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October 2015

Autumn color

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''When we are writing, or painting, or composing, we are, during the time of creativity, freed from normal restrictions, and are opened to a wider world, where colors are brighter, sounds clearer, and people more wondrously complex than we normally realize.''

- Madeleine L'Engle (Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life)

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"I have always felt charged with the safekeeping of all unexpected items of worldly or unworldly enchantment, as though I might be held personally responsible if even a small one were to be lost. But it is not easy to communicate anything of this nature.

"A writer must reflect and interpret his society, his world; he must also provide inspiration and guidance and challenge. Much writing today strikes me as deprecating, destructive, and angry. There are good reasons for anger, and I have nothing against anger. But I think some writers have lost their sense of proportion, their sense of humor, and their sense of appreciation. I am often mad, but I would hate to be nothing but mad: and I think I would lose what little value I may have as a writer if I were to refuse, as a matter of principle, to accept the warming rays of the sun, and to report them, whenever, and if ever, they happen to strike me."

- E.B. White  ("The Art of the Essay No. 1,"  The Paris Review, Fall 1969)

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''I don’t pretend to understand this great mystery in which we participate.  Whether we call it life, cosmos, creation, Allah, God, or some other grand name, no label is large enough. I merely try to learn as much about it as I can, during my brief time under the sun. So I study what the most perceptive of our ancestors have discovered -- artists and scientists as well as spiritual seekers.  I turn outward to nature and to human artifacts, and inward to the images and voices that arise in silence.  The louder the world becomes, with its relentless demands and messages, the more precious silence becomes. I can’t prove that what emerges within me arises from a source beyond the boundaries of my own skin, but I believe this is so. Simone Weil wrote that 'Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.' What I pay attention to might be my breath, a sentence in a book, a butterfly on a zinnia blossom, my granddaughter’s face, a skein of music or a skein of geese. I may do my seeking outdoors or indoors, alone or in company, but always the goal is the same: to deepen my awareness of this encompassing mystery."

- Scott Russell Sanders ("The Spirituality of Nature," Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Spring 2013)

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''Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.''

- Elizabeth Gilbert (Big Magic: Creative Living)

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Tunes for a Monday Morning

Twa Corbies by Arthur Rackham

This week, the Celtic year comes to a close, the clocks are turned back (at least here in England), and the nights are drawing in. Halloween is approaching: the time of the year when the borders between the worlds grown thin, when the dead return, the old gods stir, and the faeries ride in procession through mortal lands. In honor of the dark, dangerous aspects of British folklore, our music this week is drawn from the bloodier side of the ballad tradition: songs of murder and mayhem, seduction and sorrow, treachery and tragedy. Such ballads are our ancestors' version of the horror stories and films that so many people shiver to today.

Above, "The Outlandish Knight" (also known as "Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight"), Child Ballad No. 4, recently performed by singer/songwriter Kate Rusby, from Yorkshire. If you are unfamiliar with the Child Ballads, go here for a previous post on the subject.

Below, "Johnny o' Bredislee" (also known as "Johnny the Brine"), Child Ballad No. 114. This version comes from Aleyn, the eleventh solo album by the great June Tabor, from Warwickshire. No one does dark balladry better than June.

Above,  a fine rendition of "Twa Corbies" ("Two Ravens"), Child Ballad No. 26, by Old Blind Dogs, from north-east Scotland. It's from their second album, Close to the Bone.

 Below, "The Bold Knight" performed by Seth Lakeman, from Devon, backed up by the BBC Concert Orchestra. It's an original song in ballad form, reminiscent of "Twa Corbies" but based on a local Dartmoor folk tale.

Above, "Reynardine," a broadside ballad dating back at least to the 18th century. This version comes from Country Life, the ninth studio album by Show of Hands, who are also from Devon. It's a song about a murderous, shape-shifting were-fox, related to the Mr. Fox folk.

Below, "Clyde Waters" (also known as "The Drowned Lovers"), Child Ballad No. 216, a bittersweet song that crossed the ocean centuries ago with Scottish immigrants to the New World, and then turned into a bluegrass ballad in the Appalachian mountains of eastern America. It's performed here by Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer , from Vermont and Colorado respectively, and can be found on their album Child Ballads (2013), which I highly recommend.

