Were-gild for a Taken Husband

If only life had turned him out like dandelion fluff—
by the hundreds, the thousands—out in the abundance
of mushroom spore, seahorse fry, ghost moth eggs.

Advertisements

2018 2016 August peach harvest2

for Mark

Never before has life spoken to me in such terms.
“I have taken your beloved but left in his place
this bend branch crop of golden peaches.” Continue reading “Were-gild for a Taken Husband”

Treading water in a sea of seeming

Sea_storms_in_Catanzaro_02-1 by Nicholas Gemini
Sea Storms in Cantanzaro by Nicholas Gemini

This post may seem out of step with this site’s “wilderness” or “environmental” character. But it’s a post urging more responsible behavior in the sphere of language, especially on the internet, where rhetorical global climate change seems to be raising the temperature of social media sites to the level of frog-boiling. To my mind, the quality of a language environment and the condition of the natural world connect intimately. Successful changes in environmental policy result from carefully designed language that takes into account past, present, and future well being. Conversely, poor behavior toward the physical world only succeeds through unsustainable reasoning and often bullying rhetoric–that is, it forces itself on its audience, because it can’t otherwise connect with them. So here we go.

The title of this post comes from the novel 2666 by Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño. The full quote is, “Metaphors are our way of losing ourselves in semblances or treading water in a sea of seeming.” It’s a complex metaphor that…well, kinda expresses something a lot of us do when, in conversation, we plunge into the fluid realm of metaphor–especially in our online conversations, where anonymity and the here/not-here nature of virtual presence make many of us bold.

But metaphors. Metaphors are great, right? And all-purpose. A clever metaphor can carry the battle in an argument, thus proving the supremacy of razor wit over club-tongued lunacy. The winner takes home the Truth Booty, cuz, you know, booty is truth, truth booty. Agreed?

Continue reading “Treading water in a sea of seeming”

Quothing the Raven by Patricia Karamesines

Photo of common raven courtesy of National Park Service
Photo of common raven courtesy of National Park Service

This post is an excerpt from my unpublished book, Crossfire Canyon and the Landscape of Language. I published a shorter version of the chapter in 2007 on the blog Times and Seasons. I’ve added material and developed my thinking about the intersection  of narrative and truth, posing questions about what our responsibility may be when we tell a story that deeply affects people–especially when the story isn’t strictly true, but people who read or hear it feel that it must be.

Winston Hurst
Archaeologist Winston Hurst

Early in the summer of 2007 I visited Blanding resident Winston Hurst, a longtime friend from my archeological field school days back in the 80s. Winston is an esteemed archeologist in the Southwest and a man of science. We were discussing Craig Childs, who was coming to Blanding’s Edge of the Cedars State Park to promote his book. I had met Craig in the 90s at a writing workshop he’d led in Torrey, Utah. The first time I read Craig’s work—it was The Secret Knowledge of Water—I  thought, Here is a writer I can learn from. I’d taken the risk to travel to the workshop, even though leaving the household whose atmosphere depended on the state of my special needs daughter Teah and on the whims of toddler Val left husband Mark with his hands full.

The experience proved well worth the risks to my household’s teetering domestic balance. Craig told our little group—all women—that it was his first workshop. At one point we met in the wonderful stone house, still a work in progress, of a local resident. To make memorable his point that we should all carry writing journals when we’re out traipsing, Craig set a pile of his own journals in the middle of the floor and told us to each choose one and find a quiet place to read it. I happened to pick the one that contained dialogue that would later appear in his book, The Way Out: A True Story of Ruin and Survival.  The dialogue occurred between Childs and his river guide friend, Dirk Vaughn, who used to be a cop. It involved Dirk’s statement that he’d killed a man. Continue reading “Quothing the Raven by Patricia Karamesines”

STAND WITH BEARS EARS: RDT’s New Concert Dance Inspired by the New National Monument & the Tribal Coalition That Helped Make It Happen

Erosion, by Zvi Gotheiner
Erosion, by Zvi Gotheiner

By David Pace

Earlier this year Repertory Dance Theatre (RDT) and Utah Diné Bikéyah (UDB) sat across from each other trying to figure out if together they could offer to be some kind of steadying order to the growing imbroglio of the recently announced Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah. What does concert dance have to do with preserving federal lands considered sacred by Native Americans?

It turns out quite a lot. At the meeting Navajo (Diné) representatives from the tribal coalition that had midwifed the Monument, including Willie Grey Eyes, Jonah Yellowman, and Mary Benally, related how to them the Bear Ears not only represented the sacred lands of 5 tribes, but also the healing between those tribes after hundreds of years of mutual suspicion and mistrust. Whatever artistic work issued from our collaboration would be motivated by the notion of how the land, and in this case the preservation of the land, can heal divisions. Continue reading “STAND WITH BEARS EARS: RDT’s New Concert Dance Inspired by the New National Monument & the Tribal Coalition That Helped Make It Happen”

WIZ Spring haiku chain, 2017

2017 April 2 peach blossoms

April is the poetry month, coaxing

Odes out of the fund-cut land, upraising

Free verse and sonnet, arousing

A metered pulse despite uncivil chill.

Winter moils to hold fast, stifling

Voice by imperious squalls, periling

Spring’s sprung verse with rime-crust.

Continue reading “WIZ Spring haiku chain, 2017”

Review: Arrival 2016

2017 Arrival Poster*Spoilers Alert*

First off, I’d like any film that nudges viewers toward thinking about language and its effects on events, the environment, and relationships past, present, and future. Arrival’s got “events” and “relationships” covered, and, by extension, “environment”, so I like it. *SOAP BOX ALERT*  Lackadaisical attitudes toward language are common. Many folks don’t think about language much at all, despite how, when threatened, they quickly move to weaponize it when they feel threatened. Moreover, since a meaningful percentage of the population gets its information from movies and other media rather than peer-reviewed scholarly articles on language and linguistics, I’m good with casting language in a leading role in a semi-popular film. *END SOAP BOX BLURB*

We also have funny ideas about language, including that it impedes real communication. Charles Taylor discusses one angle of such thinking in The Language Animal, the theory that, ideally, language should just name things in the world with constraints on usage to enable precise communication—no funny business like metaphor, symbol, etc., which some literalists believe renders discourse into Keystone Kops ineptness.

For a taste of Keystone Kops, go here.

Taylor makes a good case that this idea of language still influences beliefs about human powers of articulation (unduly, he says). Arrival may in fact put the “language as precision tool” concept to work, since very few nods to metaphor’s powers of transport occur in the movie. It would be nice if the black-and-white nature of instrumental language could have been expanded a little, but that’s probably asking too much. Many people know language mainly as a tool for getting done what they want, even as they complain about its exactness.  In blame-the-messenger fashion (including in language Global Mall Facebook), laments abound over how language fails to live up to expectations then betrays us; ergo, it’s faulty.

But to the movie. Arrival is a cryptic thing on several levels, including its

Continue reading “Review: Arrival 2016”