Cat got your tongue? Excuses, excuses. In the improvisation game, “The Storytelling Circle,” you’ve got to talk—right away and on the spot—whether you want to or not. No excuses. No exceptions. No exit.
Nature doesn’t really care whether there are human beings or not.
I’m sorry to break this to you.
– Margaret Atwood
I’m not sure what I need to comment on first – the bloem or that wry, newsflashy quote. Let’s start off with the easy things first – the quote. Canadian environmental activist and contemporary Scheherazade, Margaret Atwood, really knows how to drive her point home and reverse perspectives. Isn’t it utterly refreshing to hear Nature’s point-of-view? Although She may not care about our existence, we should definitely be concerned about Hers – especially on Her special day – April 22 – a.k.a. Earth Day!
Now you might be wondering what a bloem is or maybe you’ve already guessed by now that it’s a portmanteau or a blend – a word formed by clipping two words and then merging them: blog + poem = bloem. If you ask me, it’s quite a simple equation and an appropriate tribute to World Book Day, which happens to be on April 23. If you’re interested in words, literature, the future of books, and their connection to the environment – for there is one – then you are cordially invited to sample my bloem, “The Future of the Library: The Future Library,” which serves as an appetizer for the main course, an interview with Margaret Atwood about this fascinating literary and environmental project.
On Friday, October 16, our group of five – two master students, three bachelor students, and I – set out from the Institute of English and American Studies at the University of Oldenburg for a four-day excursion to the ecological field station of the University of Potsdam in Gülpe. This small village is located approximately 70 kilometers northwest of Potsdam, or circa 85 kilometers northwest of Berlin, along the eastern border of the Nature Park and Dark Sky Preserve Westhavelland. Here, we wanted to study, debate, and directly experience darkness in an area that still afforded a phenomenon that is increasingly lost to our brightly illuminated European continent: dark night skies. The plan for this long weekend was to have the afternoons set aside for text discussions and to venture out into the dark after the moon had set. The mornings were free to either recover from our nocturnal activities or to explore the wetlands of our immediate surroundings.
Included in our considerable amount of luggage – the ecological field station requires self-catering – were three seminal texts for our ecocritical studies of darkness: Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder (2005); Paul Bogard’s The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light (2013); and the chapter entitled “Ridge” from Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places (2007). Although the titles of the first two books express a sense of loss and therefore suggest a yearning for an earlier, better, more “natural” life, Louv and Bogard both investigate the Anthropocene with an attitude that combines curiosity, fascination, and pragmatism rather than regression, nostalgia, and moralizing. Read more
One week before Christmas and no gift in sight?
Allow me to assist you out of your plight
For who really wants one more thoughtless gift?
Doomed to be piled on the re-gifting snowdrift
So why not create a story to tweet
In 140 characters – short and sweet
Well, actually in 280 characters or less as Twitter has recently doubled its tweet length. No Twitter account or money is required – just a bit of time. There’s no reason to fall under the glamour of the pre-holiday commercialization craze. All you need is a seed for a story that you can let grow and trim back into shape. You can do the old-school thing and write or type it on a decorative piece of paper. Then just stuff it into a little stocking. Of course, you can text or WhatsApp your gift of twiction as well. In search of ideas? Then take a peek at some of the twiction from my creative writing students.
Thanksgiving is a day for spending time with family and friends as well as sharing culinary delights, such as turkey, dressing (a Mid-Western word for stuffing), mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, relish trays, salads, cranberry sauce, and pie for dessert. I still have nostalgic feelings for the days when Thanksgiving was about the only holiday that hadn’t been ruined by commercialization.
I like the holiday and cherish childhood memories. In my family, there was never talk of the Pilgrims or any national Thanksgiving folklore, as it was more or less celebrated as a religious holiday, as a day to give thanks for all of life’s many blessings. After eating a Thanksgiving feast, the majority of the family on my mother’s side played 500 (a card game) literally for hours, while others watched football games and Thanksgiving parades. But each family who celebrates Thanksgiving will have their own traditions.
What is it like to grow up in an Old Order Amish community? Can the allure of tradition and a sense of belonging to such a community override the longing for freedom and the opportunity to experience the great wide world? This unrelenting push and pull between secure Amish community life and the tempting siren song of the outside world have shaped ex-Amish author and blogger, Ira Wagler. In his best-selling memoir, Growing Up Amish, the author offers his readers an honest, bittersweet, and moving account of how he left the Amish, only to return and eventually leave for good.
As one of the guest speakers at the Plain People Conference, Ira Wagler gave a heartfelt talk as well as read excerpts from his memoir about coming of age and his first love, Sarah Miller. But why don’t you listen for yourself?