I have been rethinking how to sell books for a few years now. Like any sell-able product, books too can clash with environmentalism. Thinking of the latest space trip with former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose company doesn’t pay taxes, and whose motto seems to …
This morning I took transit to work since it has been super cold and somewhat snowy and there are still icy patches here and there on the roads. At one point the train passed a forest, and it was just in an instance my mind went away from reality as I got caught up in imagination–the forest was dark and cold and just coming to bare light beneath a slowly bluing sky, where a dark silky indigo hovered above while in the forest itself stood tall bare trees with snow heaving to their lower trunks, but only for an instance. I had wanted it to go on forever, which no forest does now. Then I was back in the world of high rises twinkling with lights under the ancient and near black sky. I went back to reading on my Kindle, which happens to be The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan.
The year has been bittersweet so far. I don’t like to post very private things here, but of course some things are super sweet. The move to Halifax is getting real. We have a broker, a realtor, and I’ve put in my notice at work and have 30 more working days after today. We’ve begun giving away clothes and doing some deep “spring” cleaning. We have an auction date set and a tentative timeline and appointment to ship our car out there. This busyness is also why I have been quieter on social media and on the blog. Meanwhile, the cold winter settles and creaks around the house. At first the new year came in with warmer temperatures and a ton of rain. I thought we’d flood. I hadn’t even had a dry day to go sweep out the multiple leaves gathered on the back deck. Looking out the door reminds me of lost ruins. Then the snows came, and now it is so cold it reminds me of when I lived in Chicago.
The bitter side: my family is experiencing a profound loss that came as a surprise on Christmas day. Separate from that is the health of my one living parent, and it seems like it may be similar to a repeat of what we went through with Dad. Then if I pan out to the world, Australia is burning. Climate change isn’t just a future thing. It’s already here, and we are living through it, and people in the mainstream are generally just tired of talking about it or are in some kind of denial and don’t talk about it. My colleagues out in Australia, who I’ve worked with for a while now in the literary world, and who run Stormbird Press (an affiliate that’s acquiring several of my old books from Moon Willow), posted the other day on Facebook:
It is with great sadness that I share the fate of Stormbird Press. The office building, Margi and Geoff Prideaux’s home (the founders of Stormbird who have spent almost three decades working on the front lines of wildlife conservation) and their large property which has served as an important wildlife habitat has been lost to the fires ravaging Kangaroo Island.
Margi and Geoff as well as all Stormbird staff are exhausted but safe. After weeks of helping to fight fires across the island they are now recovering in the homes of friends and community members or evacuation centres. All are humbled by the strength of community support. They join the CFS, farmers, the Army, the Red Cross and a host of veterinarians and wildlife carers and conservation groups who are working tirelessly to protect properties and livelihoods, most importantly keep people safe, and help injured wildlife.
The fire season is not over. This is the new normal—unpredictable and unprecedented fires, floods, heatwaves and devastating species loss.
A huge thank you to our fantastic fire fighters and the hundreds of farm fire units fighting the flames every day. These are the warriors who are actually facing our climate emergency while our leaders continue to flounder.
From deep within our hearts—thank you.
I also heard recently that my friend John Atcheson was killed in a car accident. You can read more at Common Dreams. When I began the site about eco-fiction, I read John’s book A Being Darkly Wise. I really fell in love with the story. It was set in British Columbia, and John had such a rich background, including with the government in the EPA, and was both outspoken and passionate about the environment and our place in it. He was so knowledgeable. Our first interview was in the fall of 2014, and I reiterated some of that conversation in a climate change author spotlight in 2017, this time talking about newer books in the series, a new nonfiction book he’d just published, and kind of the normal political stuff around Trump. I’d decided to do a second edition of Winds of Change this fall, and I will dedicate it to him. He’d also contributed a short story that, among other stories in the anthology, received high kudos from English professors at the University of Minnesota who used these stories in a book about teaching writing about climate change. They also used the stories in their own classes.
It is life though. Gain and loss. The loss in our family has once again drawn many of us together and it’s been like old home time, with long conversations between us. I sometimes walk around the house talking, phone in hand, fire place on, trying to get warm, as we work this out together. Good times and bad times.
Anyway, I sit here this morning trying to fight the cold, dreaming of a summer full of cricket and bullfrog sounds in Halifax and all that lovely green that will embrace the world.
