We are having a gorgeous fall in Montana this year. It’s also that time of year where every day that isn’t wintery feels like one stolen from those weeks of bitter cold or, worse, just gray and muddy and ugly. Yet winter is coming and I hope it is beautiful with ample opportunity to get out and enjoy what winter has to offer. I don’t know how many good, Montana-typical winters we have left given what we’ve done to the world, but I hope we get at least a couple more and that this year is one of them.
Twilight of the Yellowstone Winterkeepers
Speaking of winter, this is one of my favorite pieces related to (arguably) my favorite season in a gorgeous place: Yellowstone National Park. It is about Steven Fuller, who as “the ‘winterkeeper’ at Canyon Village—a development that sits nearly astride of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in the park's geographic heart— ... has one of the rarest occupational titles in a warming world.” Seems to me a gig I think I would love to have. Dig this:
On our spinning, increasingly-crowded planet with 7.5 billion human souls, Fuller is, in extraordinary ways, one-of-a-kind—a modern anachronism. He is a jack-of-all-trades engineer keeping Canyon's buildings operating during the busy summer season. But philosophically, he is a throwback—a mixture of Henry David Thoreau, Henri Cartier Bresson, Ansel Adams, and with pinches of Lao Tzu, Edward Abbey and Noam Chomsky thrown in for good measure.
This is just a good read for no other reason than that it’s a good read. It’s from the always excellent Mountain Journal. Well worth your time.
Field Seminar: Feb. 4-7
Speaking of winter in Yellowstone, I get to spend a few days leading a workshop there in February, another instance of my Silence: The Daily Practice idea (that I’ve yet to satisfactorily pull off), from the Lamar Buffalo Ranch which sounds awesome.
Here is what the workshop is (allegedly) about:
Silence and observation are key to the creative process, whether that process is found in some discipline of art or in simply maintaining a well-lived life. This workshop will focus on writing, even if you don’t consider yourself a “writer.” It will feature unique exercises that include sitting in observation; walking as a key element in breaking free creative energy; and practicing live storytelling. You will be encouraged to recognize the importance of making time for reflection; to celebrate the absolute importance of being curious and kind; and to recognize the importance of your personal story.
If you’ve got time and some extra money, you can register here. It should be gorgeous there by February.
Poetry as Spiritual Practice
Speaking of workshops, this 4-Week Writers' Room Series from the Missoula Writing Collaborative called “Poetry as Spiritual Practice,” Tuesdays, November 9, 16, 23, & 30, is still taking registrations. It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while now and so the time has come to see how it goes. Here’s what it’s about:
“The practice of quiet attentiveness and observation is critical to the writing and enjoyment of poetry, and a key element of what makes life living in many, many ways. It is a refuge for me. Perhaps it can be for you too.”
These weekly 90-minute classes will give writers the opportunity to build community, share their work and receive prompts, strategies and feedback from a professional writer. All classes are designed for novice and experienced writers alike. OPI Credit Available. All classes take place online from 7 pm to 8:30 pm.
Somehow I was under the impression the classes were only an hour each so, as always whenever I am involved, you are best situated if you come to class with maybe 1/3 lower expectations. The way the website is set up is weird, so click HERE if you are interested, then click GUIDELINES next to where it says, “4-Week Writers' Room Series.” I know, that’s kind of a hassle, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the MWC is that we always do things the hard way.
Rabbits and Fire
If Ada Limón isn’t my favorite contemporary poet she is certainly among the top three or four. I love her work and she also reads in a listenable fashion, which isn’t always the case when it comes to poets. She was recently tagged as the host of The Slowdown, where every day she shares a poem and a reflection related to it. I hadn’t subscribed but I did yesterday when my cousin, Kim, sent me the October 20th edition, “Rabbits and Fire” by Alberto Rios. Limón herself says, “Fair warning, this poem does describe animals facing grave danger, so if you want to skip this episode please do.” So keep that in mind.
Here is her entire introduction to the poem, and if we read it in this context, the poem certainly becomes something else that I think is important. Dig:
I’ve been thinking a lot about anger lately. How easy it is to become enraged and then to let that rage absorb me until I’ve gone through my whole day spreading rage and encouraging rage. From the outside, I would imagine it looks like foolishness. I think about social media and how fury is contagious.
Like any human, I’m susceptible to this contagion. When I’m worried or anxious, I feel like my partner should also be worried or anxious. When I want to operate at a ten, I think everyone should be operating at a ten. Researchers have found that anger is much more likely to spread on social media than other emotions. We think we’re sharing cat memes, but really we’re retweeting toxicity.
One of the reasons today’s poem is a long time favorite of mine, is that it’s an allegory for how quickly humans can become consumed by their own fury and pain. Fair warning, this poem does describe animals facing grave danger, so if you want to skip this episode please do. For me, this poem is not just about the non-human animal, but about how the human animal spreads their own uncontained wildfire.
I do think this poem, as hard as it is to hear, wants us to recognize how pain spreads and maybe, for once, try to stop it. Try our best to put out the fire instead of spreading it to all ends of the earth.
Give it a shot. You can read it—and listen to Limón read it herself if that’s your jam—HERE.
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I mentioned my cousin, Kim. She is on the Little Shell Tribal Council. We’re something like second or third cousins on the Doney side of our families but haven’t really figured out the details. It doesn’t matter. This is the two of us together at the Old Crossing thing in Minnesota earlier this month. It was pretty great.