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.
A massive, ancient tree being felled by lightning isn’t news in of itself. But I’m drawn to this story for a few reasons: First, Michigan State University is my alma mater. Second, I remember this tree when I went to school there. Finally, this tree existed for nearly 200 years before the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan (MSU’s predecessor) was even formed.
It’s a nice a change of pace from headlines that read “Massive white oak removed by school to make room for blahblah”—we see enough of these headlines. For me, this fascination with physical place as a starting point for memory, as something that can affect us emotionally, is hugely important to my work, my thought process. I look at old growth forests, for example, and wonder what the world was like when they were yet saplings. I wade through forests and undergrowth and am in awe of all those that came before and stood, perhaps, exactly where I stand. In this instance, I calculate how big this tree must have been already when American itself was born. I find this exercise humbling, and, for my writing, it ignites deep within me: who are we, our problems, in relation to this magnificent natural world? I tend to start with place when I write anything, I start their and branch out, so this thinking helps me put myself in relation to the world.
Per the Lansing State Journal:
A small portion of the centuries-old tree remains between the MSU Museum and Linton Hall in the West Circle area of campus. It previously shaded a stone water fountain dedicated by the class of 1900, which served both humans and the horses they rode to campus. Before that, the land around what is now West Circle was occupied by local Native American tribes, Telewski said.
You can read the whole article here. Here’s hoping they do something appropriate with the remains (on display, somewhere, perhaps?).
I have a particular fascination with forests. I try, often, to figure out: Where did this come from? And then, I think, it’s always been because of its life—when you stand in the woods you can sense life around you: birds and bugs and the earth and, of course, the trees themselves. Thus, this TED talk gets to me, deeply:
“A forest is much more than what you see,” says ecologist Suzanne Simard. Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery—trees talk, often and over vast distances. Learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes.
We know so little about forests, about what’s beneath our feet—how it all works together. Figuring this out, or starting to figure this out, is endlessly fascinating—and vital. For too long we have treated trees, and plant life itself, as non-intelligent. We’re just now starting to see how wrong we were. It is imperative we understand what it is we are razing, paving, and otherwise dismantling, and how this will, inevitably, harm us beyond the obvious ways. Seeing that there is a communication at work here like we had otherwise not envisioned is illuminating.
Here’s something fun: uber-writer and uber-human Jeremy Bronaugh and I put together a cute little Ghost Rider comic called The Terrible Speed of Mercy. The idea was simple: How horrible would it be for Ghost Rider to go grocery shopping? Everything he touches becomes imbued with the fires of hell…what would that look like?
So, I wrote the story (wordless, which, IMO, was needed here) and Jeremy drew and colored this gorgeous piece of art. Seriously: Jeremy rocks, and I’m honored to have worked with him on this.
She had been tracking the beast alone for much of the morning, fearless as she wandered beneath great clusters of tamarack that surrounded the wetlands to the east, the great swatches of red maple and black ash that blanketed the north. She had brought with her only a rucksack filled with dried fruit and bits of moose jerky and had, slung over her shoulder, the Remington 550-1 which had belonged to her grandmother, acquired years earlier in order to protect herself and their land. It wasn’t a wolf-hunting gun—it wasn’t the caliber for such an undertaking—but she had no other choice.
I’m honored to be sharing space with these other tremendous. This new issue is subtitled “With Alacrity!”—and boy, howdy, is it.