“Then there’s this” – Photo Credit: Amy Wright
“so thereʼs that, so thereʼs that, so thereʼs this and this and that”
Farms, gardens, the earth, sustainability, sustenance. What we collect, what we can’t keep. Spirituality, devotion, Zen, impermanence, letting go.
You are deeply concerned with where we’ve been and where we are headed in terms of the environment, farming, and making sure, as the world population grows, that we are all fed. These concerns inform much of your writing. Would you talk about this?
I am fortunate to have developed a relationship with nature early on. My brother and I played in the southwest Virginia hills and forests around our house. At least once, we had to walk back to the house barefoot on gravel because we mired our tennis shoes in the mud of a shoestring branch. We climbed shale banks, fished for bluegill, planted gardens, pulled weeds, snapped green beans, etc. Many summer nights we sat down to meals where we had grown every food on our plates—including cantaloupe or watermelon for dessert. That magic moment when a corn shoot breaks free of its seed, climbs through dark soil toward the light—sometimes alarmingly far away when one of us pushed the seeds too deep—filled me with wonder then and now. I know our tremendous debt to Earth for producing food, plumping it with minerals our bodies need. And to we owe the many humans present and past whose labor and invention make it possible to stock a grocery store.
It’s like the difference between falling in love with an abstraction and a man who snores. If I had not had the planet’s topsoil under my fingernails and its well water popping in beads from my forehead, I don’t know if I would have begun to care deeply about its health. When I read about a polluted river or a scalped mountain, I have brain cells and neurons that fire in response. Such scenes correspond in my body, making the causes and effects tangible and the need for responsibility real.