Orion at Breadloaf

BreadloafLike Reese’s peanut butter cups, these two great things that are even better together!!

Let me just say wow.  Yep, wow.

ORION and Breadloaf teamed up this year to create a writing conference that filled my little enviro-art heart with joy.  Six instructors (Alison Hawthorne Deming, Jane Brox, Maurice Manning, Camille Dungy, Rick Bass, and Alan Weisman), lots of editors and agents and etc., and sixty or so aspiring writers spent the week in beautiful Vermont writing, listening, editing, learning, and just generally remembering what it is that pushes us to want to do this kind of writing, this kind of world-work.

All the instructors gave a craft talk and a reading, held workshops, offered one-on-one advice, and generally made themselves really available to the aspiring writers.  It was collegial, serious work with collegial, serious people.

Breadloaf sceneryStuff I loved:  Alison Deming’s reading from her forthcoming book ZOOLOGIES, Alan Weisman recounting some of the back story of his book COUNTDOWN, Rick Bass urging us all to get arrested–and the truly useful and complicated and sophisticated conversation that that provoked.  Jane Brox’s craft class, Camille Dungy’s revitalizing the role of definitions as a hugely useful element in non-fiction.  And Maurice’s poetry reading.  How did I not know of his work before?  Sad for me, but now a new discovery.

One of the remarkable things that emerged in reading after reading, conversation after conversation, were thoughtful explorations of the way(s)  beauty can mediate urgency, give it a shape we can face, help us think through it–maybe even beyond it.  The wisdom quotient was high, and the BS quotient low.  That hardly ever happens.  I don’t know how they orchestrated it, but they nailed it on the first try.


High Line and Promenade Plantee

Right before Rob and I left for a “significant anniversary” celebration–a trip to PARIS!!–I got the latest issue of ORION.  As part of the Infrastructure series, they ran a photo series about the High Line in New York.  The High Line is mostly completed, and very cool.  An elevated train track has been converted into green space:











Seeing the images reminded me that there’s a similar park in Paris, which I learned about years ago thanks to the movie Before Sunrise, the first in what turned into Richard Linklater’s series of “before” films.  So, off we went, in search of a romantic day and the progenitor of the High Line.  (Yes, we found both.)

The Promenade Plantee is in the 12th, and we started at the beginning, at the Viaduc des Arts.  It’s about 20 years further along than the High Line, so the plantings are much more established.











ORION was giving the High Line folks serious props for the thoughtful way they engaged decaying infrastructure, and used it as an opportunity to not only redress a problem but also to solve other problems beautifully at the same time.  And they deserve it!  But a little credit to others who’ve done similar projects can help all of us remember that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, that there are lots and lots of sustainable solutions being deployed and refined.  ‘Cause there’s no shame in borrowing a beautiful idea and making it work in a new locale.

Total Synergy!


As you know, this blog is about art, environment, the places those two hang out together, and a bunch of things that are somewhat peripheral that I try to squeeze into that rubric anyway.

It doesn’t take ANY squeezing to get ORION to fit.  This magazine has been around for like 30 years, bringing us some of the most beautiful and significant nature and environmental writing and art that’s out there.

And (woohoo) today was my first meeting as a member of their Board.  I’d like to think  this blog prompted the invite.  Yeah, wishful.  But check it out.  You’ll see that the art and articles are the kind of things you’ve read here–okay, so the ones at ORION are by famous people who are really, really good at what they do.  But you get my drift.