If you'd like more malicious music this morning, try June Tabor's "Hughie Graeme," Alela Diane & Alina Hardin's "Matty Groves," Martin's Carthy's "The Famous Flower of Serving Men," Lucy Ward's Patti-Smith-like rendition of "Lord Randall" and his eels; Emily Smith's performance of a perversely upbeat version of "Twa Sisters," and Jim Moray's performance of the extremely creepy "Long Lankin." The painting above is an illustration of "Twa Corbies" by Arthur Rackham.

For fairy ballads in the run-up to Hallowe'en, I recommend this episode of Tamsin Rosewell's folk radio show: "My Folk and Their Friends, on the subject of Fairies and Folklore."


Re-kindling the fire within

The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo

Frida Khalo painting in bed(Information on the pictures here can be found in the picture captions; run your cursor over the images to see them.)

In her beautiful Guest Post on this blog, Nomi McLeod discussed the ways "The Handless Maiden" fairy tale spoke to her at a difficult time of life, and how the art she created based on the tale both documented her journey through the dark of the woods and helped her to comprehend it. This is a subject that particularly interests me: the means by which Tree of Hope, Remain Strong by Frida Khalowriters, painters, and other artists respond to trauma, crisis, and grief, alchemizing hard experience into story, image, and other creative works.

There are so many different ways this occurs. Sometimes the transformation from life experience to art is immediate and direct: an outpouring of creative energy in the middle of the crisis as it unfolds. Frida Khalo's self-portraits are one example of this, sometimes painted from the confines of her sickbed; another is the "savage creative storm" that caused Rilke to write Sonnets to Orpheus upon hearing the news of a family friend's death. I had a similar experience once myself, after learning that my stepfather had died: working night and day for almost two weeks, I produced, unplanned and almost without conscious thought, my "Surviving Childhood" series of drawings. (These are very large charcoal drawings made on rolls of butcher's paper, and unsuitable for reproducing here.) The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde is another example of work produced in the eye of the storm; as is the art created by Henri Matisse after an operation left him bed- and chair-bound; Angelo Merendino's "The Battle We Didn't Choose," a photographic response to his wife's diagnosis with breast cancer; Hannah Laycock's "Perceiving Identity" series about living with multiple sclerosis; the final essays of Oliver Sacks, written in the last months of his terminal illness; and the work of Mohammed Al-Amari and other Syrian artists documenting the ongoing refugee crisis....to name just a few.

Henri Matisse working from bed

The Sorrows of the King by Henri Matisse

It is rare, however, that a serious illness or other crisis allows the time, space, and temper of mind required for art-making, and so the second category is a larger one: art in response to a crisis that has ended, but that still feels somehow unresolved. Through this kind of work, we return to the dark parts of our lives and transform our muddles of emotion and reaction into something more ordered, more comprehensible, more universal...perhaps even beautiful, if painfully so. Nomi's "Handless Maiden" falls in this category, as does the unflinching work of German artist Käthe Kollwitz in response to World War I, or the devastating "Hiroshima Panels" of Japanese artists Iri & Toshi Maruki. More recent example include Beckie Kravetz's powerful "Witness" sculpture installation; Meg Zivahl-Fox's "Nettles and Deliverance" collages (using fairy tale imagery in response to childhood trauma); Richard Johnson's heart-breaking "Weapon of Choice," a photographic series on verbal abuse and bullying (in response to his own childhood experiences); and CELL, a puppetry project exploring Motor Neurone Disease. (Two of the puppeteers behind the project lost family members to MND.)

Kathe Kollwitz

Kathe Kollwitz

Rescue, from the Hiroshima panels of Iri & Toshi Maruki

There are many fine examples in literature too, especially in the genre of personal essay and memoir, including If This is a Man by Primo Levi, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Dideon, One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman, Slow Motion by Dani Shapiro, Paula by Isabel Allende, Hillbilly Gothic by Adrienne Martini, Eating the Underworld by Doris Brett, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Early Spring by Tove DitlevsenWhy Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Wintersen, I Want to Be Left Behind by Brenda Peterson, Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams, The Woman Who Watches Over the World by Linda Hogan, The Color of Water by James M. McBride, and numerous others. When we turn to the field of poetry, there are almost too many examples to list, but I'll mention two that have touched me deeply: Jane Kenyon's poems on her battle with depression (found in Constance and Otherwise), and Jane Yolen's The Radiation Sonnets, written during her husband's treatment for cancer, and after his death. I also recommend "Finding Poetry in Illness," a moving article by Jennifer Nix.

