“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
By Page Lambert
(As originally published on her blog on June 25th, 2013)
I want to get better at inhabiting, at occupying my landscape, moment by moment – like the otter below inhabits hers. Almost completely immersed. I want to know intimately the physical world where the outer story of my life takes place. After all, isn’t this where our thoughts feel most at home? How is storytelling any different?
“Writing the outer story is a matter of sending yourself on the journey, sending yourself through the moment to find the new thing in it…. Don’t think, but watch instead: occupy…” (from Ron Carlson Writes a Story, Graywolf Press).
No matter how long a horse has inhabited a terrain, if something new suddenly appears, his attention will be riveted toward it. The boulder that has rolled down the hill during the night to lodge against a sage brush might be a crouching mountain lion waiting to attack his herd. The rogue horse snorting around the edges of the band of mares might be a rival, a challenge to be dealt with immediately. The physical world is not a passive place. It demands action. And it demands our attention. Photographer Mary Dobbs intimately inhabits, even if only for a moment, every landscape seen through her camera lens. She has taught herself the importance of focused attention.
Title: Thinking Like a Watershed Book Reading and Signing
Location: Bookmans, 1520 S Riordan Ranch St., Flagstaff, AZ, 86001
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Description: Join Jack Loeffler and Celestia Loeffler as they share and sign their recently published book, “Thinking Like a Watershed.” The event will be held at Bookmans bookstore in Flagstaff from 1pm-3pm and is FREE to the public.
The arid landscape of the southwest has supported many cultures for millenia. Thinking Like a Watershed celebrates this fact and brings together the writings of authors who
“have spent a great deal of time meandering through the landscapes, … ruminating on interconnectedness, and celebrating the spirit of place.” Produced in conjunction with the documentary radio series entitled “Watershed as Commons,” this book comprises essays and interviews from a diverse group of southwesterners including members of Tewa, Tohono O'odham, Hopi, Navajo, Hispano, and Anglo cultures. Both Jack Loeffler and his daughter, Celestia, are board members of Lore of the Land, a nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing and preserving the traditional communities of the American Southwest.
Start Time: 13:00
End Time: 15:00
Title: Thinking Like a Watershed Reading and Book Signing
Location: Antigone Bookstore, 411 N 4th Ave, Tucson, Arizona
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Description: Join Jack Loeffler, Celestia Loeffler, Gary Paul Nabhan as they share and sign their book, “Thinking Like a Watershed.” The event will begin at 7pm Friday, May 24th and is FREE to the public.
The arid landscape of the southwest has supported many cultures for millenia. Thinking Like a Watershed celebrates this fact and brings together the writings of authors who “have spent a great deal of t
ime meandering through the landscapes, … ruminating on interconnectedness, and celebrating the spirit of place.” Produced in conjunction with the documentary radio series entitled “Watershed as Commons,” this book comprises essays and interviews from a diverse group of southwesterners including members of Tewa, Tohono O'odham, Hopi, Navajo, Hispano, and Anglo cultures. Both Jack Loeffler and his daughter, Celestia, are board members of Lore of the Land, a nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing and preserving the traditional communities of the American Southwest. Gary Nabhan is an agricultural ecologist, ethnobiologist and writer.
Start Time: 19:00
Title: Book Signing and Panel Discussion: What Will Restore Westerners’ Bond with the Land?
Location: Collected Works Bookstore, 202 Galisteo Street Santa Fe, NM 87501
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Description: In “The Land: Our Gift and Wild Hope,” Rae Marie Taylor recounts the many ways the West has lost the “sacred.” The book mourns the loss of what she refers to with a
anic reference—the spirit of querencia—our basic allure to home (the earth) that “runs deep…in our species”
and maintains the human spirit. Vitally concerned about the impact of development on land and water, she bears witness in her book of essays, “The Land,” to both their devastation and today's resurgent hope for renewal.
Ms. Taylor will be joined by authors Jack Loeffler and Kyce Bello for a panel discussion titled, “Collective Imagination Matters: Three Authors Share on Restoring Hope with the Land Itself”.
Start Time: 18:00
Title: Water in the West: Panel Discussion
Location: Western Folklife Center, Elko, NV
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Description: Panel discu
ssion on Water in the West with John Ehrmann, Lisa Hamilton, Jack Loeffler, Bill Zeedyk from 10‐11:30am. Part
of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Free to the public, Pass not required. For more
information visit http://www.westernfolklife.org
Start Time: 10:00
End Time: 11:30
By Jack Loeffler
© 2012 (As seen in the Greenfire Times)
The Earth has circled around the Sun about three-and-a-half billion times since that special molecule evolved within the primordial milieu that characterized our planet some 10 billion or so solar years after our Universe blasted into being. This tiny dot of RNA was equipped with a genome. It could replicate itself. It was alive. It was LUCA, the Last Universal Common Ancestor of all life that has spanned time on our now-living planet Earth. We, as the human species, retain elements of the genetic code that resided in LUCA.
