Monthly Archives: December 2013

farewell.

The New York Times
December 25, 2013

Farewell
By VERLYN KLINKENBORG

The first Rural Life appeared on the editorial page nearly 16 years ago.  This is the last.  This seems a good season to leave, with a long winter ahead, the wood stove burning, and plenty of hopes and plans for the coming year.  When The Rural Life began, I didn’t imagine that it would last so long or chart so many changes in my life.  Nor did I imagine that it would find so many good readers.  But it has, and I’m grateful for that.

As for the farm, it will go on much as it has.  The horses will stand broadside in the sun or paw the snow looking for last year’s grass.  The roosters — two of them now — will breast the bright morning air as always while the hens go about their business.  The dogs — two of them now, again — will chase each other through the snow.  I’ll be fixing fence and hauling wood and feeding out hay and chopping ice in the horse tank when the power goes out.  And I’ll be doing what I’ve always done: watching the way one thought becomes another as I go about the chores.

But what about your farm, the one you’ve pictured while reading The Rural Life all these years?  I know, from talking to readers, that it’s far bigger and more orderly than mine.  It has fewer rocks and richer soil and fences that somehow magically stay taut.  It reflects who you are as surely as my place reflects who I am.  And it seems to be just about anywhere, wherever there’s open land and some woods and enough time to walk the fence line.  I’ve always wished that I could visit the farm that readers imagine I live on.  It sounds like a very nice place.

I am more human for all the animals I’ve lived with since I moved to this farm.  Here, I’ve learned almost everything I know about the kinship of all life.  The only crops on this farm have been thoughts and feelings and perceptions, which I know you’re raising on your farm, too.  Some are annual, some perennial and some are invasive — no question about it.

But perhaps the most important thing I learned here, on these rocky, tree-bound acres, was to look up from my work in the sure knowledge that there was always something worth noticing and that there were nearly always words to suit it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Healing, Nature

edge.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/27/opinion/life-on-the-edge.html

December 26, 2013

Life on the Edge

By AKIKO BUSCH

IN environmental parlance, the ecotone is the zone where two habitats merge, that threshold where water meets the shore, where the forest comes to meadow, or where woodland ends at a cultivated lawn. It is the edge habitat where everything — soil content, vegetation, moisture, humidity, light, pollination — changes. It’s also where species from both sides converge, rendering it a place of complex interaction and diversity.

All of which makes it a good place to work. My small office here in the Hudson Valley of New York is situated at the edge of our yard, where the woods of oak, maples and hickories meet the brambles, the rye grass and timothy. Things are always happening here: White-tailed deer wander out from the woods foraging for something to eat, and wild turkeys often parade through the long grass. Once, at dusk, I saw a coyote slipping through the trees, and for a few brief moments two winters ago, a small gray bobcat. And one morning last summer I was astonished to see a black bear amble out from the trees.

The view from my window is of a place of constant change and unexpected appearances. Such a landscape can be helpful when you’re trying to distill a nebulous idea into a handful of words. It could be nothing more than a ring-necked pheasant pecking at the dry leaves, its iridescent green feathers picking up the glint of afternoon light, but a glance outdoors is enough to remind me of the intensity and complexity in these places of transition, where one thing manages to become another.

Aldo Leopold, forester, writer and dean of American wildlife conservation, articulated the idea of the edge effect in his 1933 classic, “Game Management.” Observing how different species search out different peripheries, he wrote that the grouse hunter looks to the edges of the woods “with its grape tangles, haw-bushes, and little grassy bays,” while the quail hunter “follows the common edge between the brushy draw and the weedy corn,” and the deer hunter “the edge between the oaks of the south slope and the pine thicket of the north slope.”

“We do not understand the reason for all of these edge-effects,” he wrote, “but in those cases where we can guess the reason, it usually harks back either to the desirability of simultaneous access to more than one environmental type, or the greater richness of border vegetation, or both.”

Humans, too, have some primal appreciation for this piece of environmental real estate. We seem to know that the edge is where the action is, or the place you push things to for the best results. When you understand the periphery’s purpose and significance in ecology, it gives you another way to understand different edges in human society and how their energy is created, whether you are talking about the borders between diverse populations in urban communities or more abstract reflections on how ideas intersect and are cross-pollinated.

In an essay about ethnic identity, the historian and essayist Tony Judt wrote about his preference for the edge as “the place where countries, communities, allegiances, affinities and roots bump uncomfortably up against one another.” Margins and edges, he suggested, offer us “a decidedly advantageous perch.”

