives in Avon, Minnesota and directs the Literary Arts Institute at the College of Saint Benedict.