Memoirs

Personal experience is often used in the creation of fiction too, of course, although here the alchemical magic is so strong that we're not always aware (nor should we be aware) of the ways in which strands of the author's own life may be woven with other material to create the tapestry of a novel or story. One interesting example is Jeanette Winterson's Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, in which the main character shares the author's name and some of the details of her life -- and yet this is a work of fiction, not memoir, with autobiographical elements skillfully juggled and altered in the service of art. Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina is another excellent book of this type, as is Heinz Insu Fenkl's gorgeous Memories of my Ghost Brother: published as a novel in one edition and as a "magical realist memoir" in another, but actually falling into the interstices between those two literary forms. A fourth example is Jo Walton's wonderful fantasy novel Among Others -- which, she is clear to note, is not straight autobiography with magical trimmings but a "mythologization" of her Welsh childhood and family dynamics, written (to use Rilke's phrase) in a "savage create storm" of 36 writing days.

From Witness by Beckie Kravetz

Although powerful work can be born of hard life experience, there are also times when calamity silences us: when shock, or grief, or sheer emotional exhaustion serves to snuff out one's creativity altogether. For those of us used to moving through life by breathing in the world and breathing out art, this silence is an unsettling, even terrifying thing. It is not quite the same thing as depression; it's more like finding the inner room where we go to create is now shuttered and bolted against us. It's like trying to speak without language. It's like living without breathing. It's not living at all.

From ''The Battle We Didn't Choose'' by Angelo & Jennifer Merendino

Perhaps the alchemical process of creativity has not stopped altogether at such times; perhaps it's still moving, but moving so slowly it does not appear to be moving at all. Our creative daemon has gone underground: not hibernating but germinating, like a seed buried deep in the frozen earth, gathering strength and preparing to break through the soil when the proper time comes. Meanwhile, the winter drags on and we move through our days unaware of things stirring below. Winter is bleak, and endless, and we worry: What if this time the spring doesn't come?

Stray by Jeanie Tomanek

I think of trauma as cold, and sharp, with edges that hurt when you bump up against it. It's the sliver of glass from the Snow Queen fairy tale, and the kiss that turns Kay's heart to ice, making him numb to love, to passion, to everything that he once held dear. And yet, even numbness has its use. In a crisis, sometimes we just have to keep moving, putting one foot in front of another, weighted with burdens too heavy to carry but which we must not put down. At such times, it can feel like a mercy to leave the weight and heat of emotion behind us. There are decisions to make and things to be done and miles to cross before we can sleep; there's no time for emotion, no room for it in the basket of boulders we carry.

The Angel of Moving Safely Through the Darkness by Terri WindlingThe problem here is that inspiration arises from an inner fire that feeds on all the stuff our lives: both the dark and the bright, our emotions included. Take emotion away and the fire diminishes. It sputters. It goes out altogether. Numb, like Kay, we may think we are fine, we may think we are coping magnificently... but we sit down to work and the fire just isn't there. And that's hardly surprising.

What is a surprise (or so it was to me) is that the end of a crisis and the thawing of the heart are two things that don't always happen in tandem. A long illness has ended, or a painful problem resolved, or grief has finally loosened its grip and we've emerged from the deep dark forest at last, ready to live Happily Every After...or at least to enjoy a hard-won period of calm and creative renewal. Instead, we just sit there, frozen and numb, not even moving forward now, creativity gone (and our sense of self with it), smiling tightly when dear friends say: At last it's all over! We're glad that you're back!

But in fact, we're not back, at least not fully. Spring is here, but our souls are still clenched underground. We must call them back up to the light.

Life Vs Death by Nomi McLeod

In an earlier series of posts, we looked at illness as a mythic/metaphoric journey to the Underworld and back -- and I'd like to propose that the journey through crisis or grief might be viewed in a similar manner. The process unfolds Cradle by Nomi McLeodin mythic time, or wild time, not on clock time, on schedule, on human demand. It's a journey as perilous as it is profound and it needs to be acknowledged. It needs to be honored. We cannot return from the mythic Underworld as precisely the person we were when we started, and we do not return as the same artist either. Coaxing the soul back up to the sun involves learning just who it is we've become, and what fairy tale gifts we have brought from below. This post-crisis process cannot be rushed; it needs quiet reflection, solitude, time. And yet time, in our pressured and fast-paced world, is precisely what we rarely have.