Metaphorically, LUCA was the seed of life that gradually blossomed into trillions of species, and lately—relative to geologic time—consciousness. LUCA spawned Life and Consciousness, a complex dimension through which the Universe may be perceived, contemplated and partly understood, perhaps a window through which our Universe may perceive itself.
We are the recipients of LUCA’s potential. We, and the rest of life on Earth, are the cast of LUCA’s dream. Long may it last.
In the Biblical Book of Genesis, creation lasted seven days. It took us a week to get from nothingness to here. Referring to the great Tome of Science, if we symbolically conceive of 500 million years as a day, it took six days for LUCA’s dream to span the planet with small unicellular organisms—and on the seventh day, the Cambrian Explosion burst upon the planet, marking the dawn of the Paleozoic Era when multi-cellular life forms gradually fomented over time into ever more complex organisms, thwarted occasionally by great spasms of extinction, diversity of life always recovering until humanity blinked into being, achieving species-hood only a couple of hundred thousand years ago.
Evolution, as interpreted by Charles Darwin and his intellectual descendants, provides a conscious reflection on LUCA’s evolving dream that presently results in recognition of the miracle that exists in our tiny space in the Universe. If life and consciousness prevail here on our planet Earth, considering that our Sun is but one of 200 billion or more stars in our Milky Way galaxy, and that the Milky Way is but one of 100 billion or more galaxies in the Universe, human imagination still has a very long way to go to grasp the potential that exists in the Universe. And in the great Tome of Science, new pages are being written about the possibility of other concurrently happening universes, perhaps infinite in number.
This is our glimpse into the Great Mystery available to be pondered at any moment as long as we live, and as long as we survive as a species…
Now is not the time to squander our ponderings by focusing on so much that is irrelevant, relative to our continued existence.
We are currently engaged in a time of hastening cultural evolution that far outstrips biological evolution. Our collective consciousness is presently offering an extraordinary palette of potential areas of focus. Our species is fragmented into highly diverse cultural systems of practice, themselves having blossomed, withered and re-manifested myriad times over the 15,000 or so years since the final days of last Ice Age. Then we existed in bands of hunter-gatherers and were concerned that we owned no more than we could carry. Our scale of cultural perspective had yet to expand beyond subsistence necessary for survival. Evidence strongly suggests that we were egalitarians, that social hierarchy was thwarted by the need to practice mutual cooperation within the band and beyond, that tyrannical bullies were kept in check by the advent of weapons that could strike from afar.
With the coming of the warming trends of the Holocene, so came the advent of agriculture. We gradually became more sedentary and settled into villages, towns and eventually cities, less inclined to the nomadic ways of our forbearers, more inclined to pursue accumulating wealth. Some were more successful at this than others, thus social hierarchy became an organizing factor in human culture. Perhaps this is in keeping with humanity’s place in the animal kingdom. Civilizations appeared autonomously around the world. Curiously, evidence reveals that many civilizations waned during periods of extended drought—something to bear in mind as we challenge the elements.
Concurrently, spiritual realms crystallized into religions. Many of the gods were taken out of Nature and relocated in heavenly or hellish realms available to human souls only after death. Gradually, much of the landscape was secularized. Human sense of kinship with the rest of life began (and continues) to wane. Thus we perceive ourselves as separate from LUCA’s dream, imagining ourselves to be the reason-to-be in this age we have dubbed the Anthropocene. Indeed, we are presently the keystone species… but for how long?
That we as a species have achieved such an evolved level of consciousness is awe-inspiring. No one knows
of other planets that are alive, let alone spawning life form
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s capable of consciousness. Surely we are not alone in the Universe, or even our home galaxy.
Certain pages in the Tome of Science reveal that it is possible that billions of solar years hence, the Universe will rip apart, perhaps to re-assemble in a new incarnation. Before then, our Sun will have gone nova, ‘obliviating’ our planet Earth. Other pages reveal possible perspectives that we are but holograms dancing to the delight of
elsewhere imaginations. Or that there are parallel universes mirroring our own. Or that the notion that our Universe, though appearing infinite, is rather but one of an infinite number of universes.
The truth is, we are here and now. That tiny dot of life known as LUCA of billennia past has resulted thus far in a level of complexity of life and consciousness and attendant technology and collective lifestyle that we as a species now strain the capacity of our planet to sustain. The last three centuries have been witness to a great rise in human population and industry, extraction and expenditure of non-renewable resources, energy consumption, pollution, scientific data, lengthening human lifespan, tempering infant mortality, medical arts, education, standard-of-living capability, sophistication of media, and now digital technology. The Industrial Revolution set the stage for the 20th century, wherein our human population more than tripled, as did human appetite and consumption.
Today we are beginning to perceive the presence of global warming and climate instability. We face grave jeopardy because of our own carelessness and lack of timely response to warnings by James Hansen and other scientists who watched with dismay as CO2 levels continued to rise in spite of their repeated warnings.
