A year ago this week, I joined an international expedition of twenty to travel to Western Tibet for over three weeks and participate in a 31-mile circumambulation around Mt. Kailash, one of the most sacred mountains in the world. The powerful journey was part of a larger creative project I’m working on now, so to honor this one-year “revolution,” I’d like to share a short excerpt along with some additional photos. The scene is set at Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple on my last night.
An oversized prayer wheel stands alone and it does not spin. Mani khorlo, they are called in Tibetan. Mani—jewel. Khorlo—circle or cycle. A wheel of jeweled prayer. They are used in Tibet and around the world as ritual, like kora, to gain merit, symbolic of an ever-revolving cosmos. Often lining monasteries and temples, each wheel is usually covered in sheet metal and embossed with Sanskrit prayer. Passing devotees spin these small wooden barrels, skewered upright on an axle like rotisserie. To lubricate them, monks pour warm rapeseed oil down the shaft, leaving a dark pool at its base.
It can sometimes look like blood.
But this one prayer wheel, this outlier, is different. At over three feet tall, the Sanskrit-inscribed cylinder is bolted to a storefront wall, too high for a person to spin, even if the wheel were free. Decorative trim shines beet-red and new.
A photo essay from last week’s 15-mile circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpais, retracing the footsteps of a historic route set in 1965 by beats Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Philip Whalen. Part of a larger book project in the works. Powerful experience.
Four Vows for Spiral Walkers:
Sentient beings are numberless;
I vow to save them.
Consuming desires are endless;
I vow to stop them.
Bio-relations are intricate;
I vow to honor them.
Nature’s way is beautiful;
I vow to become it.
– From “Opening the Mountain” by Matt Davis and Michael Farrell Scott
My article “Heart and Twine” has been published on Terrain.org, one of the finest online journals for environmental writing. Excited to be a part of this beautiful platform. A slightly modified version of this article was also published in print for the Whitefish Review.
Honored to have two pieces of my work “War Paint” (my first poem in print!) and “The 99 Revolutions,” published in this year’s Clackamas Literary Review.
This is a beautiful publication and they included some really great writing in here, including work from Rafael Alvarez, writer for The Wire. He was also the keynote speaker at the Compose Creative Writing Conference this past weekend near Portland, Oregon. I was invited to run a workshop on environmental and advocacy nonfiction, which went incredibly well.Thanks to Jeff McAlpine and CCC for having me. Honored. Onwards!
The next several months have turned into a lovely string of environmental writing events, presentations, and retreats.
1) Compose 2015, Saturday, May 2nd. Oregon City, OR: Clackamas Community College Creative Writing Conference. The blurb of the workshop panel I am leading:
“Telling Stories of Revolution:” How can we find our voice when writing and filming stories that help transform ourselves and our cultures into more eco-centric, resilient ways? It’s hard but necessary work, but the future of our planet demands that we do, now more than ever. In this workshop, we will discuss how to create and deliver stories through writing and film about environmental and social activism, about advocacy work, and about unique approaches to turning heads about specific issues and causes that matter to you.
2) Orion Breadloaf Environmental Writer’s Conference, June 1-7, 2015, Middlebury, VT.
Will be working on craft with some of the greats: Rick Bass, Scott Russell Sanders.
3) ASLE Conference, June 23-27, Moscow, ID – Presenting a paper on the ecological undercurrents of circumambulation, a type of circuitous pilgrimage.
4) Environmental Writing Institute, September 9-13, Missoula, MT. Working with David James Duncan on craft.
5) Banff Mountain and Wilderness Writing Retreat, (Pending) Oct-Nov 2015.
My film “The Crossing” will be playing March 18th at 5pm in Todos Santos, Mexico at the Todos Santos International Film Festival. This will be the first international premiere. Fired up. Can’t wait to see all my Mexican friends and family down there. Viva la Sierra.
So excited to announce that my article “A Home Made of Heart and Twine” was just published in the Whitefish Review’s recent issue themed, “The Geography of Hope.” The piece is about living at the UM FLAT (Forum for Living with Appropriate Technology) and all what goes into intentional, co-op living. Honored. Excerpt below.
“After crawling out of the run, I pry open the deer fencing and enter the garden. Though modest in size, this plot of land explodes with vegetables, providing each F.L.A.T. resident with more than enough plant sustenance: fireworks of kale, knuckles of cabbage, bulging tomatoes and curling squash. Aster flowers and nasturtiums wink in confidence with their peppery edge. A fragrant teasing of perennial herbs huddles together near the fence.”
To get your hands on one of these beautiful issues and help support local environmental literature publications, click here.