It was with pleasure that I participated in the Ecocity Summit in Vancouver yesterday. From the site: The Ecocity World Summit is the longest-standing international Summit that addresses building cities in balance with nature. It is a biennial event involving over 1,000 delegates from around …
These days are filled with wonder. We either have torrential downpours felling the leaves of the mighty oaks, maples, birch, elms, and other deciduous trees–or days of sun and warmth, along with the reds, golds, browns, and yellows swirling around us like costumed fairies. It …
There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can defeat it.
Tyrion Lannister, Season 8, Game of Thrones
I am usually fascinated by other people’s stories. I feel pretty humbled about my own story, but also figure it might be as interesting as someone else’s. I think this is true of most writers. We like to share stories–ours, the world’s, or imaginary ones. Not only do we write, but we live our stories. The older I get, the more I feel more solidified in my own thing. I am a wife, mother, daughter, cousin, sister, aunt, friend. I write fiction. I live somewhere beautiful: coastal British Columbia. I’ve experienced a lot of exploration in my life–with people, travel, and interesting situations (learning to surf, trailrunning, paddling down a river in northern BC to watch for grizzlies, volunteering for river non-profits and dissecting dead salmon to show children the anatomy of fish, etc.). My early story consists of memories I still clutch on to, for they molded the adult me. I miss my dad every single day. I miss our life before his sickness and feel very fortunate to have had that growing up. I’ve written so much about those times in my blog. My marriage is perfect. I don’t know if most people would or could say that, but it is. I think it’s karma for several previous abusive relationships. My kids are growing into people with the same values as me–their favorite past-times are being outdoors: biking, hiking, spending time at a mountainous lake. My early dreams led to this story becoming real, but it was a rough road getting here and not without major strife, especially during my earlier adult years. These riches I have are not related to money or power, rather are made possible because of rewarding relationships.
I’ve tried reading stories on Twitter. Having spent years now on various social media, I tire of it sometimes, and I’m cynical about abbreviated tidbits pretending to be stories. In Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents, in the future world where Talents takes place, Butler created a news source where a bulleted note about war and a comment about Christmas lights might carry the same weight in 25 words or less. It’s the quick speed of Twitter, which shows our short attention spans and lack of retention and the imbalanced weight of matter vs. meaning that I find an odd sensation in our society. The quick information is beneficial for movements, but as for storytelling lacks completely, because if there is a story, it’s behind a link–a separate medium.
I’m fond of the quote by Edward R. Murrow: Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.
We could tweet the same thing as someone else who is a mild celebrity, and would receive no reaction. We could say something about war–more meaningful than Christmas lights–and the lights might draw way more attention. I’m cynical about this indifference and imbalance. I think Facebook has a slightly more standing power, way more engagement, and doesn’t move so fast. This is why I’m posting less on, and reading less of, Twitter. So if you follow me at all, you might consider switching over to my Facebook literary page, Ecology in Literature and the Arts or the one for Dragonfly Publishing (see the social media links top-left). I generally will continue trying to update eco-fiction works and announcements on Twitter, however. It’s really the blog that is my preferred medium, not for its reach but for its more meaningful way to present content.
So, I was thinking of interesting stories, regardless of who writes them. I like telling mine from time to time. It has been about a month or so since I last blogged–but I just like to write and know that some people follow my blog, as I follow theirs as well. Between term start and gaming (Classic Wow has arrived!), most of my time–outside of my fiction writing and family time–is nonexistent.
I’m starting to come up for air now, and I’m happy it’s Friday. We’ve had a very warm week for September, but this weekend it’s supposed to cool down and rain. Hints of fall are here, and yes I am an absolute sucker for pumpkin spice, falling leaves, the golden light of autumn, cooler temperatures, frost on pumpkins, getting ready for two Thanksgivings (Canadian–actually we’ll be in Nevada that weekend and American, where I do a big thing). We’re also doing an Octoberfest party on the 5th, and on the 8th I will be doing two ecofiction presentations at the 2019 Ecocity Summit in Vancouver. So I’m really excited to go through this season. Rather than rushing through, however, to me it’s all about the calm, the holding onto each sunlit or rainy hour as it happens. I believe in living for the moment, not the future. I’m looking forward to things, for sure, but now is also full of planning, thinking, dreaming. The story gains focus to specific moments, not just who I am on a large scale.
