Marjorie Gellhorn Sa’adah,
The Great Arch,
The Hand Held; Platform,
Notes on Resilience :
Review of Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer:
Kathleen Dean Moore
Putting together an issue of Connotations always poses the question of connections between the included selections. Sometimes a theme is easy to identify in stories or poems by different writers. Sometimes underlying threads we didn’t expect surprise us. Sometimes we just relish the distinct gift of perspective each contributor offers. That is the case with this issue. We’ve borrowed a few of their words to trace the arc of lives and worlds and moral compass that are brought to light in these pages..
Primary witnesses: an apt description of all the contributors you’ll meet. The first of them, nonfiction writer Marjorie Sa’adah, begins this issue with the opening of her forthcoming book, At Home in the Going. That intriguing phrase comes from the world of horse racing and race tracks, a world she’s drawn into by meeting the people whose job it is to work in harmony with the elements of soil and weather and time and horses to maintain the surfaces of race tracks. A keen and compassionate observer, Sa’adah bears witness to the ways in which human interests and passions become complex, specialized, closed worlds within the larger context of our being.
Surprise was a thread followed by poet Ann Staley and artist Norman Campbell who worked together for a month this past fall during the Island Institute’s first collaborative residency. Long-time friends, they had never had the chance to use each other’s work as inspiration, as prompts for fresh approaches, images, lines. Included here are examples of both stimulus and response, though the full effect of Campbell’s work can only be appreciated by seeing his extraordinary full-sized originals.
Gritty adventure was what lured Sierra Golden’s mother out of the South to the fishing docks of Ketchikan, Alaska. And it is gritty adventure, in part, that lures Sierra herself to spend her summers in Southeast Alaska crewing on her father’s commercial seiner. Losing the calluses on her hands after each season is like losing acquaintances she wanted more time to know. But the Southern graces her mother grew up with are not lost on Sierra. Her version of Southern hospitality might include smoked salmon instead of cornbread, but it is hospitality nonetheless. Prodigal daughters two, finding their home wherever it might be.
Remnants. Bridges. Jerry Martien’s meander through mossy wooden decay in the thriving forest understory triggers his musings about infrastructure—what is put in place, whether it makes sense, what lasts. Where does the necessary underlying structure really lie in a time of societal and planetary change? What might be the most useful bridges to an uncertain future? Somehow, walking in the woods along small sparkling streams takes on more importance.
Survival is at the heart of poet and essayist Laurie Kutchins’ “Notes on Resilience.” Her reflections were written in July 2013 in preparation for a conversation with eight other women writers about the notion of a literature of resilience. Planners of the gathering had thought the conversation might generate new cultural stories in response to climate change, but as Kutchins shows us, the need for resilience surfaces just as strongly in response to other individual and societal crises. It is at the heart of healing. “The maligned wants to be loved and become aligned with love,” she says. Imagine what that could do for our troubled world.
A braided gift. Kathleen Dean Moore and Robin Kimmerer were among the other writers who joined Kutchins for the literature of resilience conversation. Both of their important voices sing out in Moore’s review of Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer’s latest book (Milkweed Editions, October 2013). The book offers readers a braided gift of “splendid writing, fascinating scientific and traditional knowledge, and important stories of gratitude and challenge.” Moore goes on to note, “What this becomes, this braid of sweetgrass, is a worldview, supple and strong and very beautiful.”
We offer you all of these primary witnesses and their gifts to enjoy