I haven’t been writing about my writing much lately because a) I’m not sure it’s that interesting to anyone but me and b) I try to save all my energy for the actual writing project but anyhoo…a small update…
This year for me feels like a year of withdrawal, processing and deep thought. I decided to focus inward on the current writing project. It’s a bit scary because I am writing prose rather than poetry, so I’m kind of in unchartered territory for me. (I am also feeling sad that poetry has left me for while, but I have been doing this for long enough to know that it will return. Lately when I try to write a poem, I feel like I keep writing versions of poems I’ve written before. When you are boring yourself, chances are no one else is going to be that excited either!) I have no idea of the ‘market’ for this meandering, tangential stuff I’m writing but I try to flush out those kind of concerns and focus on getting on with it! Over the winter, I had the Massey Residency and that was a wonderfully immersive and productive few months. Things have been a bit more hotch-potch since then as freelance work and Life have to be negotiated, but I plod on!
I noticed a theme in my reading recently – lots of books with ‘Wild’ in the title! I am reading and writing about nature/bioregionalism/ecology/contemporary spirituality….so I guess ‘wildness’ is a thread through all of these things.
The Wild Places, by Robert McFarlane
Wild, by Jay Griffiths (This book remains my favourite book IN THE WORLD EVER.)
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
Wild Mind, by Natalie Goldberg
Coincidence? Or maybe it’s just that I would read anything with WILD in the title? Ha ha.
Robert McFarlane’s book led me to…
Waterlog, by Roger Deakin – a remarkable account of Deakin’s desire to swim in as many wild waterways as he could across the UK. (Roger Deakin was an incredible person who seemed to live almost in an alternate universe where he was part-tree himself. What an amazing man.)
In fact, this is the trajectory so much of contemporary nature writing takes – a person leaves the urban environment and takes off to the waterways or the wilds, the forests, the mountains and then experiences the edges of their pathetic humanity and learns a pile of stuff about themselves. It’s compelling stuff! Escape, edge-dwelling, deep nature….
As inspiring and firing as these books are, though, I cannot write this kind of book. I am a mother of two children, tethered by family to a small suburban piece of land in a medium-sized, unsensational city. So my challenge is how to extrapolate a compelling narrative from my own situation.
To my rescue (to some extent) comes bioregionalism, Urban Resilience movements and Transition Towns giving me a steadfast political framework to staying put in the urban environment and making the best of it, or making it better more to the point.
I am on the hunt for any books which address the URBAN ‘wilds’, or ‘domestic’ nature narratives, so please do suggest some if you know of any.
One I read and thoroughly loved recently was ‘Feeding Orchids to The Slugs’, a book about a woman becoming a Zen Retreat cook.
I’d love to know if there are more New Zealand books in this vein. I read THIS ONE by Harvey McQueen recently, it was charming, but a little too restrained for my taste.
How do you write a compelling nature-based narrative when you live in suburbia and can’t stray very far? This question is at the heart of my project.
So far, I’m finding it’s all about ATTENTION, rather than literal travel. That the ‘wild’ is as much within as without. I cringe a bit writing that, but what the hell, it’s what I’m experiencing as true.
‘To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.’ -Mary Oliver
I would gratefully receive any book suggestions around any of the above stuff. I feel like I need to devour another few hundred books to get to the bottom of my thinking around this stuff, and it all feeds the creative fire!
(If you got to the bottom of this, you are a trooper and I thank you over a million times for your attention.)