For those of us working professionally in the arts, the strictures of the marketplace require that work be produced in a regular manner. We spend years mastering the discipline required to create works of art Bunny Maiden with Scars by Terri Windlingto schedule and deadline -- and when that discipline fails us, when the fire's been dampened and the work just will not come, what on earth does one do?

I wish I had an easy answer to that question...or even a difficult one. But every artist is different, every journey is different, and each of us must discover our personal way of re-kindling the fire (though in a perfect world, a charitable foundation aimed at giving working artists the time and resources to do so would not go amiss). What does help, I think, is to recognize the process occurring; to be patient (both with yourself and with others' reactions); and to accept, without shame, the problems that arise when deep healing processes conflict with careers run on clock-time, not soul-time. It also helps to know that other creative artists have gone into the dark before us, and returned, and then burned brighter than ever -- often using the Underworld's painful gifts to enable their very best work.

The Tree of Doors by Meg Zivahl-Fox

One book I keep returning to lately is "An Unreal House Filled With Real Storms" by Elizabeth Knox: a slim volume containing an essay composed for the 2014 Inaugural Margaret Mahy Memorial Lecture. In this powerful piece, Elizabeth weaves the story of her mother's final illness and several other hard life experiences into reflections on writing, on the nature of genre, and on the work of her friend Margaret Mahy. The essay has been a touchstone for me not because it gives me concrete answers or instructions to follow in times of hardship, but because it shows how another writer, and one I respect, has grappled with such issues too.  I've re-read my copy so many times now -- usually on coffee breaks in the woods -- that it's worn, leaf-strewn, coffee-stained, and dog-eared at favorite passages...such as this one, in which Elizabeth relates a conversation with her husband, Fergus:

"A few weeks back I was trying to explain to Fergus how I see things differently now. How my world view has changed. It had been heroic, by which I mean that everything, obligingly, had a shapeliness -- everything fell into story -- and revealed itself that way, becoming beautiful, and habitable for heroes. Then I got sad; sad for such a sustainable period of time that my world view became an abject one.

"The context of the conversation was this: what the hell could I say in my Inaugural Margaret Mahy Memorial Lecture, with the tectonic plates of my world view still in motion? What could I say when, as I saw it, it was my job to be inspiring? How was I ever to find inspiration in my discouraged soul?

"In trying to communicate this to Fergus, I began thinking about what I learned from my mother -- and not from her death. What she tried, from my infancy, to consciously impart: the vital goodness of kindness and civility in life."

Kindness and civility, yes. Potent magic for the thawing of hearts.

The Inaugural Margaret Mahy Memorial Lecture by Elizabeth Knox, published by Victoria University Press

Crumbs by Jeanie Tomanek

Everyone goes through the deep dark woods at some point in life; artists are not unique in this. But the impact of the journey on the work we do, and even on our ability to do it, makes the questions we ask in trauma's wake somewhat different than in other professions. After a searing experience, how do we re-open ourselves to inspiration? How can we bear such vulnerability? And yet, if we stay protectively closed, how will we bear the alternative: living our lives with our fires banked and the door to art locked against us?

With these thoughts in mind, I came across the following passage by M.C. Richards, from her book Centering: In Pottery, Poetry, and the Person. She's talking about love, but her words seem to me to apply to creativity as well. (For some of us -- and Richards is one, I think -- they are two sides of the same coin.) She asks:

Crossing an Iced-Over Stream by Gina Litherland"How are we to love [and how are we to create] when we are stiff and numb and distinterested? How are we to transform ourselves into limber and soft organisms lying open the world at the quick? By what process and what agency do we perform the Great Work, transforming lowly materials into gold? Love, like its counterpoint, Death, is a yielding at the center...figured forth in intelligent cooperation, sensitive congeniality, physical warmth. At the center the love must live.

