Notes on Parenting, Writing, and Nature

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Photograph by Peter Roach

I was thinking recently about parenting and writing again. This week has been a dizzy whirl of kids’ activities at the end of semester. Yesterday, I went into Kindergarten, and did some activities with the kids for the end of year party. We were studying Hawaii, its culture, myths, and incredible geology. The children were fascinated.

Being around small children can (mostly!) be a remarkable experience. They are adults in progress, becoming versions of themselves. At six years old, kindergarteners’ preconceptions about the world are just beginning to be formed, but they are not yet policing themselves with the norms that society often demands.

I recently found out that I have a Parent Writer Scholarship for 2019 at Martha’s Vineyard Creative Writing Institute. It’s a great idea to support parents with young kids, since very often this period can be an extremely slow and squeezed time in a parent-writer’s life. I would definitely recommend to parents to apply, and they also have a scholarship for writers of color:

Apart from that, I also published a poem about parenting in About Place, the journal of the Black Earth Institute. The poem is called ‘He Has a John Clare Chin,’ and it was of course inspired by the Romantic poet, who was sometimes looked upon a little snobbishly by his contemporaries. Often thought of as a working class poet, John Clare wrote some incredible poems about nature, and certainly adopted what critic Jonathan Bate would call “Poetic Dwelling.” This poem is about masculinity and children, and it questions how mothers (and fathers!) can bring up men to refuse to dwell in the world with violence.

You can read the poem here:

There are also interesting and resonant statements by the editors and writers involved in creating this “Rewilding” special issue of About Place. You can see them through the link below, and I leave you with some quotations that particularly struck me:

Rewilding is ultimately about relationships. It’s about restoring natural processes, core wilderness areas, corridors between these areas, and relationships that have been in place for millennia, or in some cases for millions of years. These processes and relationships are profound, and acknowledgment of these processes is embedded in Indigenous peoples’ relationships with the world. (Cristina Eisenberg)

We kept up like this for a full thirty minutes, until I decided to break the connection and leave the fox to curve back towards the Trinity River and surrounding urban forest a few blocks away. So, I guess, I didn’t break my connection—if I was still thinking about it, hoping it would survive the coming winter, and wondering what our front yard encounter said about me. I’ll always savor our silent conversation and try my hardest to not compromise its habitat, anchored so near mine. (Tammy Melody Gomez)

It wasn’t until I learned about the history of Texas, and noticing how the roads and rivers were named after Mexican political and cultural figures, that I came to realize my family’s attachment to the land. As Franz Fanon, a postcolonial sociologist and theorist from the once French-colonized island Martinique, stated in his book The Wretched of the Earth (1961), “For a colonized people, the most essential value, because it is the most meaningful, is first and foremost the land: the land, which must provide bread and, naturally, dignity.” For the marginalized, the land was the one means of survival and where they could hold on to whatever dignity as a people they had left. In this sense, re-forging our relationship with the land is a decolonizing process, or a re-wilding process. (Mayra Guardiola)

When faced with the concept of “rewilding,” I must admit that I had my doubts. I was concerned with reifying the colonizing force of the wilderness idea. I did not want to reenact an erasure of indigenous dwelling on the land. But I was drawn to this issue by the wide range of creative works—poetry, prose, visual art, soundscapes, performances—that About Place inspires and the promise of that diversity’s potential to challenge the boundaries of a concept that still carries so much power today. What I encountered in these works is a consistent undermining of the boundary between humans and the natural environment. Check: there is not “culture” here and nature “over there.” These artists also constantly wonder and work at how humans can best play a role as a member of this broader community. Check: responsibility to the ecological community, not dominance over it. This responsibility to the community is what “rewilding” ultimately means to me after learning from all the works in this issue. (Priscilla Ybarra)