For those of you who follow both my Spirituality and Ecological Hope project as well as this blog, you can probably guess what happened. With a big adventure coming up in September - a 2-week pilgrimage with 5 Canadian colleagues along Alberta's Athabasca River from the Rocky Mountains to the oil sands industrial site - well, I got a bit distracted.
Not from writing, just from writing about writing...
We created a blog for the pilgrimage and I do hope you might still give it a visit [http://riverpilgrims.net/]. Some nice writing happened there and attracted a bit of a following for a while. I think it was a wonderful use of the blogging technology to allow writing, as it emerged from a powerful experience like this, to have an immediacy that moved many people who supported us on this journey. And then it was also about one of the most crucial realities of our times, one in which the course of human life on this planet is at stake.
And when I returned home, I did more writing on my project blog, starting with this post: "Home from Alberta - Changed." Writing just flowed out of this experience and I'm still trying to find ways to channel that energy since it can be all-consuming. For many nights after I came home, I was haunted by what I witnessed. It was in my restless dreams, what I started calling my "Alberta disturbances," and hard as that is, I look to it now as a font for some new writing.
More writing followed, and a photo/video essay here: "From Beauty to Horror and Back Again: The Athabasca River Pilgrimage."
Of course I journaled like mad all along the way, and then after coming home and sitting with that journal, I realized it held the beginnings of a whole new writing project, even though I could not quite see it yet. I think there is a book in it and I have begun working with that. I shared some reworked pages with my critique group at RedBird-RedOak Writers and the response was actually quite moving - incentive to keep exploring this.
A little excerpt - on venturing out in the middle of the night to experience the brilliant sky of a Rocky Mountain wilderness.
Sept. 4, the night of the New Moon:
I walked out into the night and gasped with the beauty of it. When had I last seen a night sky like this – the Milky Way in all its glory, my home galaxy. My home! My sense of belonging was overwhelming, and my sorrow that we humans are losing the experience of the magic of the night sky. More than half of us now live in urban areas, and many more under the limits of light pollution. Where will all that wonder go? And how will we be fully human without it?
It will be about loss and wonder. It will be about what we humans have done and are doing to this precious planet, which has been so generous with us and whose generosity we are in the process of destroying. It will be about relationships and the interrelationship of all things.A sky like this always tells me where the myths and the gods came from, a primal sense of a cosmos vibrant, resonant, and alive.I could hardly get enough of it. What does it mean for us humans that we no longer live under night skies like this, most of us, ever? How can we know our place?
I don't know exactly how it will take form yet, but it is coming in and through like the river itself. I just need to keep opening, and then get it all down.
As for the book I have posted about here previously - the story of my ancestors, the journey of my family from the origins of the Myth of the American Dream to its imminent end - I am nearly through with the second set of revisions, ready soon to send it out into the world.
Writers and artists must keep revealing us to ourselves. And I have never felt more keenly the need to do that with as much truth as we can muster, and with a deep commitment to integrity, honesty, openness, and trust that what is in us and emerging from us matters ultimately...
...that it matters ultimately.
Text and photos by Margaret Swedish