For the last several years, I've been collecting a big stack of informal—often rambling—conversations with friends and strangers in different places around the country. For the most part, these talks are about what it's like to live where they live, or to have been where they've been, and about how the landscape around them and the way they move through it has influenced their life and work. After years of waffling about what to do with the things, I've finally decided to publish transcripts of a few of them in this space, one by one, as I find the time to type them up. Seeking all these people out and recording these talks with them has been enormously fun and profoundly edifying for me, and I hope you'll find a few ideas in here that are interesting to you too.
More about this project is here, in the introductory post.
Composer // Outside Fairbanks, Alaska // July 2011
“I think part of what happens to us in the natural world is that we step outside of our usual experience, our usual associations, our usual habits of thought. And we are provoked to have a more immediate and sometimes more creative response to the world — to experience. To me, that’s what wilderness is about, and what music is about.”
Poet Laureate of Oregon // Cascade Head, Oregon // July 2018
"Poetry is a way to attempt to think clearly about the work we need to do, so that the action that follows is well-directed. Poetry, and the arts generally, are like the research-and-development division of the human project. To act, in the face of disastrous policies, is too often reactive rather than proactive. So to slow down, and think, and create, and make poems, and make art is a way for our actions to be more effective in the long term. So you’re part of the transformation team, to love and save the earth, but you can’t save it alone.”
Artist, cartographer, and educator // South Portland, ME // June 2018
“I think that’s what I’m more interested in — in the geographic imagination we each carry around… a fusion of your experience of a place with this other level: an intellectual awareness of what it literally looks like.”
Photographer // Willis Wharf, Virginia // April 2016
“But just to have [the roundness of the earth] slowly become... apparent, like viscerally apparent, as you travel and literally experience it, as we did when we drove from Massachusetts to Arizona… that experience kind of opened my curiosity. I wanted to think about how someone might describe that feeling in a photograph.”
Storyteller & author // Northwood, New Hampshire // March 2016
"We make up this place; we are this place together. The things we have in common, those are what makes a place what it is."
Rock musician // A van currently parked in South Carolina // October 2017
"But – I mean, you know this – you can really get across the United States so fast. [...] And maybe that messes with our thinking about what those distances actually mean."
Singer-songwriter and author // Cambridge, Massachusetts // October 2015
"It’s crazy – it’s one of those things where you come back to a place and you think 'I can’t believe I even lived here.' I mean, I remember things, but I was such a different person. [...] Being back there fifteen years later, there are so many things at the center of my life now that I didn’t even know existed when I was living in Santa Fe the first time."
Writer and musician // Marlboro, Vermont // March 2016
"There was a long time when I felt that in order to be an artist I would have to leave home; that this was too much of a "work ethic" kind of place, and in order to write about home I would have to leave home. But I no longer feel that's true. I think that you can write about a place with more nuance from within it than without it."
Singer-songwriter and festival organizer // Stockholm, Maine // February 2017
"I know that when I did move back up here, I was very aware of what I was heading back to [...] You know, there’s a whole lot of vastness, emptiness, nothingness. I was aware of that, attracted to it, and that was probably one of the main factors that led me to decide to come back up here, that attraction."