Wednesday, May 29, 2013

We do what we can.

I've learned to find hope in the small things.
When a lovely birch-forested corner of Far North Bicentennial Park in Anchorage was threatened with development, an anonymous group of artists began a campaign to tie red ribbons around all the trees that were at risk of being cut down.  I joined in, writing the name of family members on each of the ribbons I tied.  Well, the development happened, the trees, festooned as they were in red, were cut down...almost all of them.  Exactly at the edge of the newly-razed site were some trees still fluttering red, and one of those had the ribbon on which I'd written my eight-year-old son's name.

I was reminded of our red-ribboned trees by this story in September 2012.  These Indian artists are painting leaves along the state highway as part of a campaign to protect the environment.  According to the Reuters report posted on Planet Ark, "...dozens of artists in the eastern Indian state of Bihar are painting roadside trees and their leaves with colorful stories from Hindu epics, hoping to save the region's already critically sparse greenery.  The unusual campaign, using coats of paint and brushes, has been launched in Madhubani, a northern Bihar district known for its religious and cultural awareness, resulting in hundreds of otherwise untended roadside trees covered in elaborate artwork."

Each of us, we do what we can.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

WOLF: A Renegade Book, Free of Charge.

In mid-February, I received an intriguing email from Jeff Clark, a community activist, writer, and book designer in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Here's what he wrote, in part:

"In the tradition of radical pamphleteering, I'm designing and publishing a book of rough, radical, activist work on wolves. The book will be well-designed and -printed, and will be available in a gift economy--freely disseminated locally as well as nationally. I'm assembling a really diverse group of writers, most of whom are also activists of one stripe or another. Already of few of the country's most compelling and/or unruly activists and writers are on board.

If I can accomplish my dream, the book will be a very timely, non-academic, renegade publication in the struggle against wolf-hunting and -ignorance. Locally, our legislature voted to allow wolf hunting to resume this fall in Michigan. I'd like for this little paperback to be a tool of information and passion in the struggle that's mounting against that and similar rulings.

The big kicker is that I'd need your text (either short or long, as you see fit) by March 15 at the latest. It's okay—actually, it's encouraged—that the piece be timely, rough, topical, or raw. That will be the spirit of the book. I hope to have it hit the streets by May Day."

In the midst of working on Among Wolves, I was swamped with work and unable to see how I could find time to send something to Jeff in less than a month. But I also couldn't say no; I loved the radical idea of a free book, and I couldn't pass up this opportunity to help out. So I resurrected an essay I'd written a few years back, dusted it off and polished it up with some revising and updating, and sent it to Jeff.

Jeff met his May 1 deadline; WOLF was released on May Day. And my essay, "Toklat," is in there along with essays and poems by a wide range of wonderful people, including some whose work I've long admired, among them Jack Turner, Terry Tempest Williams, and Derek Jensen. The pieces cover the territory of wolves in the US: Alaska's predator control; the reintroductions of red wolves in North Carolina and Mexican gray wolves in Arizona; the delisting of gray wolves and resultant slaughters in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming; the effects of delisting in Jeff's home state.

It's a beautifully diverse and complex collection--much like wolf society itself. Christine Hume's evocative "Reciprocity" about wolf howling stands alongside Norman Bishop's "The Wolf Issue," which almost reads like a Harper's Index in the barrage of statistics showing there's no logical reason for the western states' rampant wolf killings. Ken Lamberton's essay about the Mexican gray wolf's problematic reintroduction shares a cover with Paula Underwood's poetic retelling of an Iroquois tale passed on to her through generations of Native Americans.

So, if you'd like to read these fine pieces, or if you just like the idea of getting a free book (say that three times in a crowd and see what happens) then here's what you do:

1. Comment on this blogpost between now and June 1.
2. Raffle-style, I'll pick two names to get a book; the rest of you will get the book in a PDF. Check back after June 1, and if you're a lucky winner, send me your address.
3. Check your mailbox or your inbox.
4. Prepare to be amazed.

PS: The first printing is nearly gone. Here's a post about the book and the wolf issue in Michigan.