With climate change threatening everyone’s future in uncountable ways, and continued government inaction, what’s a conscientious citizen to do? How can we effect change, how can we be the change, one life at a time?
Ever since I began a professional focus in the environmental sciences, every year I push myself to change one more thing in my life to become more ecofriendly. I’ve grown and processed my own food (chickens! tomatoes!), drastically reduced my waste (less than one garbage bag per year), purchased 98% of my clothing from Goodwill and consignment stores, and downsized my living space.
The next big step involves becoming carbon neutral. Essentially, this means holding myself accountable for my carbon footprint (to the best of my abilities – this is not yet an exact science), and working with my adopted Indonesian tribe (the Tado) to sponsor planting of culturally significant species (bamboo, teak, sugar palm and Imperata grass) that help improve their lives.
Six months after making this decision, my story has reached almost two hundred thousand viewers on YouTube. Filmmaker Dylan Magaster documents my journey towards carbon neutrality here:
If you’re interested in becoming carbon neutral yourself, a step-by-step guide is in progress on my new “Beauty and Love” website.
(Caveat: this is just my journey, I’m far from perfect, and I’m always trying to improve. I encourage everyone to act instead of indulging in armchair critiquing – doing so creates happier lives and more positive vibes!)
The art of truth telling has never been more important. True-to-life stories (otherwise known as nonfiction) involve disclosure and risk, pathos and pleasure. These stories are more gripping than any reality television show; more daring, more authentic.
One of the nation’s foremost creative nonfiction literary magazines, Hippocampus, has pulled together their finest essays from five years and published them in a slim volume entitled Selected Memories.
My Pushcart-nominated essay “Until We Have Loved,” a finalist in Hippocampus’ 2015 contest, is included in this volume (and singled out for praise by a reviewer) along with thirty-two other amazing writers covering a wide range of human experiences.
Perfect summertime reading.
During my years in Eastern Indonesia, I experienced a wide range of flora and fauna, from the microscopic (tropical parasites) to the macro (Komodo dragons). A few species were so memorable they merited a written tribute.
“Bite Me” my most recent essay published in Lowestoft Chronicles (a free, humorous online lit zine), tells the story of my extremely up-close-and-personal encounters with the widely ranging members of the Order Scorpiones.
“This is an animal story of the old days. They lived there at Forest Depths. Many animals of different kinds lived there. They played games…”
When my Fall semester students – Courtney Bautista, Chelsea Carner, Danny Perdomo and Sarah Presno – in the Nature & World Cultures course I teach at San José State University presented their book during our final class, everyone’s jaw dropped to the floor.
The illustrations are gorgeous: as in crazy-amazing gorgeous. The story, told by Eric Wilder’s (Kashia Pomo) relative Herman James to ethnographer Robert Oswalt in 1958, languished quietly for almost fifty years in a mimeographed text and audio file, deep in the University of California at Berkeley library archives.
Three years ago, as part of class assignments to actively contribute to biocultural diversity conservation, my students began interviewing elders and excerpting stories from archival records to bring them back to life: as animated story-films and animated texts. The original Native (in this case, Kashia Pomo) text is juxtaposed next to the English translation, allowing for language learning.
The second in a series of open-access books published on Issuu, “The Skunk Brothers and the Elk Doctors” is a fascinating, laugh-out-loud story about the innate nature of beings and their appetites, of inter-relationships and co-dependence in native ecosystems.
Read it to yourself, read it to a child. Read it again and again, today, tonight and for many nights to come.
We all have secret habits. Mine was a habit with a purpose.
For several years I stopped my SmartCar by the roadside to gather recently perished beings into my arms, bring the beings home, and do whatever was necessary to pass their contributions on to others.
“My Roadkill Habit” is the title of a recent essay, a national finalist in the 2016 Creative Nonfiction Contest held by the journal Hunger Mountain and judged by Robert Michael Pyle.
They come to me in repose, limbs splayed. Bodies still warm. They come in the moments before crossing over; the anima in their eyes transmuting from luminescence to abstraction to absence. There is just enough time to pull over, find the tobacco, lift the creature and singsong a prayer.
Fox, deer, flicker. Woodpecker, squirrel, owl, snake. Gold-tipped fur, softly shimmering scales. Feathers of soul-piercing intensity, beauty beyond measure.
When my habit attracted the attentions of a Yoeme healer, he piled my arms with enough tobacco to sprinkle, and enough sage bundles to burn, for years of roadside finds.
“Don’t be so stingy,” he said in half-jest, intuiting my technique. “No more of those small pinches of tobacco: fill up your entire hand. Be generous with your gifts.”
What happens to Waterdog (a.k.a. the California Red-bellied Newt) when he tries to hook up with Little Frog? And then runs into Bullfrog and Water Snake?
This traditional story, told by Elizabeth “Belle” Lozinto Cordova Dollar [Dry Creek Pomo] to UC Berkeley linguist Robert Oswalt is depicted in a storybook produced for the Grace Hudson Museum (Ukiah, California) by three students from my Summer 2016 Nature and World Cultures class.
In the space of a mere five weeks, Lauren Davidson, Yu (Emily) Hsuan Liu, and Jorge Morga pulled together an elegant digital text telling the story within a story: the story of Waterdog, yes, but also the story of Elizabeth Dollar. The entire book is available for free on this link: Waterdog and the Love Charm.
Read and share widely!
(With deep thanks to GHM Director Sherri Smith-Ferri for providing the story and biographical material.)
There once was a Lass with a Tiny Home On Wheels (a converted shuttle bus) who needed a place to park her Home.
She lived happily amongst the redwoods…until the rain and the shade and the damp (and the very, very long drives to work) drove her inland, to drier climatic regimes and shorter commutes.
Upon reaching Sonoma County, she found a spot in a tiny home community; one that defied all the usual stereotypes of places known as “mobile home parks.” Here be stunning hillside vistas! Full of native vegetation: oaks, madrones, manzanitas, buckeye! Wild critters! Spacious accommodations! A fishpond! A pool!
And kindness. She found kindness. Folks who shared fruit from their trees, and lent a helping hand when you needed one (or two). She [re]discovered neighborliness, peace and quiet. She found sanctuary, with the most blessed security of knowing her Tiny Home (and she, and her puppy dog) had a Place.
**** deep sigh of relief ****
After indulging in a Jubilant Jig (a.k.a.Happy Dance), she got down to business. She installed her hummingbird feeder, set up her REI shelter, invested in outdoor lounge-around furnishings, planted a kitchen garden, acquired pollinator plants, donned her swimsuit, and dove (with gratitude and enthusiasm) into her New Life.