My mind has been on the fragility of our current circumstances on Planet Earth. This was intensified for me by the November (Woolsey) fire that devastated 88% of the park lands in our Santa Monica Mountains. As it ran out of control we were evacuated; this time for a week. We were lucky, the winds shifted, and thankful for our friends in Ventura who opened their home to us and the dogs (much to the horror of their cat, Luna). Fire never reached our canyon but it brought home the reality of living in these mountains. As I packed up my backpack I added a library book; Ursula K Le Guin’s last book of poems, So Far So Good. This book gave me relief and perspective on living, aging, dying; all with the long view that only someone who lives a full life into their nineties has.
Today, I heard the first Pacific Tree Frog of the new year. We are having a classic rainy day and it is a joy, sadly a rare joy, but my excitement sunk as dread crept in; lately on a daily basis. Over 16 years here I have experienced the change in our climate, my guess is that you have that experience where you live or travel. For some time, after the fire, I couldn’t shake it. Now I realize it is pointless and immobilizing. Now, I work toward not going down that spiral. I am not naive, but to stay right in the moment; merged with this land, speechless, overwhelmed, is what I have at hand.
I didn't read Le Guin until last year. I finally woke up to the fact that I was I admiring her but never actually read her, so I started with The Left Hand of Darkness. And so began my unsystematic journey into her work. Right now I have four of her books on hold in the library system, and today received, The Found and the Lost, The Collected Novellas and Words Are My Matter. I am definitely on a journey, she is the writer I want to read this year.
Recently, before going to the Honda dealership, I picked up my latest library book, Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing, with David Naimon, since I was wrong to presume it would be a short appointment,
I was able read it over the five hours it took for my Element to reappear. These conversations took place toward the end of her life and are one of the last interviews of her; they are organized around the genres she wrote in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. David Naimon received her final penciled comments when he got news that she died. Le Guin is an amazing world creator, and her focus on writing, publishing, gender, nature, and our current world has never been sharper. Reading this book was like sitting with her, was having her voice in my ear. She has much to say about the world we live in, about writers, writing and to readers--all with a healthy sense of herself.
It has taken some time to come back to what I know is true for me; reading Le Guin has helped me to understand that this is where I need to live . I’ll accept the risk. And there, in the midst of a once-normal-now-rare rainy day, I went out on the upper deck and heard those first sounds of the Pacific Tree Frog. She/he was blending into the bark of the massive Coastal Live Qak tree encroaching upon the deck, its leaves showing evidence of a flash burn from a 114 degree summer day. And so, if our luck holds out, it will come down into our fountain to voice amplify and become our resident Chorus Frog.
Happy New Year,
Here is where you can listen to Le Guin's gutsy speech at the National Book Awards when given the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. It went viral and gave rise to what she calls her 15 minutes of fame.
So Far So Good
Ursula K. Le Guin: Conservations on Writing with David Naimon
The Found and the Lost, The Collected Novellas
Words Are My Matter
And everything you want to know about the Pacific Tree Frog/Chorus Frog
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