Lise: Rereading all of your writings today I was struck by how much heart there is in these pieces and how much vulnerability. 

Aviva: I just have an overall impression of how much women absorb in the process of connection and how a lot of what we absorb is pain. We do a lot of emotional work in our connections to place.

Elliott: There’s a line I love from Adrienne Rich about the necessity of connecting the pain of the body to the pain of the body’s world. All of these pieces were speaking to that truth. You can’t separate our pain from the pain that we’re facing around global climate disaster and how intimately our bodies are the planet. 

Patricia: I was struck by the connections between bodies and I’m thinking now of Elliott’s piece—the connection between her and her father—and between body and earth in Anne’s piece and then in mine between Wirrie and Grandmother Glacier. And Kim’s piece: the body of the stranger, of the mother, of the baby. That piece in particular I found incredibly moving. And so lovely.

Aviva: I was also struck by the meticulous care of all your editing. You three (Lise, Kristin, Gillian) put enormous love into this project.

Lise: That’s very true– we do. 

Gillian: And there was so much love in these pieces:  Aviva, in your decades-long visceral intimate relationship with Vinalhaven, Elliott, in your relationship with your father, and with the butterflies which either come or don’t depending on the way the winds are blowing.  

Kim: The last piece I read was Shante’s, about the nervous system in relation to ecosystem and organisms, and it felt like a basket for the others. This body is an extension of the earth. This nervous system is a conduit to so many things. There was a felt sense for me throughout the issue of feeling that goes so deep, that involves skin and bones and primordial cell activity.

Kristin: As I hear that, I can’t help but think of Karen’s piece and the act of returning her beloved to the earth in a form in which she had never known him before: literally skin and bone in her hands as ash. And I think about the nervous system and how it is upended and shredded by grief in the wake of a loss of that magnitude and how community provided such a net, such a web to hold her—and that beautiful grove was as much a part of the community as the humans who were there. That piece was so moving, Karen.

Kim: In that writing you repeated several times “I wouldn’t be able to do this alone.” It was the ecosystem of the community that made it possible. And it’s making me think of meridians in a system—I think, Aviva, you called them trigger points? Meridians in a web that holds this form, this basket that really holds our experience. I think they’re always accessible but our beliefs get in the way of being able to rest in them. 

Aviva: That’s a really interesting word you used: rest. I think the whole issue is about paying attention to resting in place with whatever the experience or feelings are.  Trigger points—I never thought of them as a place to rest. But you can’t have a flow of energy without rest.

Elliott: That’s exactly one of the things I loved about Shante’’s piece; when you’re sitting in a spot it’s not about the spot—it’s about the kind of sitting and the kind of attention we pay.  And you can’t pay attention if you’re not resting. We’re always on the run, it’s one of the things that makes capitalism profitable and deadly. Just to claim the right to sit and do nothing is a radical act right now.

Patricia: And the piece that really contrasts with that is Leslie’s about P-22 the mountain lion. Her own restlessness in L.A.—she cannot come to ground there—and how she identifies with the mountain lion who is living in a tiny fraction of his normal range. There’s a deep sense of not being able to land, to come home. A real loneliness and sense of lost connections.

Lise: Absolutely, and the other place where we see that is in the Rosabetty Muñoz poems: “This body did not know that it was leaving behind its own world. “ And in the next one: “To find, in order to die,/the place where our umbilical cord is buried.”  I was glad there was in this issue at least one instance of exile and violent uprooting.

Aviva: Uprooted, yes, but connected deeply in memory.

Patricia: When I read those poems, which are about living estranged and then returning to estrangement and beginning anew, I thought: that’s where we all are right now in relation to the natural world. The Literature of Restoration comes in here, the idea that we have to rebuild, refind, restore those lost connections…

Lise: Yes, you’ll all be reading about the Literature of Restoration in this issue. 