And it occurs to me now, as we edge into a new year, that time has an ecotone of its own, some thin cusp where before meets up with after. Because surely the edge effect can be a circumstance of chronology as well as one of place. And surely the way the months, seasons, years brush up against one another can produce a similar influence of change, diversity, vitality.

Perhaps it is possible to imagine year’s end as having some temporal edge effect, to see it as the place where desire and expectation intersect with actuality. And to look at this time of year as an interval during which one is suddenly more attentive to that friction between the finished and the unfinished, the energy that lies between the done and the undone.

If adjacencies of terrain nurture biodiversity, maybe this juncture of years can generate similar sudden sightings of unexpected possibilities. How many minutes, hours, days are equal to a few feet of wild grass and bramble? And who knows what could show up during that time? It could be anything. The bears are asleep now, but it could be a turkey flapping in the brush, a gray squirrel practicing its aerials, or a coyote slipping by so elusively that all I’ll ever notice are its prints in the snow.

Akiko Busch is the author of “The Incidental Steward: Reflections on Citizen Science.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Healing, Nature

wish.

“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.”  – Agnes M. Pahro

* * *

Snow moon

Snow moon

http://jima828.blogspot.com/2011/02/snow-moon.html

* * *

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”  – Calvin Coolidge

* * *

Bryce Zion stars

Bryce Zion stars

http://www.bishoppeakgroup.net/Landscape%20Images/Arizona-Utah%20Parks/bryce_zion_2010.htm

* * *

“Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart… filled it, too, with a melody that would last forever. Even though you grew up and found you could never quite bring back the magic feeling of this night, the melody would stay in your heart always – a song for all the years.”  – Beth Streeter Aldrich

* * *

Zion snow

Zion snow

http://www.bishoppeakgroup.net/Landscape%20Images/Arizona-Utah%20Parks/bryce_zion_2010.htm

* * *

“Christmas is the keeping-place for memories of our innocence.”  – Joan Mills

* * *

Bryce tree fog

Bryce tree fog

http://www.bishoppeakgroup.net/Landscape%20Images/Arizona-Utah%20Parks/bryce_zion_2010.htm

* * *

“It’s been my experience that most folk who ride trains could care less where they’re going. For them it’s the journey itself and the people they meet along the way. You see, at every stop this train makes, a little bit of America, a little bit of your country, gets on and says hello. That’s why trains are so popular at Christmas. People get on to meet their country over the holidays. They’re looking for some friendship, a warm body to talk to. People don’t rush on a train, because that’s not what trains are for. How do you put a dollar value on that? What accounting line does that go on?”  – David Baldacci, “The Christmas Train”

* * *

 

Bryce

Bryce

http://www.bishoppeakgroup.net/Landscape%20Images/Arizona-Utah%20Parks/bryce_zion_2010.htm

* * *

“This Christmas mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love, and then speak it again.”  – Howard W. Hunter

* * *

snowy utah mountains

snowy utah mountains

http://optimisticarmywife.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html

* * *

“…freshly cut Christmas trees smelling of stars and snow and pine resin – inhale deeply and fill your soul with wintry night…”  – John Geddes

* * *

Zion

Zion

http://www.thespectrum.com/article/20131205/OUTDOORS/312050013/Snow-makes-Zion-even-more-magical

* * *

“What is the spirit of Christmas, you ask?  Let me give you the answer in a true story…
On a cold day in December, feeling especially warm in my heart for no other reason than it was the holiday season, I walked through the store sporting a big grin on my face.  Though most people were far too busy going about their business to notice me, one elderly gentleman in a wheelchair brought his eyes up to meet mine as we neared each other traveling opposite directions.  He slowed in passing just long enough to speak to me.
“Now that’s a Christmas smile if I ever saw one,” he said.
My lips stretched to their limit in response, and I thanked him for the compliment.  Then we went our separate ways. But, as I thought about the man and how sweetly he’d touched me, I realized something simply wonderful!  In that brief, passing interaction we’d exchanged heartfelt gifts!
And that, my friend, is the spirit of Christ~mas. ”  – Richelle E. Goodrich

* * *

Leave a comment

Filed under American Southwest, Healing

good deed for good red road.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/17/arts/design/secret-bids-guide-hopi-indians-spirits-home.html?emc=eta1

December 16, 2013
 Secret Bids Guide Hopi Indians’ Spirits Home
By TOM MASHBERG

The auction in Paris was set to move briskly, at about two items a minute; the room was hot and crowded, buzzing with reporters.

More than 100 American Indian artifacts were about to go on sale at the Drouot auction house, including 24 pieces, resembling masks, that are held sacred by the Hopi of Arizona. The tribe, United States officials and others had tried unsuccessfully to block the sale in a French court, arguing that the items were religious objects that had been stolen many years ago.

