30 Tibetans have self-immolated this year, lighting themselves on fire to bring attention to their treatment by the Chinese, their lost homeland. One Tibetan said, “We will not hurt other sentient beings, so what else can we do?” Newsweek magazine has a full-page photograph of a young man running down a street on fire. That image will not exit my memory.
On Ellen, a man who freed a whale from a drag net said that if we continue deep sea trawling--dragging massive nets over the oceans’ floors--our oceans will be dead in fifty years. No coral, no fish. Dead. Ellen no longer eats fish.
There’s a plastic garbage dump in the Pacific Ocean, collected there by vast currents, that some scientists estimate is as large as two United States of Americas. Because the plastic can’t be seen from outer space or even really from the surface of the ocean--it is sub-surface--we can ignore it, but it floats in my mind’s ocean now, just as it floats in the sea. This sad new continent is known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Lisa Jones, the author of Broken: A Love Story, sent me an endorsement for my novel Tributary.
"I've been hungering for a book like this since I finished Lonesome Dove -- a tale of the old west big enough to crawl into completely, full of magnetic characters, unspeakable dangers, and beautiful language, but not the slightest bit cliché. Tributary is the story of a ragtag group of frontier survivors. There is an exiled Mormon prophet who lives in a cave and a truth-telling black man married to a Shoshone medicine woman. They are constellated around Clair, whose disappeared parents and independent heart lead her from a joyless Mormon childhood to New Orleans and back to Utah's sheepherding outback. Sensitive (by nature) and salty (by necessity), Clair ekes a living out of a valley of dirt, scares the hell out of those who try to mess with her small tribe, has her heart broken in all the usual ways and opened again by the magic of nature, spirit, and friendship.
It's a big hot fudge sundae of a book -- you wolf it down, and then you regret it's gone. I loved it."
I held a one-week-old baby on my chest, a baby who has never had a bath and smelled exquisite, a baby perfectly happy to do nothing but eat and rest skin to skin on other human beings. And occasionally smile for some deep reason. Welcome, Madalyn.
A drive to the Bear River Bird Refuge, in northern Utah, where everything human fell away and the sky and watery fields shouted bird hallelujahs. Some places are more inside us than without us. The dark dirt fields west of Brigham City half-flooded by the silty Bear River, guarded by white pelicans, cormorants, ibises, herons, egrets, blackbirds, squadrons of ducks, geese, gulls and the white snowy peaks of the Wasatch—just throw me in a puddle there and call it my final resting place.
My great-great-grandfather invented the rubber band. You have to be elastic and tough to hold all the world offers you, these days. Stretchy and strong. We all have to be.
Good and bad. Happy and sad. When you can’t forget, stretch.
P.S. You never know who you’ll meet at the Bear River Bird Refuge. This grandpa takes a lucky grandkid and his cammo-clad chihuahua for an open-air jaunt around the flooded fields on weekends. The dog rides in his jacket, head into the wind!