Karen: I was really moved by the beauty of the language in each piece and the deep intelligence and courage. I come from the theater; I’ve just closed a play in New York, Troy Too, a reflection on COVID and climate change and Black Lives Matter related to the Trojan women.  It was beautifully received, but the theater in New York is so alien to all of our work, mine too, so it was such a gift to be reading these pieces while the play was running and thinking oh there  are accomplished writers and activists here, just not in the theater. For me it was finding a community, all of you, at a time when I was feeling, well, the NY theater is not about what any of us are doing. 

Aviva: The conventional structures that deliver art are just inadequate to contain the kinds of things we see in this issue. And there is no support. 

Karen. No commercial support. There is audience, desire, there’s a craving, but capitalism is censoring our work.  

Anne:  So many of the pieces struck me as being about surviving. P-22 doesn’t have range but still manages to cross ten lanes of a freeway and to live a long life in Griffith park, and I think of Aviva’s piece and starting to create on two acres of land, and Leslie moving to Iceland, and the baby in Kim’s piece, and Karen with her husband’s ashes in that pine grove. This sense that we manage in some way, the life force is so strong. Even the nervous system in Shante’s piece. It’s almost a new kind of survivorship she’s writing about, reading her I feel the lack of separation with anything  I might perceive as outside of myself. 

Aviva: You’re making me think of a conversation I had yesterday with a wetlands biologist, Eugene Turner, who’s trying to help the tribes save part of their land in the Gulf of Mexico. They work really hard to save what they can, but what they can save is less and less and they keep moving. What he came to explain to me was that… while they can’t save the location, can’t take the land, they can save the wisdom and the community can preserve the wisdom. I think collectively that’s what this issue is about.

Shante’: I’m thinking of the children in Patricia’s piece who meet the glacier—the process of listening with the land and the nature beings and then coming back into relationship with humans and weaving shared reality around those experiences. When do we have permission to listen and to speak directly to other beings and receive wisdom in that way. And what are the conditions that allow that to be received by the other humans around us also? Or in Anne’s experience of the storm, making love with the earth—there’s something about these direct experiences and relationships we’re all carrying and how they thread together and what are the conditions that allow for them to tissue into a community.

Karen: Without community people get angry and violent. They’re frightened but they don’t know why and they don’t have the holding space to be violent or in my case to grieve. One of the things I’ve realized is other people are necessary in order to grieve and if you don’t have the eyes on you or the hands to hold you can’t do it, you can’t grieve and so  you go mad.  And we’re seeing  a lot of that in our society. For lack of a holding community of a space in which to be frightened to really grieve really love for that matter. And what this issue brought to me is, “Oh, yeah. This is a much larger community. We’re still marginalized, but there’s a much greater community than any of us know. And through this issue we’re being connected to each other and then hopefully to others who will read us.” 

Patricia: And I think the other thing we have lost besides community is a sense of the sacred. I felt that particularly in Anne’s piece.“Every breath is a consummation with place.” That suggested a kind of sacred marriage with the earth. And Elliott also summons this up: “All our years of secreting/were made holy holy holy ever after by the touch of the great Kings who once had rested here.”

Elena: Yes and the name—“Monarchs”—evokes majesty as well as holiness. There’s a sanctity to the shared experience with her dad. 

Patricia:  “And so my father’s lips and my ear became blessed.” 

Elliott:  Back to the question of community, you know it can mean a lot of things. When we form community with people often these are people who are enforcing gender oppression and classism and racism, things that make us feel less than. When I find my tribal community it’s also people who know how to sit and listen to the natural world. 

Kim: I’ve noticed there’s a lot of fear in me as a woman of color about becoming rooted. I mean, what if I need to flee?  As we drive around in the US on this tour we’re really afraid of driving into the wrong driveway. 

Aviva:  Prejudice is not something you get to escape. Maine is the whitest state in the U.S.  It’s part of my ambivalence about my commitment to this land. 

