William Mather did not care to cultivate the walls of thimbleberries and raspberries that lined these new roads and trails he built—wholesome foods, which, over the centuries, had kept native peoples alive. He imported non-native species: elk, caribou, and mule deer, red squirrels and jackrabbits, and grouse, guinea, and turkey. This was his menagerie. And when the island’s natural worth could not support these creatures, Mather imported vegetation for them to flourish. He took this green space and made it greener, fashioned it in his image. But the island fought back with hard winters and predators like wolf and coyote skating across the winter ice to hunt his prey animals and drive Mather’s dream away. Visitors stopped coming in numbers they once did. The distance, the location, the island itself—it was too much.
Thanks to everyone at Gravel—I’m thrilled to be included.
I’ve been thinking a lot these past weeks, as many Americans have, about inevitable changes coming from those barreling into power, and how they, historically, have attacked the environment through their platform. Over the past week, it’s been discovered that the incoming Republican Congress will be, it seems, redefining U.S. federal lands as “effectively worthless”.
Heather Hansman tells, at The Guardian:
Essentially, the revised budget rules deny that federal land has any value at all, allowing the new Congress to sidestep requirements that a bill giving away a piece of federal land does not decrease federal revenue or contribute to the federal debt.
So, this means states—and native peoples—have the potential to lose land, and lose land fast. And it’s important to note that “the land under control of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forests and Federal Wildlife Refuges contributes to $646bn in economic stimulus, not to mention 6.1m jobs.”
Blargh. See, American Exceptionalism is a complicated and contradictory idea that America is unique and special and superior and does what it needs to—while often paving over the histories and cultures of the native peoples who were settled here first. It’s an idea that’s still with people, that we can do what we want to the land, the people on it—that it all belongs to us. And this land, unfortunately, is often at the center of our idea of what this country is: expansive land, open land, towering massifs and endless landscapes bleeding into the horizon. U.S. federal land, U.S. parks, the National Park Service…it truly is a wonderful and inspiring resources that people do (see above) take advantage of: It’s where we go to get away, to vacation, it inspires art and discussions but, yes, unfortunately needs our intervention and conservation, too.
Who stands to gain from all of this? Well, yes, it would seem the wealthy, those who can afford to buy it, to develop it (lets’ say, for example, the mining industry).
It reminds me think of a group I discovered last year, the American Prairie Reserve: an organization of ultra-wealthy philanthropists who have come together to purchase and set aside on the Great Plains of northeastern Montana.
On the eve of seeing our lands potentially disappear, our backyards destroyed, we turn to this idea of privatizing land for the sake of preservation and—is this the new trend? Is this how the next generations will see what we’ve all taken for granted, will explore these green spaces? Perhaps, and perhaps it’s our only hope? Whatever it takes to protect these places…I’m all for it, yes, but strange and critically important times these are.
MVICW is an utterly fantastic writing conference that takes place on Martha’s Vineyard. I was fortunate enough to be a faculty member there a couple year’s back, and I can’t recommend it enough. Some general contest details below; the full particulars are on the MVICW website.
Deadline for Submissions: March 20, 2017
Two First Prizes: $1600 (Tuition and Lodging for the Week): Poetry and Fiction
One Alumni Award: $975 (Full MVICW Tuition for the Week)
Two Second Prizes: $500 each (Towards Tuition): Poetry and Fiction
We are thrilled to offer our annual competition to win a spot at The Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. The competition is open to anyone who will be 18 years or older as of July 2017. Two winners (one in poetry and one in fiction) will receive the full retreat package, including tuition and lodging. One winner will receive the Alumni Award, which covers full tuition for the week of choice. And two second prize winners (one in poetry and one in fiction) will receive $500 towards the cost of tuition.
About the MVICW
The Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing was founded in order to give writers the opportunity to develop their craft among established authors. The Institute offers a comprehensive week-long focus on writing, providing writers with the necessary time to devote to their art, in the idyllic setting of the Vineyard. Each summer, we invite award-winning authors and poets, literary journal editors, and university creative writing faculty from around the country to lead writing workshops, work one-on-one with individuals, and provide the necessary tips and tools for editing and publishing. Our goal is to make the writing program experience a personal one that aids in building a writing community, establishing friendships with other writers, and offering contacts in the industry. Participants include individuals of varying ages and writing abilities, from published writers to skilled beginners. We hope you will join us this summer!
A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to wander around The Museum of Modern Art and, in addition to (finally) getting to check out Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World—one of my most favorite paintings in the world, stunning in person—I stumbled upon the work of photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, specifically his Adriatic Sea, Gargano (triptych):
I prattle on a lot about about my love of landscapes. To me, this is where stories start—a place, a time, maybe, but anchored in some place. This is what gets my juices flowing, how a something develops. I’m especially drawn to forests (having grown up in Michigan), and lakes and mountains, too, but there is something about the desolate landscapes (deserts, the ocean) that gets my mind whirring.
Seeing this series of photographs (from 1990), this sterile environment…my mind races. I want to write about it, I want to see it, I want to see life happening in these places. (And, thus, I want to write about life happening here.)
I was also really delighted to find out about his work, too:
To craft his exquisite black-and-white images, Hiroshi Sugimoto uses a 19th-century-style, large-format camera, exploring his idea of photography as a method for preserving and modeling time. “Endeavors in art are…mere approximations, efforts to render visible unseen realms,” he says.
True of writers, too, I think (which explains, perhaps, why I’m so drawn to his work).
See, I am a Twitter apologist. I recognize its many flaws—for example, how it handles trolls and hate speech—but I think it remains, undeniably, a writer’s greatest tool. From promoting your work, connecting with the writing community, talking to editors, finding out about awards and contests, I can’t imagine what people do without it.
Eventually, I turned to the idea of Twitter as a writing medium. I wanted to recount some memories, some specific retentions that informed my writing life or my personal life in some grand way. I wanted to engage with my Twitter friends. So last year, I wrote my first Twitter essay about my love of landscapes and my distant relative Lincoln Ellsworth—how learning about his exploits as a polar explorer continues to fuel my obsession with place in my work.
Really excited about everything that Proximity Magazine is doing, and thrilled to be included. A special thanks to Dina Relles for working with me on this.