Sunday, March 20, 2011

Writing and Learning About Place: David Gessner Groupie

I can’t remember the exact sequence of events how I discovered David Gessner and his book, Under the Devil’s Thumb.

I think I read he was presenting a nature writing topic at the AWP Conference in Denver in 2010. Since I thought I “lived under the Devils Thumb” here in Granby, I bought his book to read before listening to his panel.

When I saw him in Denver, he certainly knew how to make an impression. When he was introduced and spoke into the microphone he beat his chest like a caveman. I don’t remember what he said, but I remembered him.

A year later, I saw his name on a panel at the 2011 AWP Conference in Washington DC. I signed up. I brought Under the Devil’s Thumb for him to sign but was too afraid to approach him. (The same with Pam Houston. I become star-struck near published writers.)

Tonight, I finished reading Under the Devil’s Thumb.

East coast born, moved west, and now he lives back on the east coast. I understand his displacement and wanting to know a place well. I’ve lived in Colorado for eight years and finally feel like I know a little more about the place. Gessner says that his story is about “the healing that can come through falling in love with where we live.” Like Gessner, I left many things behind and wanted to live out our national myth, for renewal and regeneration. And, “take my cure in the mountains.”

I wish I could describe the Stellar and Gray Jays he sees on his hikes and the creeks and streams he meditates near. He falls in love with the Continental Divide, the history of Colorado, the trails, this place. Hmm. Sounds familiar.

In his book he quotes my favorites: Thoreau, Stegner, Helen Hunt Jackson, Saner.

He rides his bike, hikes, and camps all around Boulder. He has a cat named Tabernash.

My favorite line from his book:

These are my pleasures as well.
“The jittery feeling after a run, the slight euphoria following the first drink, the quiet of walking by the creek, the mind-emptying joys of a bike ride, the eye-closing pleasure of devouring a great meal, the occasional out-of-self absorption when the writing is going as good as it can…” (75)

Today, I felt blah and unmotivated to write. I was discouraged by the writing life, until I finished reading his book. I am inspired again.

Why do we write? Why do any of us feel compelled to write the stuff of our lives?

I write because it matters. It matters.

I write to feel alive.

I hear or remember a story. I want to tell the world about it. I need to put pen to paper (or finger tips to keyboard) and tell the world what I’m thinking. In that process I make meaning of my life.

It is a yearning for connection. The yearning to hear someone say: “Yes, Yes, I know what you are feeling.” Much like I felt reading, Under the Devil’s Thumb.

Sometime I write about what devours me: sadness, love, pain, want.

Sometime I write about how I wished things turned out.

Sometimes I just write.

Sometimes magic happens.

I think that I will be a Gessner Groupie and read everything he’s written. He has much wisdom about place and landscape. I have a lot to learn.

“I’m afraid I am a polygamist of place. This worries me. Is a man with two homes doubly blessed? Or is he homeless?” (204)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kristen,

    This is so nice! I have a new book coming out, My Green Manifesto, and want to send you a copy by way of thanks. What's your address? Best, David Gessner