"One gives up all one has for this. This is the love that resides in the self, the self-love, out of which all love pours. The fountain, the source. At the center. One gives up all the treasured sorrow and self-mistrust, all the precious loathing and suspicion, all the secret triumphs of withdrawal. One bends in the wind. There are many disciplines that strengthen one's athleticism for love [and creativity]. It takes all one's strength. And yet it takes all one's weakness too. Sometimes it is only by having one's so-called strengths pulverized that one is weak enough, strong enough, to yield. It takes the power of nature in one which is neither strength nor weakness but closer perhaps to virtu, person, personalized energy. Do not speak about strength and weakness, manliness and womanliness, aggressiveness and submissiveness. Look at this flower. Look at this child. Look at this rock with lichen growing on it. Listen to this gull scream as he drops through the air to gobble the bread I throw and clumsily rights himself in the wind. Bear ye another's burdens, the Lord said, and he was talking law.

"Love is not a doctrine, Peace is not an international agreement. Love and Peace are beings who live as possibilities in us."

After the Deluge by Gina Litherland

During periods when I've been unable to cross through the doorway into the room of creation, I've taken courage in knowing that others have also stood at that threshold and found a way in. Their entrance might not be one I can use, but I've learned I am capable of finding my own.

If you've been on that journey, if you are on it now, then this is the thing that I want most to tell you: You have my compassion, and you have my respect. The winter does end. Hearts thaw. Seeds grow. A spark hits dry tinder, and the fire roars.

Coyote Woman by Terri Windling

Pictures: (from top to bottom) "The Two Fridas" & "Tree of Hope, Remain Strong" by Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), and a photograph of Kahlo painting while recovering from one of her many operations. "The Sorrow of the King" by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) , and a photograph of Matisse at work even though confined to bed."Hunger: Mother & Sleeping Children" and "Survivors: Widows & Orphans" by Käthe Kollwitz' (1867-1945). "Rescue," one of the Hiroshima panels of Iri & Toshi Maruki. Recommended works of memoir, poetry, & fiction. Figures from "Witness," a sculptural installation by Beckie Kravetz. A photograph  by Angelo Merendino from The Battle We Didn't Choose project. "Stray" by Jeanie Tomanek. "The Angel of Moving Safely Through the Darkness" from my Angel series of paintings. "Life Vs. Death" and "Cradle" by Nomi McLeod. "Bunny maiden with scars," from one of my hospital sketchbooks. "The Tree of Doors" from Nettles and Deliverance by Meg Zivahl-Fox. The Victoria University Press edition of the Inaugural Margaret Mahy Memorial Lecture by Elizabeth Knox. "Crumbs" by Jeanie Tomanek. "Crossing an Iced-Over Stream" and "After the Deluge" by Gina Litherland. "Coyote Woman" from my Desert Spirits series.

Words: The passage by Elizabeth Knox is from An Unreal House Filled With Real Storms (Victoria University Press, 2014). The passage by M.C. Richards (1916-1999) is from Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person (Wesleyan, 1989). All rights by Elizabeth Knox and the estate of M.C. Richards. All rights to the words and pictures above reserved by the authors and artists or their estates.


Giving back

Rowan tree in autumn

I'm working on a long post for tomorrow, so for today just this:

"The effort to know and care for and speak from your home ground is a choice about living as well as about writing. In that effort you are collaborating with everyone else who keeps track, everyone who works for the good of the community and the land. None of us is likely to fulfill the grand ambition of Joyce's young artist, Stephen Dedalus, to forge in the smithy of our souls the conscience of our race; but we might help to forge the conscience of a place, and that seems to me to be ambition enough for a lifetime's labor. Trees tap into the soil, drawing nourishment and returning fertility. Capturing sunlight, breaking down stone, dropping a mulch of leaves, replenishing the air, trees improve the conditions for other species and for the saplings that will replace them. So might writers, through works of imagination, give back to the places that feed them a more abundant life. "

- Scott Russell Sanders ("Writing from the Center")

Oak elder in autumn

The pictures today: Tilly under rowan and oak on an early morning walk on Nattadon Hill, brushing past rosehips and under the oak boughs. Bracken turns orange and gold all around us. Blown like a seed from New York to Boston to the Arizona desert and rooted at last on a green hill in Devon, this is the place that I strive to give back to, in stories and paintings alike.