Now the Annenberg Foundation decided to get involved from its offices in Los Angeles. It hoped to buy all of the Hopi artifacts, plus three more sought by the San Carlos Apaches, at the Dec. 9 sale and return them to the tribes. To prevent prices from rising, the foundation kept its plan a secret, even from the Hopis, in part to protect the tribe from potential disappointment. Given the nine-hour time difference, the foundation put together a team that could work well into the night, bidding by phone in the auction in France.

The foundation had never done something like this before — a repatriation effort — and the logistics were tricky, to say the least.

Two staff members in Los Angeles, one a French speaker, were assigned to the job. The foundation also quietly arranged for a Paris lawyer, Pierre Servan-Schreiber, who had represented the Hopi pro bono in the court proceeding, to serve as lookout in the auction room.

He stood in the back, on the phone to the foundation. Whispering updates to him was Philip J. Breeden, a cultural attaché from the United States Embassy.

“It was intense, like a movie,” Mr. Servan-Schreiber said.

But camouflaging the role of the foundation was crucial.

“I knew nothing good would come out of it if the house knew there were people out to get the whole thing,” he said. “I was sure that would jack up the prices.”

The sale had been assembled by the auction house EVE with pieces from a variety of American tribes that were held by a number of French collectors, all of whom said they had owned the items for many years and had good title to them. Several collectors said they had been impressed by prices realized at an April auction of 70 Hopi artifacts.

The tribe had been angered by the earlier sale as well, which like this auction featured vibrantly decorated Hopi headdresses, known as Katsinam. The tribe, which had gone to court to block both sales, believes the items are not simply religious, but living entities with divine spirits.

Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, vice president and director of the foundation who lives in Paris, had followed the legal battle in the French news media. After the Hopi lost in court on Dec. 6, he went to the auction house to preview the artifacts, all of which are more than a century old.

“These are not trophies to have on one’s mantel,” Mr. Weingarten would say later. “They are truly sacred works for the Native Americans. They do not belong in auction houses or private collections.”

Mr. Weingarten had his California staff tally the presale estimates from the auction catalog and confirm that the objects were authentic. The staff members also became familiar with the Hopi belief system and built a database that would allow them to follow online the bidding on the objects they wanted. Mr. Weingarten approved a budget of $500,000 to $1 million to buy all 27 disputed Native American lots — the 24 masklike Hopi artifacts and three items of divine significance to the San Carlos Apache, also in Arizona. To do so he tapped into a discretionary fund set aside for individual projects.

“It was a leap-of-faith kind of moment for us,” said Leonard J. Aube, executive director of the foundation, which was founded by Walter H. Annenberg, the publisher, philanthropist and diplomat. “Not a lot of foundations are geared up for this kind of clandestine, late-night activity.”

At one point, the owner of the EVE auction house, Alain Leroy, said he had noticed that one phone bidder was grabbing up the disputed Hopi objects and told an employee to check into it. Reassured that the buyer had wired money ahead of time and was legitimate, he says he nonetheless grew frustrated and even muttered aloud that he hoped the secret bidder would “leave some for the others.”

Members of the Hopi tribe were also watching the sale online from Arizona. Unaware of the forces at work on their behalf, they said they became dispirited as item after item sold. Sam Tenakhongva, a cultural director for the Hopi, said when he turned off his lights at 2 a.m., he felt he was saying goodbye to the spirits embodied in the headdresses.

The foundation, however, had enjoyed marked success in the bidding. By the end of the auction, it had spent $530,695 and bought all but three of the 24 Hopi objects and the three other Apache artifacts that the foundation had sought.

And one of the three, a Hopi headdress featuring antelope antlers, had been bought by Mr. Servan-Schreiber on behalf of a couple, Marshall W. Parke, of the private equity firm Lexington Partners, and his wife, Véronique, who had instructed him to obtain what he could as a gift to the Hopis.

Mr. Servan-Schreiber said when it was his turn to bid, he took care to inform the foundation people, “so we wouldn’t start bidding against each other.”

The foundation lost out on only two items, both times, participants said, because of miscommunication. But they secured the auction’s priciest lot, a Hopi Crow Mother headdress that sold for $130,000. The event, which was over in a quick hour, generated $1.6 million in sales.

“It’s a good outcome for the Hopi but not the collectors, I suppose,” Mr. Leroy, the auction house owner, said of the foundation’s tally. The Hopi did not learn of their tribe’s good fortune until several hours later when the foundation sent an email alerting them to its clandestine purchases. Mr. Aube said the Annenberg Foundation, which focuses on civic and community projects, is consulting with the Hopi on how best to return the Katsinam.