Work has been busy, but I’m getting a new office that’s more private and has lots of windows, so I’m excited by that because I often work one on one with students. There’s also currently a lot of construction around campus. While I could continue to park near the building, I’ve decided to avoid the construction congestion and park in the back 40, over by my old running trails, through the woods and along the creek. It brings me great joy to do a little hike each morning, especially this time of year. The rowan trees have bright orange berries. A slight chill surrounds my walks each morning, a perfect breath of coming winter sneaking through the air before the afternoon sun heats everything up. Dried leaves are blowing off trees; some of this is because autumn is coming. But also, due to hotter, dryer summers, our trees get more stressed and drop their leaves, even in summer.
I mentioned Classic Wow before in this blog, another part of my real story. I am playing a druid whose character name is a reference to Jenny of Oldstones. When I first began playing last week, to get in the mood of my character, I listened to “Jenny’s Song,” from one of my favorite Game of Thrones Season 8 episodes–where they’re sitting around the fire, drinking wine, and when Brienne gets knighted by Jaimie. It’s also where Podrick sings “Jenny’s Song,” a song before the big battle of the Night King. The song is an allusion to the Witch (or Ghost) of High Heart demanding travelers to sing that song in turn for telling them prophecies. Theories say that she was possibly an older version of Jenny or that she came from the Children of the Forest. To Tom of Sevenstreams, who sang the ghost (witch) “Jenny’s Song” in payment to the witch, she told several prophecies. Jenny of Oldstones was a commoner who was considered strange. She wore flowers in her hair. Locals considered her half-mad, a peasant, and even a witch. Her self-claimed heritage was of the First Men, and the castle she lived was Oldstones, which lay in ruins in the modern story. Her ghost was said to have danced there, in reminiscence of life and romance from when she was alive. Duncan Targaryen, the Prince of Dragonstone (or Dragonflies), met and fell in love with Jenny (circa 239 AC). He married her, going behind his father’s wishes, who had betrothed him to the daughter of Lyonel Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End. I don’t role-play in game, but my character was created with Jenny of Oldstones in mind. Why? Because I was fascinated by the story of her. The entire Ice and Fire series, and its television adaption, is possibly my favorite stories of all times. We take from stories and include them in our own if we relate to them. I was healing in a dungeon a couple nights ago, and a rogue said “Jenny of Oldstones!” and I was happy someone got it. I use an abbreviation in game since the name itself is too long for what the game allows. Jenny’s story is not the loudest story from the books or show, but it reflects me in some ways: a commoner. Some might consider weird!
The majority of people in my guild are much higher level than me. I guess they do not work or something. I like the game. It allows me to come home and sit down after a long, active day, and do something almost mindless in activity but also somewhat challenging in the sense it’s a game and you can die in it, etc. But it feeds my imagination in some ways., especially in that it takes place in a Tolkien-esque world before modern industry, where although there were the beginnings of modern civilization (forging and smelting, deforestation, magics corrupting the world), many areas are of a more pristine world alive with wind, rain, snow, animals, and mythical monsters. I look forward to hitting max level. We’ll raid two evenings a week and I’m sure I’ll play other times, but really, by sometime in October I figure I’ll hit that max level and have more time for finishing Up the River, another story I’m telling, not one of me but a fictional story of a fossil fuel catastrophe in the Appalachians, a crucial place from my childhood. By the way, the new anthology Mountains Piled Upon Mountains, edited by Jessica Cory, is absolutely full of beautiful Appalachian stories–creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. I am in love with this book and highly recommend it.
Speaking of Appalachia, tonight I will talk with my mother for probably hours–with a few glasses of red wine, sitting on the back deck, watching the autumn foliage drift around me. It’s important to me to keep close contact with my mother, who is aging and having some issues. I already lost my dad. I cannot contemplate losing her too, though it is inevitable some day.
That’s it for the story of me currently, the stories I’m writing, living, and reading now, etc.
However, there is a dream my husband and I are exploring, and maybe it will become a new story some day. We’re considering selling most of our possessions and moving to Halifax, Nova Scotia. It depends on his job here and whether their office in Halifax has any openings similar to what my husband does now. If so, we could actually afford to buy a house there. And they have a lot of rural property with some of the ideal things we dream of, like enough land to grow a real garden, land to run in, etc. You know, like those older houses with wood-burning fireplaces, original hardwood flooring, big front porches where you can sit out during the summer and drink sweet tea. The kind of houses of my childhood but perhaps retrofitted with solar panels. And the area is near the wild Atlantic ocean below, with rocky cliffs and a sort of older mood to it than Vancouver, which is really just a rich person’s playground. It seems very similar to parts of Ireland, and is like a dream to me. That’s a story for another day.
