Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Be Wary of Answers

This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, argue, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound, walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek.
To seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers.

-Terry Tempest Williams, naturalist and author (b. 1955)

From an interview of Terry Tempest Williams by Scott London:

London: In An Unspoken Hunger you say, "Perhaps the most radical act we can commit is to stay home." What do you mean by that?

Williams: I really believe that to stay home, to learn the names of things, to realize who we live among... The notion that we can extend our sense of community, our idea of community, to include all life forms — plants, animals, rocks, rivers and human beings — then I believe a politics of place emerges where we are deeply accountable to our communities, to our neighborhoods, to our home. Otherwise, who is there to chart the changes? If we are not home, if we are not rooted deeply in place, making that commitment to dig in and stay put ... if we don't know the names of things, if don't know pronghorn antelope, if we don't know blacktail jackrabbit, if we don't know sage, pinyon, juniper, then I think we are living a life without specificity, and then our lives become abstractions. Then we enter a place of true desolation.
I remember a phone call from a friend of mine who lives along the MacKenzie River. She said, "This is the first year in twenty that the chinook salmon have not returned." This woman knows the names of things. This woman is committed to a place. And she sounded the alarm.

London: What do you think happens when we lose a sense of intimacy with the natural world around us?

Williams: I think our lack of intimacy with the land has initiated a lack of intimacy with each other. What we perceive as non- human, outside of us, is actually in direct relationship with us.

London: You were talking about the concept of "community." What does that mean to you?

Williams: Community is extremely intimate. When we talk about humor, I love that you know when you're home because there is laughter in the room, there is humor, there is shorthand. That is about community. I think community is a shared history, it's a shared experience. It's not always agreement. In fact, I think that often it isn't. It's the commitment, again, to stay with something — to go the duration. You can't walk away. It's like a marriage, only I think it's more difficult to divorce yourself from community than it is to a human being because the strands are interconnected and so various...Read the whole interview here.

I've mentioned before in this blog my mid-life's great desire just to stay home, and not travel much. In the time I've lived in this house, especially, which is now three years, I've been very deliberate about connecting with my immediate surroundings. I keep up with the neighborhood news, I travel only 8 blocks to work, I sit out on a nice bench in our front yard when the weather permits, I watch and encourage a new tree in the yard; I shop nearby, I have friends over a lot, I pay attention to who's around and how we're all doing. I think I'm finally outgrowing the need to not be where I am, which is a pervasive temptation for intuitives, especially, and a temptation that is fostered and abetted in our particular culture as well. In practical terms, it also means my creative process is quite different than it was twenty years ago: it's much less urgent, much more grounded, much more joyful, more about beauty and prayer, less about personal expression, more about the common good. It comes from being at home and knowing where and who I am, I think, and where I am not, and who I am not, which may be just as important to know.

Anyway, in the service of being home, here's another bird movie, about some birds in the state park just two miles south of where I live. It's 2 1/2 minutes long. I had to take the sound off to get it down to a size where Blogger could accept it, but will upload a version with sound to YouTube soon. Meanwhile, enjoy!

Today I'm grateful for: the beauty of the birds, deer and trees at Fort Snelling State Park; David Sibley's bird books; the vast paradigm-subverting, collaborative creation that is the web; my community; my home, my friends; my Twitter buds; good health; the freedom and ability to be with some folks through difficult times when I can; people who help me through the hard stuff; Beth Kanter's good work in the world, and the good work it inspires in others.

Holding in prayer today: Community members and all recovering from surgeries and illnesses; a housemate who'll be having surgery tomorrow; a difficult relationship; J&J in their new marriage; ML, PC, SP, HC; Elaine; SG adjusting to a lot of changes; sisters traveling in Uganda; the suffering people of Burma and the suffering people of China; the people of the United States, esp. people working to make this nation less mean and more hospitable; Sisters of St. Joseph in Japan.

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