I wanted to possess
Oh! I sent that poem out in the thank you card to people after my brother died. I think it confused people, but he'd struggled, and I liked to think of his passage as being like that poem, "straightening up, I saw the blue sky and sails."
I got to meet Milosz once, very late in his life, and he was quite deaf. I handed him my copy of this little book of letters he and Thomas Merton had exchanged, and he was surprised to see it, and happy to sign it. It all happened in the gestural language we use with our elders who can't really hear anymore, in a noisy room.
My grumbly fatalism feels uplifted. In a similar way, in fact, that it always is by the Lord of the Rings story in general. Even when things seem hopeless, you keep walking to make it better, and at some point are reminded that the stars are out there above it all. Thank you 🧡 Time to find a Tolkienesque forest to walk into and breathe under for a while.
That's a great poem by Milosz. I met him at a party at Rutgers once, and had no idea of his greatness. A nice humble fellow. I am also a fan of the animated Tolkien films. The Return of the King is a bit lacking after the wildness of Bakshi, but there are nice touches, like Aragorn. Thanks for the Solnit piece, she is one of our best writers, and to use a bit of pop psych talk... despair is a noun, like a pit... but it's also a verb. We don't have to do it. What's the opposite of despair, the way fear is the opposite of love? I don't think it's hope. I think it's to persevere. Which we've taken as "to survive" but that's not what it means. It means, "to persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement." Which to me, embodies the long game.
And as much as I love a hiking trail... grizzlies need to be left alone. I will write a public comment.
Thanks again for writing what you do. And I look forward to hearing you at the event tomorrow.
I wanted to be Eowyn, but assuredly I am more hobbit like. And even then not as brave.
Thanks for linking the Solnit piece; I’m eager to read things like that right now. Relatedly, there’s an On Being interview with Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, in which she discusses an alternative to hope: possibility. Kind of Murphy’s Law, but we often connote that pop-sci concept negatively, when it can actually have a neutral orientation. Her point is that hope relies on faith and is somewhat one-dimensional, whereas possibility is about curiosity, exploration, and resilience, but kinda different too. Anyways. The long view is trickier than the short one, but oh so necessary.
I'm with you on the no PNT, the bears are in trouble now, and it's going to get a whole lot worse for them pretty darn soon. I'm sure you've noticed as I have that Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks and their bosses at Wildlife Services have gone trigger happy this past season. Apparently, FWP's go to solution for human caused bear conflict is shoot the bear (no reasonable explanation needed). When the Montana legislature reconvenes this coming January, the Northern Rockies nut jobs like Brown, Fielder, Tschida will be itching to figure out some way to delist the grizzlies. Granted the bears are currently protected by the Feds, but that's not going to stop them from trying. These are the same guys that legislatively murdered all those Yellowstone wolves last hunting season. I think another problem the bears will face is Senator Tester's Blackfoot-Clearwater Stewardship Act. The whole collaboration ruse will give away more bear habitat than it will gain. A much better idea is the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Act which preserves all current roadless areas, wildlife corridors and wilderness study areas. There's no slicing and dicing like the BCSA proposes and the bears and other wildlife will be safer for it.
Here's a link to the Grizzly Times website if any of your readers are interested.
I love that you you
I loved those films as a kid! And that poem is a beauty.
Thank you so much for the Solnit article. Maybe the long view is the protest perspective in a way, the one outside of consumerist history and news cycles, the one those in it must take in order to make it through.
What a beautiful landscape and your lucid narration makes it twice as magical combined with Tolkiens dreamland, almost makes me forget the horrors of real life. Aren’t we all crafting characters out of ourselves, self mythicising our identities from liquid to solid to liquid again, like the life cycles of water. You make me dream with this one. I’m curious if there are any indigenous ceremonies that are celebrated to honour the cycles of water/nature/seasons amongst your people?
Yes, every day is a gift. What a beautiful poem and one that can be held close to the heart.
Love your buffalo cap.
Something about the poem "Gift" gave me pause to read it slowly, pondering each line as I read it to myself. I am so thankful for that, for it being a gift unto itself to read it in such manner.
Beautiful post, Chris. Always my pleasure to drop in and read.
Great piece. I’d like to think us Ojibwe are Aragorn-like beings too, he was always one of the best characters. I work in killer whale research and conservation and at most times I constantly struggle to find hope for change that will cause great improvement and recovery to our WA population, but my stubbornness seems to keep me on the path. Truly hope that humans will vote and lobby in favor of our grizzly relatives, though selfishness will undoubtedly rule out. Perhaps I’ll still be surprised.
I re-read Rebecca Solnit's Hope in the Dark on a regular basis. She is one of our absolute best, indeed.
It as a true revelation for me when I realised most of the national parks of the world are just another example of colonialism; A clever little bait and switch way to prevent land stewardship and displace entire nations of people.
Also, to the point about noticing what has changed - I spent the last 18 months revising a manuscript I first wrote in 2008. It follows a cast of queer characters and captures much of my experience as a queer elder millennial. The revision process was EYE OPENING for how far we've come and the level of homophobia I used to tolerate in my early twenties, that any queer kid today would be appalled by. So yes, we have a long way to go for queer and trans liberation, and also, in just my lifetime I've been granted more human rights and protections than most of my queer ancestors could have imagined in 1985, the year I was born.
Damn but you can write….you make us feel.
Utah Phillips: a good friend of my favorite singer Kate Wolf. A quote from him and a song that reminds me oh Utah and you.
In April, 1986, Kate was diagnosed with leukemia. After chemotherapy, she went into full remission, started work on a retrospective album, and scheduled another tour. The disease returned in the fall, however, and we lost her on December 10. Her long time friend and touring partner, Utah Phillips covered the remaining shows she’d booked, including one in Placerville Mary and I had tickets for.
He led the crowd in singing her songs and said something I’ve never forgotten. “At the end of her life, Kate told me she knew why she’d gotten cancer. She took in people’s pain, the pain of living. It was the source of her art, but she realized too late that she never learned to let it go.” Phillips warned everyone to beware of clinging to grief and reminded us of the threads of hope and joy we also find in her music.