A couple years ago I got this bright idea to catalog every single plant, animal, and any other natural world thing in a piece about George RR Martin’s books/television series. I eventually re-read Book 1, taking notes in an Excel document. 151 rows later, with …
In two days we celebrate the autumnal equinox. Almanac.com lists lists some traditions: At Machu Picchu in Peru, an ancient stone monument called Intihuatana—which means “Hitching Post of the Sun”—serves as a solar clock to mark the dates of the equinoxes and solstices. In Mexico, the Mayans built a giant …
I had a full day with my husband: traveling to Burnaby for an appointment, going on a three-mile hike at the Barnet Marine Park, eating a very late lunch, grocery shopping, visiting the newest used bookstore in the area and finding a good read, coming home to clean and bbq, calling family to say hello, and then it was suddenly almost dark. I worked for a while on my new global eco-literature series–mainly on an interactive map, which I thought would be kind of fun to do and might be visually appealing. The lady at the bookstore knows me now and is always trying to help me stumble across international fiction that might work with my series. I really love that place (Western Sky Books). Anyway, I’m super happy with my next two parts in the series because later this month I get to go back virtually to Ireland with the author of The Story Collector, Evie Gaughan (who I mentioned in a previous blog), and in August I get to go back to a book I adored from afar in 2014–we’ll be going to the Philippines via that book (Agam).
I stayed up late tonight in the upstairs office, listening to night sounds, twigs crackling, and little wildlife noises from our yard. The neighbors are generally pretty quiet, so all night I have been feeling the great cool air coming in from the window while wondering how many of those noises are a bear, a coyote, a cougar, or perhaps the cute skunk living below our deck. It never bothers us–I often think it defends us as very occasionally we smell its scent at night warding off other wildlife, or cats.
My last feature on authors who explore climate change was about authors against big oil. Other than a spotlight that was dedicated to a team of writers, artists, musicians, and podcasters telling a story, this one really was a huge issue featuring multiple authors and books. Usually I just cover one author, and I’m going back to that this month! At the end of the last feature, however, I was thinking–this is too long compared to my other pieces, but I could have gone on a lot more. I said in that spotlight that if one wanted to follow more of my thoughts on the issue, they could visit my more personal blog. After that, I had several occasions where I would be heading to work and paralleling the Burrard Inlet, and I always wanted to take a quick detour down to the marine park. But I would miss the turn. On one occasion I turned down the wrong road and ended up near some industry that, as it turns out, we could almost walk all the way there from the marine park. The beach trail ended, and there were of course fences and signs keeping people out. It’s between the park and the Suncor terminal there. Let me tell you, the marine park is beautiful, and has a lot of history, but it’s surrounded by a lot of industry–tankers and oil and sulphur piles. We hiked about 3 miles all told and found some crazy things like old cement bases from a previous logging company, a train track that went parallel to the park, and a bamboo tree in the middle of the rainforest, obviously planted there. We walked around the park but also did Drummond’s Walk. You can see on the map that it ends at the one industry that I mentioned, but it’s not listed on the map. I know from accidentally previously turning down Bayview (what do I know? I thought it was a view of the bay) that I had to turn around because that was one of Kinder Morgan’s (Suncor’s) terminal, and I think the plant between the marine park and the terminal was related. The one day I accidentally turned down Bayview, thinking I could do a little walk along the inlet, there were a couple guards out there and a separate group of protesters.
Today’s walk was kind of nostalgic. I often think that the world we made, the world we live in, is full of too much loss. I am pretty good at dealing with loss and change, but sometimes I get sentimental. I remember other parts of my life that I could do a trail without seeing industry using our natural rivers and waterways (this section of the Burrard Inlet is still salt-water I think), and I know that there are much wilder trails, but the marine park was like looking at a microcosm of any city’s history. A failed logging industry and its ruins (unlike the beautiful ruins in Ireland, these were just old cement foundations that were never torn down), surrounded us. The distant Admiral’s Point, and heavy copses of rainforest trees with no or few houses, and the wild blue waters and mountains beyond–these things we want and need–were beautiful, yet up close were the ravages of our world: oil tankers, fences, polluting industries.
Tonight after working on the map and on a couple upcoming pieces for dragonfly.eco, I felt strangely not tired, awake but quiet, wondering about the future. I thought about the heron we saw and all the goose poop and geese and the way the misty clouds in the distance hovered in the other sunlit gaze over the mountains. Often, maybe too often, I feel very introspective like this. Getting out on the trail is one way to get me dreaming and hoping. Here are some photos of the day.