I personally think that the greatest single problem we must address is our system of cultural attitudes. Until we recognize that our ecology is far more important than our economy, we will not arrest the juggernaut of our own invention. We must achieve a steady state economy and stay further population growth if we are to establish any kind of sustainable balance within our planetary ecosystem. We have allowed economics to become the dominant force that now drives our collective perspective. A certain amount of avarice has crept in—a nasty word for a nasty human characteristic that defines the Midas approach to ultimate disaster. The territorial imperative is now defined in national and other political boundaries that carve the commons into unnatural apportionments, denying rather than welcoming recognition of kinship implied in LUCA’s dream.
We are a crisis-driven species in a finite world. Our crises are more than plentiful, each tinged with a cultural bias. The keystone of our species-hood is showing points of stress and potential collapse. No matter where we look, there we are, each of us surviving as best we can, our spoor in our wake, none of us leaving a traceless passage through life and consciousness—especially in the virtual world of the Internet.
Consciousness is our greatest commons. It is filled with what we put into it: our thoughts, the words we utter, our writings, world and local news, documentary films, TV entertainments, arts and sciences, twitters, skypes, facebooks, cell phone calls, radio programs, musical compositions, our poetry, advertisements, spam—the shared perceptions of our senses, intellect, intuitions and emotions. In our ‘march of progress,’ we have largely neglected the presence of Indigenous Mind offered by those of us who yet remain traditionally rooted to homeland, who continue to recognize kinship with all living creatures on our planet Earth that spawned LUCA three-and-a-half billion years ago.
We who reside in the landscape presently known as New Mexico live in a state of grace. Biodiversity and cultural diversity abound. Indigenous mind, scientific mind, artistic mind, musical mind, sustainable mind, conscious mind live in overlapping cultures of practice that invigorate a level of cognitive diversity unique on our planet. Almost all of us can look beyond our windows into the exquisite habitat in which we share membership. Every creature, every plant is kindred. Each of us is part of the flow of Nature that sustains our planet Earth, our solar system, our galaxy, our Universe from the microcosm to the macrocosm. That is the most significant concept that we can both digest and plant as a new seed so that we may grow to maturity from the grassroots and continue to evolve. We are part of LUCA’s dream.
Jack Loeffler is the author of numerous books, including Healing the West: Voices of Culture and Habitat. Jack Loeffler and Celestia Loeffler are contributors and co-editors of Thinking Like a Watershed, a recently released anthology of essays published by the University of New Mexico Press. For more info, visit www.loreoftheland.org
Title: Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival: Panel Discussion of Documentary “Wrenched”
Location: Orpheum Theater 15 West Aspen Avenue Flagstaff, AZ 86001
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Description: An exciting addition to this years film fest. Take an exclusive “sneak peek” of select scenes from the upcoming documentary Wrenched being produced in the
four-corners region. Wrenched captures the passing of the monkey wrench from the pioneers of eco-activism to a new generation who carry Edward Abbey’s legacy into the 21st century. Through the lens of Abbey’s anarchistic spirit, Wrenched champions those who have spent a lifetime defending the wilderness.
The preview will be followed by a panel of environmental legends, friends of Abbey’s and the film’s team, producer Kurt Engfehr (main editor and co-producer on two of Michael Moore’s films, the Oscar-winning, Bowling For Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead), director, ML Lincoln (director of Drowning River), and editor, Patrick Gambuti, Jr. (editor and co-director on At the Edge of the World, editor and co-writer, Greedy Lying Bastards and Bill W.). Introducing the session will be critically acclaimed author Craig Childs, who will be giving a spoken word performance.
Other Panelists include:
Ken Sleight: Inspired Edward Abbey to create Seldom Seen Smith. Sleight is a fervent environmental activist
, a legendary river runner and owns and operates Pack Creek Ranch in Moab, Utah where Abbey spent many hours writing. Often times you can find him standing in front of a bulldozer.
Jack Loeffler: An aural historian, writer, radio producer and sound collage artist. He was a close friend of Abbey’s for decades. Loeffler advocates grass roots activism and counts among his many published works Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey.
Ken Sanders: A rare-book seller specializing in Western Americana. He is also the founder of Dream Garden Press. Sanders was friends with Edward Abbey and is responsible for commissioning R. Crumb to illustrate the tenth-anniversary edition of The Monkey Wrench
Kieran Suckling (Moderator): Director for the Center for Biological Diversity, a national nonprofit that advocates for endangered species and the wild places they live.
Craig Childs: He has published more than a dozen critically acclaimed books on nature, science, and adventure. He is a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Men’s Journal, Outside and many others.
All ticket sales for this event is $10/ $5 for students and goes to support the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival’s Emerging Filmmaker Program, a free weekly filmmaking workshop for Flagstaff high school students, covering the basics of filmmaking.
The Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival continues to uphold its tradition of bringing new documentaries and fresh perspectives to the Colorado Plateau. Further information about the documentary Wrenched can be found at www.wrenched-themovie.com.
Start Time: 18:00