Welcome to Love of Place. Most of my work celebrates our connection to the natural world.

My new eco science fiction Knocking on Heaven's Door is just released. A number of early reviewers have been enthusiastic, including the website Geeks of Doom, which makes me smile. Not many people know me as a geek of doom! But I am happy to embrace the complexity of my personality.

I'm also so pleased that Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World has been awarded the 2016 John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing, as well as the 2014 WILLA Award for Creative Nonfiction from Women Writing the West.

My historical fantasy Teresa of the New World won the 2015 Arizona Authors Association Award for best Children's Literature and was a finalist for the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards.

These are nice landmarks in a writer's life. I would be writing regardless--but, still, whew. It's good to have some encouragement.

Feel free to contact me at http://www.sharmanaptrussell.com or through my author Facebook page, Sharman Apt Russell.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Page Lambert's Guest Blog

Guest Blog, by Page Lambert

Kathleen Cain begins her review of Standing in the Light (Bloomsbury Review, May/June/July 2009; http://www.bloomsburyreview.com/) this way: “I’ve been waiting for this book all my life…I am urged to awe that equals spiritual fervor in the presence of Nature.”

What is it about Nature—Nature with a capitol N as depicted in Sharman’s new book—that moves us so? How can the physical world cause our spirits to have such passionate responses?

On May 4, 2009, Time Magazine chose The Wind in the Willows as its “Book Pick for the Week.” This classic children’s novel, a compilation of stories told by the author Kenneth Grahame to his four-year-old son, was first published in America in 1909. One hundred years ago! Yet here we are today, still falling in love with Mole and Rat and Badger and Otter and yes, even arrogant Toad—creatures great and small who live charmed lives full of missteps and dangerous escapades at, or near, the River. Not just any river, but THE River. As in NATURE. All caps. It is the River that forms the landscape of their lives and serves as metaphor for ours. It teaches them, and us, about the hospitality of community.

A couple of years ago, I attended the annual conference of the Quivira Coalition (http://www.quiviracoalition.org/) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was there to do a book-signing for Home Land: Ranching and a West that Works (Rocky Mountain Land Library (http://www.landlibrary.org/). Renowned writer Wendell Barry was the keynote speaker. The Quivira Coalition was formed in 2003, when “twenty ranchers, environmentalists, and scientists met for forty-eight hours to figure out a way to take back the American West…”

A community of people seeking to “find a way to make ourselves worthy of the land we all love” evolved from this initial gathering. And though these individuals were as different from one another as were Mole and Rat and Badger and Otter and Toad, their love of place, of the landscape where they lived their lives, was greater than the divisive issues that had, in the past, kept them apart.

While in Albuquerque at the Quivira Conference, I also had a chance to visit with Peter Forbes, founder of the Center for Whole Communities (http://www.wholecommunities.org/). “How is it that those of us who care about people and those of us who care about the land, have ended up divided from one another?” the Center asks. “What might we achieve if movements for environmental and social change worked together for healthy, whole communities?” The Center poses this question on their website, where you can view an 8-minute presentation on reweaving people, land, and communities. “Story is the way we carry the land inside of us,” writes Peter Forbes in his book, What Is A Whole Community. “We tell stories to cross the borders that separate us from one another.”

In this same spirit of reweaving, Sharman’s blog, “Love of Place,” celebrates and promotes a “greater relationship and intimacy with the natural world.” She does not advocate a natural world without human beings, though she often writes passionately and with firm opinions about how we interact with the land. (Her perspective and mine on public land grazing probably differ greatly, in great part because she writes about the arid southwest, while my experience is with the forests and grasslands of the Black Hills of Wyoming—much different ecosystems.)

In Standing in the Light, when writing about the environmentally threatened Gila River, Sharman asks who cares about a dead river, what does it mean to care? She tells us of sitting in a meeting packed with men and women who had come to watch a slide show about saving the river. “Outside, the soft August night still smells of rain,” she writes. “The clay in the soil has released compounds like those found in urine, a distinct acrid odor. Walking back to my house, I hear an owl hoot, and I click off the flashlight, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness.”

I cherish these points of intersection, where Sharman’s world and mine come together—where I hear the owl hoot as if I were there walking with her, because, on the ranch in the Black Hills where I reared my children, I, too, listened to the hooting of owls and smelled the acrid odor of clay soil.

When Wendell Barry gave the keynote talk at the Quivira Coalition’s annual conference, more than 500 people attended. I could not help but smile when I scanned the room. The audience was filled with men, women, and children, as different looking from one another as the critters in The Wind in the Willows. Some wore cowboy hats. Some wore Birkenstocks. Some wore Forest Service uniforms. Some wore Park Service uniforms. Some wore Wranglers and denim jackets. Some wore microfleece and Sahara pants. Here was a true gathering of people from all walks of life. But they shared one thing in common—their Love of Place—with a capital L and a capitol P.

I hope Sharman and I can sit down soon and talk about the issues we hold close to our hearts—those that lead us closer to the Divine and about which Sharman speaks so eloquently in Standing in the Light. “How should I live in the world,” she asks. “How can I face my death?” “How can I be more joyous?” These are intimate questions, soul-piercing questions to ponder while walking on a favorite trail at dusk, as the evening light draws near, or perhaps while floating down a sunlit river with someone who was, only moments ago, a stranger.

3 comments:

Priscilla said...

Thanks, Page, for this thoughtful review, and for bringing Sharman to the attention of the BMW list. And thank you, Sharman, for some beautiful meditations on pantheism! I'm grateful to know anyone who traverses Spinoza to Bruno to Quakers, and I look forward to reading your book. I just returned from an academic conference on religion, nature, and culture where I helped to start conversations on animism; if you're interested, you can read about it in my post "Animism in the Academy." I look forward to getting to know you and your work.

susanjtweit said...

Page, it's lovely to read you here on Sharman's Love of Place blog. Thanks to Sharman for writing Standing in the Light and inspiring us to think about what we believe, and to you, Page, for the insightful comments. (And for reminding me of the complexity in Wind in the Willows--another children's story that's not as simple as it seems on the surface....)

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