Water and What It Knows is a collection of personal essays that explore the link between natural history and memory, place and identity, how stories are written into the landscape and how humans learn to read them. The collection explores places three major bioregions (Minnesota, Washington State, and the Great Plains) and the essays examine one of three major questions: (1) How are stories written into the physical landscape? (2) How do we learn to read them and what are the consequences if we do not learn? (3) Is there such a thing as a land-based mythology and what role does that play in our identities? The collection as a whole aims towards establishing an ethic of place: every place I’ve lived has asked me to find the value and the specific in where I am, to find the local knowledge of how to live in that place, what makes that place unlike any other place. What does it mean to live in this place, on this particular day?
If you'd like to check out some of my work, here are a few links: "Deadwood," which won the O. Martin Lewis Award from Weber: The Contemporary West; and if you have access to Project Muse, you can check out my essay "Petrography," which appeared in River Teeth. Both are included in Water and What It Knows.
In Process: I'm in the process of revising my (former) dissertation, Galway(s), a collection of essays about the spectacular city of Galway, Ireland.
If you fold a map of Ireland in half from top to bottom, you’ll find Dublin on the east end of the fold and on the west end you’ll find Galway. The city of Galway, the capital of the West of Ireland, is a city of contradictions and eccentricities: it is exotic, it is familiar, it is both very old and very new. Galway(s) is a collection of personal essays that explores this city, each essay grounded in a specific place in Galway that allows me to investigate the ideas and associations those places stir up. The portrayal of Galway is flavored by my choice to travel alone, a naturally limited view that offers a certain reading to the place given my gender, race, class, and my American passport. If the purpose of travel is to engage as many boundaries as possible (cultural, societal, geographical, artistic), then the female point of view on travel and travel writing brings forward a distinctly unique perspective.
In Planning: Summer 2014 was a five-week solo Scamping trip to Nova Scotia to research and write Acadie: A Family Ecology.
Acadie is, at its heart, about searching for untold stories. My father’s family does not tell any stories, from their childhoods to where their families came from. Nothing. And so, as the family historian, a position I have held since the age of seventeen, I have needed to go elsewhere for the stories I’m looking for. But along the line, it’s become apparent that humans are wired to tell stories. Mostly, it’s a survival tactic as much as it is for entertainment. So if stories aren’t being told, it has to be a learned behavior. So I’ve gone looking for my paternal grandfather’s family. When I started, years ago, all I knew was that my great-grandfather was French-Acadian (not to be confused with French-Canadians) and my great-grandmother was Irish. I started to speculate about painful history and the unwillingness to constantly be reminded of terrible times, The Great Upheaval for the Acadians in 1755, when the British forced tens of thousands of Acadians out of Acadia (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick); and the Great Famine for the Irish.
The search for stories is focused around the ideas of movement and migration. I travel up to Maine and Nova Scotia to search out the Babines and trace their movement from Nova Scotia to Kennebunk, Maine, where they ended up. And then my great-grandparents picked up their roots and moved from Worcester, Massachusetts to Long Beach, California, where my grandfather and his twin brother were born in 1924. But even as this is forefront in the exploration, another layer of movement is happening: camping. My immediate family camped every summer for the majority of my childhood and I bought myself a camper in 2008 for the sole purpose of camping alone. Camping is full of stories—both making and telling.