This spring I coordinated Wild Mercy, a weekly environmental writing event in Missoula, MT, where prominent authors and upcoming graduate students read their works to large crowds in a fire-lit studio. It was one of the more powerful expressions of community and creativity that I’ve been a part of for some time. Here’s an article + photos I wrote for the UM FLAT and Environmental Studies Department homepage about the necessity for storytelling during these challenging ecological times.
When the world frays at the edges, we must tell our stories. When things crumble, we must sit closer—closer to the fire, closer to each other. And we must tell stories, of all types. Stories of loss. Stories of gain. Stories of being confused in a confusing world. Through confusions expressed, we discover clarity, a little clearing in the chaos. Through both telling stories and listening to them, we begin to trace some common, umbilical attachment that binds us all together. To be drawn into a story is to follow this thread of another and realize that, in some strange way, it’s also our own.
Since 2003, the Wild Mercy Reading Series, sponsored by the EVST Department, Camas Magazine and UM FLAT, has highlighted some of the finest writers and student voices in Missoula’s burgeoning environmental writing scene. Over the past few years, the UM FLAT has hosted these readings in our studio. For eight consecutive weeks this spring, two writers got up in front of a crowd of 30-60 people to read their work—stories, poetry, and music.