Rosehips by Nattadon leat

Black dog under the oak boughsWords: The passage above is from "Writing from the Center," an essay in Scott Russell Sander's collection of the same name (Indiana University Press, 1995). The poem in the picture captions is by Denise Levertov (1923-1997)  from This Great Unknowing: Last Poems (New Directions, 1999).  All rights reserved by Scott Sanders and the Levertov estate.


Wild language

Autumn on the Commons

I've discovered the work of Scott Russell Sanders this year, and I've been slowly making my way through his many fine books. Like Wendell Berry, he's rooted in the soil and culture of the American midwest, and his writing dwells on the importance of knowing the language of our local landscape, wherever that may be, town and country alike: its weather and waterways, its flora and fauna, it's more-than-human history, its stories and folklore.

"The challenge for any writer," he says, "is to be faithful at once to your vision and your place, to the truth you have laboriously found and the people this truth might serve. In order to work, I must withdraw into solitude, must close my door against the world, close my mind against the day's news. But unless the writing returns me to the life of family, friends, and neighbors with renewed energy and insight, then it has failed. My writing is an invitation to community, an exploration of what connects to one another and to the earth.

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"I love words," Saunders continues, "yet I love the world more. I do not think of language as thread for a private game of cat's cradle, but as a web flung out, attaching me to the creation. Of course the medium is constantly debased. Television, advertising, government, and schools have so cheapened or inflated language that many writers doubt whether it can still be used in the search for understanding. But knowledge has never been handed to us like pebbles or potatoes; we have always had to dig it up for ourselves. All of culture, writing included, is a struggle over how we should imagine our lives. 

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"Stories are containers in which we carry some of those imaginings. They are the pots and bowls and baskets we use for preserving and sharing our discoveries. Whether in fiction, film, poetry, drama, or essays, stories tell about human character and action, and the consequences of character and action; by making stories and reading them, we are testing ways of being human. It seems idle to protest, as many critics do, that stories are artificial, since everything we make is shot through with artifice. To protest that experience is scattered, not gathered neatly as in stories, is no more than to say that seeds and berries are scattered, not gathered as in the bowl we have filled for supper.

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"Without venturing into metaphysics, where I would soon get lost, I need to declare that I believe literature is more than self-regarding play. It gestures beyond itself to the universal, of which you and I are vanishingly small parts. The moves in writing are not abstract, like those in algebra or chess, for words cannot be unhooked from the world. They come freighted with memory and feeling. Linguists describe our ordinary speech as 'natural' language, to distinguish it from the formal codes of mathematics or computers or logic. The label is appropriate, a reminder that everyday language is wild; no one defines or controls it. You can never force words to mean only and exactly what you wish them to mean, for they escape every trap you lay for them.

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"Insofar as my writing is important, it gains that importance from what I am witness to. I have written from the outset with a pressing awareness of the world's barbarities -- the bombing of cities, the oppression of the poor, extinction of species, exhaustion of soil, pollution of water and air, murder, genocide, racism, war. If I stubbornly believe that nature is resilient, love is potent, that humankind may be truly kind, I do so in the face of this cruelty and waste. Without denying evil, literature ought to reduce the amount of suffering, in however small a degree, and not only human suffering but that of all creatures. Although we cannot live without causing harm, we could cause much less harm than we presently do.

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"The desire to articulate a shared world is the root impulse of literature as it is of science. Individual scientists, like writers, may be cutthroat competitors, out for their own glory; but science itself, the great cathedral of ideas slowly rising, is a common enterprise. Perhaps the symbol for literature should be a rambling library, to which each of us adds a line, a page, a few books. Whether one is a scientist or a writer, the universe outshines those of us who glimpse a bit of it and report on what we see....

"My steady desire has been to wake up, not to sleepwalk through this brief miraculous life."

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The pictures today: an autumn walk on the village Commons on a golden and misty morning

Writing from the Center by Russell Scott SandersWords: The passage above is from "Letter to a Reader," an essay in Writing from the Center by Scott Russell Sanders (University of Indiana Press, 1995), which is probably my favorite of his books (if I had to choose). The poem tucked into the picture captions is by Denise Levertov (1923-1997), from O Taste and See (New Directions, 1964). All rights reserved by Scott Sanders and the Levertov estate. Previous Scott Sanders posts: "Down by the Riverside," "The Blessing of Otters,"  The Common Life," and "Opening to the Other."