Karen: I live in Clinton Hill a very diverse neighborhood. I grew up in the Midwest so I’m afraid to live around too many white people and I don’t want to leave Brooklyn. 

Shante’: In terms of community, I was thinking about the phrase “body doubling”—a lot of people in chronic illness circles are talking about this. It’s a way of talking about community entrainment you can call on when you feel inertia or overwhelm.  A lot of the pieces have an aspect of that, a syncing-up between a human and another being.

Elliott: There’s also the absence of that:  as in Anne’s missing Aunt Florence. Makes me think of the sheer number of girls who go missing. Because they’re alone, because they want to be different, because they want to get away. Not only the Chileans who went into exile but also those who when they came home found these bodies on the ground and all these people missing. This intense absence which is part of the grief we’re all feeling.

Elena: I really liked the way Anne transformed Florence Waters’ disappearance into something positive. How it fueled her desire for a full and chosen life.

Lise: And I loved learning the etymology of “prostitute.” 

Kim:  Anne’s piece made me think a lot about permission. Who gives it?  The thunder called and out she went. James Baldwin said something like: freedom is not something you’re given. You have to take it. 

Lise: Makes me think of Aviva. You don’t wait for permission, Aviva, you just do.

Karen: I love that you reclaimed a garbage dump. 

Aviva:  You know the pull of the land was so fierce for me that there never was a choice. But the sheer difficulty of what I had to do, especially with chronic illness, just drummed humility into me. And when I was beaten to a pulp I had no choice but to listen and be teachable. The island had me in its grip.

Lise: Just like Anne—the thunder called and she answered.

Anne:  I left this collection of pieces incredibly inspired. I felt like I moved through yes, grief—yes, the reality of the world—and Karen I’m echoing you here because I felt if there’s 9 of us there’s 900 of us and if there’s 900 there’s 9,000 and it felt like this potential for exponential growth. I guess I want to thank you all for that… 

Elliott: There’s a line in Patricia’s story I can’t get away from. That these kids have instructions for what to do when the ice dies. There’s something about that. Writing is a kind of magic and we’re putting this magic forward for those who come. We’re already imagining forward how writing and community will help them survive something we can’t fully imagine. I keep coming back to that.. …It’s shaken me very deeply. 

Patricia: And those instructions come from a spellbook that one of those kids has found. They’re instructions from the past that the kids are turning to in order to make sense of the situation they find themselves in. 

 Kristin: Children are so embodied. It’s all the cultural layers as we grow that obscure our ability to listen in the ways we’re discussing. There’s something very right to me about the children being the wisdom-keepers.

Gillian: I see an analogy between that and Aviva’s trigger points, the places in nature that are baby places, the springs that become big rivers, the saplings that grow into big trees and I’m so aware that Shante’ is young and that she’s with us as one of the young ones holding so much wisdom. That same wisdom is held in the land, in Aviva’s estuary, that mouth-place of fertility and creativity, if it is given welcome and nurturing and care. 

Patricia: I actually think we’re seeing children as carriers of wisdom in the world right now. I think of Greta Thunberg and other activists like Vanessa Nakate from Uganda. They are fighting for their lives and leading the way. Demanding accountability from us. 

Shante’:  I wanted to weave back to Kim’s piece and that phrase “strangers taking care.” How even though her piece seems to be taking place just between humans, at the same time what is implicit in it is deeply ecological, both in the wildness of mothering and also the entire cultural context of why it wasn’t possible for the mother to be a mother in that moment.  That opened something for me. 

Elena: For me it felt like the refrain of a song. The repetition made the reader one of the strangers taking care which I thought was amazing. 

Aviva: In Kim’s piece, in all of them, there is the intensity of the aloneness and the intensity of the relationship at the same time. 

Shante’: We began talking about pain as a theme. There’s the pain but also the intimacy of relationship and the paradox and the beauty that lives between.

Patricia: I feel we all started out as strangers—that phrase “strangers taking care…”  I love the way that phrase now echoes as we tie up our time together.

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