The objects, surreal faces made from wood, leather, horsehair and feathers and painted in vivid reds, blues, yellows and oranges, cannot be encased in Bubble Wrap, for example, because it would be seen as suffocating the divine spirits. The Hopi have not identified their plans for these artifacts on their return, but they are not viewed as art objects or housed in museums. Typically, Katsinam are still used in spiritual ceremonies or are retired and left to disintegrate naturally.

For Mr. Tenakhongva, the fact that the Katsinam had to be bought and paid for, even by benefactors, was a bittersweet nod to the reality that some American Indian artifacts have become highly sought, expensive commodities.

“No one should have to buy back their sacred property,” he said. “But now at least they will be at home with us and they will go to rest.”

Leave a comment

Filed under American Southwest, California, Healing

hand written letter.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/01/books/review/to-the-letter-by-simon-garfield.html?_r=0

November 29, 2013

Kind Regards

By CARMELA CIURARU

TO THE LETTER

A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing

By Simon Garfield

Illustrated. 464 pp. Gotham Books. $27.50.

Once there were letters: handwritten, typewritten, carefully crafted, dashed off, profound or mundane, tinged with expectancy. Correspondence required waiting. “I need you more and more, and the great world grows wider, and dear ones fewer and fewer, every day that you stay away,” Emily Dickinson wrote to her future sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert, in 1852. Were they alive today, would Dickinson and Gilbert merely G-chat?

Simon Garfield might think so. His latest book, “To the Letter,” is a nostalgic and fretful look at the “lost art” of letter writing. “A world without letters would surely be a world without oxygen,” he declares, noting that his book confronts this possibility. It’s tempting to laugh nervously and say, “Why so ominous?” But then again, OMG, maybe he’s got a point. A certain artfulness has surely been lost as emoticons and Snapchats take over as modes of expression.

For the most part, Garfield — a British journalist whose previous books include studies of fonts and mapmaking — steers clear of contrasting the virtues of pen and paper with the sins of email and text messages. But sometimes he can’t help himself. He writes, for instance, that emails are “a poke,” and letters “a caress.” A strange analogy, to be sure, and anyone who has agonized over a lengthy, emotional email to a friend, lover or family member might disagree.

He also claims that the last letter “will appear in our lifetime,” and that we will not notice the passing of this final missive until it’s too late — “like the last hair to whiten, or the last lovemaking.” Such weird rhetorical turns are, thankfully, few and far between.

Garfield’s book is stuffed with marvelous anecdotes, fascinating historical tidbits and excerpts from epistolary masters both ancient (Cicero, Seneca) and modern (Woolf, Hemingway). By the late 19th century, the “letter-writing manual” had itself become a thriving literary genre. Lewis Carroll contributed some prescriptive advice in the booklet “Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter-Writing”: “If your correspondent makes a severe remark, either ignore it or soften your response; if your friend is friendly, make your reply ever friendlier.”

It’s wonderful to learn about the iPads of ancient Rome — thin wooden writing tablets sliced from alder, birch and oak — and to stumble on this delightful closing phrase of a letter dating to the third century A.D.: “Remember my pigeons.” Or to encounter an exasperated Erasmus, chiding his brother for not having written back: “I believe it would be easier to get blood from a stone than coax a letter out of you!”

The letters of Marcus Aurelius reveal not a would-be Roman emperor but a lovesick youth pining for his teacher. “I am dying so for love of you,” Aurelius writes, to which his tutor replies, “You have made me dazed and thunder­struck by your burning love.”

Throughout, Garfield uncovers start­ling examples of lust (“I think of your breasts more than is good for me,” a British soldier writes to his sweetheart), intimacy and suffering. Some of the most poignant letters expose the private anguish of writers and poets. The correspondence between Leonard Woolf and Vita Sackville-­West, in the aftermath of Virginia Woolf’s suicide, is devastating for what cannot be expressed.

Despite Garfield’s alarmist stance, it seems premature to assume that letters will go the way of the woolly mammoth. After all, the death knell has been sounded since at least the invention of the telephone. In any case, his epistolary ardor proves infectious, as he reminds us of the pleasures of composing letters without password protection or “send” buttons, those secured in dusty bureaus rather than “in the cloud.”

One of the letter’s strongest defenses comes from Katherine Mansfield, who in a tender note to a friend conveys beautifully, and succinctly, what the form at its best can achieve. “This is not a letter,” she writes, “but my arms around you for a brief moment.”

Carmela Ciuraru is the author of “Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Healing