Project Passenger Pigeon

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This year marks 100 years since the extinction of the passenger pigeon. This uniquely North American bird was estimated to number in the billions at one point in time — only to go extinct in a period of roughly four decades.

The bird was hunted to extinction. Its breeding grounds destroyed.

And the last known passenger pigeon, a female named Martha, died alone in a zoo in Ohio.

Author Ray Keifetz told us that the story of the passenger pigeon inspired his haunting story “Miriam’s Lantern,” which you can find in Among Animals.

I encourage you to visit Project Passenger Pigeon — a year-long effort to raise awareness of this tragedy (and other species tragedies) so that we can work to prevent history from repeating with other species.

 

 

Posted in Books, On animals, On nature | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Dining well in Ashland

We love dining out in Ashland, though as vegans it can be tricky, even in this progressive little town. Yet this afternoon we rediscovered Louie’s, with its veg-friendly new menu and an organic-mint mojito (it was five o’clock somewhere).

louies

We sat in a shady spot by the creek, which was lovely even on a 90+ degree afternoon, and enjoyed Thai Peanut Wraps, with both regular fries and sweet-potato wafflettes. Other vegetarian- and vegan-friendly items (which we’ll be returning soon to try) include the rest of the artisan wraps (all of which can be made veg or vegan), the gourmet sandwiches (again, all of which can be made with organic tofu), and the black-bean chili (we’ll wait until autumn for this one).

louies2

Louie’s is right on the Plaza, and by the time we left, its air-conditioned bar and restaurant was packed and overflowing. Even on such on a hot day, the creekside seating was lovely and filling to capacity as well.

Those who love sports are likely already very familiar with Louie’s, which lately has been a major hub for World Cup viewers. Tuesday night is Trivia Night and Wednesday is Bingo Night (with half-priced beverages).

But we’re especially thrilled to see Louie’s making its menu such a veg-friendly one…between these delicious offerings and and the mojitos, you’ll know where to find us when we’re not at Ashland Creek Press HQ.

louies3

 

Posted in Ashland news, News from Ashland Creek Press, On animals, On travel, Vegan | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Head to Chautauqua this August to meet author John Colman Wood

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 7.56.06 AM

The Names of Things by John Colman Wood was a Chautauqua Award finalist in 2013.

Each summer, the Chautauqua Institution selects nine books of literary quality and invites the authors to participate in its summer author series. John Colman Wood will be speaking there on August 14. Here are the details.

If you can plan a trip to this beautiful part of New York, we recommend it!

Posted in Books, News from Ashland Creek Press | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An interview with Among Animals contributor Ray Keifetz

An interview with Among Animals contributor Ray Keifetz (“Miriam’s Lantern”)

Q: What inspired you to write this story?

A: “Miriam’s Lantern” began as a series of prose poems called “Last Things.” I spent a melancholy night enumerating extinctions—creatures, cultures, trees, languages …  “Where to begin?” was my epigram; it could have as easily been “There’s no end.” The poems that burned most brightly were a meditation on the last passenger pigeon, which died in captivity, and an encounter I’d had as a boy with a very old man who’d apprenticed as a blacksmith before horses had been replaced by cars. And almost immediately I sensed there was a story and that story was the connection, somehow, between that bird and that man. Both were on display. The habitats of both had been destroyed. The bird, however, had been hunted to extinction by men. A year later it came to me what if . . .? What if the man had killed the bird, one of the last? Instantly I had the bones of a story. The historic events were there in one lifetime—the introduction of the automobile, the chestnut blight, the killing of the last wild passenger pigeon in 1900, the death of the very last in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. All that remained, which took years, was for me to develop the two main characters—my almost-a-journeyman blacksmith and my small bluish bird with eyes the color of flame.

ray_keifetz_200

Q: What was your writing/research process?

A: Apart from verifying a few dates to see whether my time frame was plausible, I did no actual research; I never do—I would hate to let a fact get in the way of a good story. The subject matter, the details of “Miriam’s Lantern,” grew out of my reading, my interest in history, in animals, and my travels. My writing is a weaving of what I know with what I don’t know (which is where, I think, fiction begins), of what I remember with what I don’t remember (the place where poetry begins for me). For example, the town of Praywell in the story is based on the restored, early nineteenth century town of Hopewell, which I stumbled upon by accident. It was there that I met the blacksmith who told me how he forged by the colors of fire and held me like Coleridge’s mesmerized wedding guest for hours. The strange urgency, the need out of which he spoke has stayed with me ever since and shaped my story as much as the fire shaped his iron. If I was the wedding guest, the blacksmith was the mariner, and so I named the narrator of “Miriam’s Lantern” Marner. For me the concrete, the “actual” are the places I leave behind. I doubt if I could find Hopewell again, but the road to Praywell is marked by numerous well lit signs.

Q: By juxtaposing the extinction of a human profession with the extinction of an animal, you create a story feels both futuristic and historical at the same time—how did you work toward finding the right balance?

A: To achieve the balance you mention, the narrator’s voice was everything. I can’t tell you how many times I rewrote “Miriam’s Lantern,” groping for just the right tone. While the events clearly occur in the past, it is Marner’s diction—formal, quaint, at times stilted, at times almost Biblical—that takes us into the future as if hearing a prophesy. Marner describes actual events, but he does so employing archetypes. His blighted forest could be our forest, the growing darkness as forge after forge flickers out our own growing darkness. But while the story is set in the past, the open-ended ending allows us, if we will, to follow Marner with his bagful of bright red berries into a future where those berries, against the odds, may yet be received.

Q: In “Miriam’s Lantern,” Marner is undergoing an apprenticeship—in what ways do you feel this reflects our relationship with animals and the natural world?

A: From the moment he kills the small, round bird, Marner’s apprenticeship assumes a wider, darker compass than what is normally required by blacksmithing. For much of the story he wanders through a dying world like a stranger, vainly trying to resume an apprenticeship no longer possible. Miriam offers him an alternative vision—a world where the pursuit of craft is still possible and points as evidence to the lives of animals, an association Marner resists. Ironically it is his estrangement from the natural world that lands him a job “among animals.” For the second time in his life he stares into the eyes of the bird that has both haunted him and informed his apprenticeship, but this time he sees another creature “unrelated but closely connected . . .” inhabiting “separate but closely related cages . . .”—the two of them prisoners, the existence of the bird as dependent on Marner as his existence is dependent on the bird. It is the small, solitary bird that in the end saves Marner, and it is now up to Marner as he returns to the natural world outside the zoo to repay the debt. That is his apprenticeship, and, I believe, ours as well.

amonganimals_250

Posted in Books, Eco-Fiction, Eco-literature, News from Ashland Creek Press, On animals, On nature, On writing, The writing life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An interview with Among Animals contributor Melodie Edwards

An interview with Among Animals contributor Melodie Edwards (“Bad Berry Season”)

Q: What inspired you to write this story?

A: When I was working for the Forest Service, a bear started raiding some Dumpsters in the small mountain town where I was living, and I thought a lot about the employees who had to problem-solve that situation. I’m interested in the relationship between people and wilderness in such places, where the line between is blurred. I think there’s some part of us that wants back in to our wild selves.

melodie_edwards_200Q: The narrator in this story is struggling to solve two mysteries, one human and one animal—how do the two disappearances and her quest to resolve them reflect her worldview?

A: The narrator is a woman, like most of us, tending to the day to day, blind to what’s taking place inside her all the time. That alienation we all face, from each other, from the present moment, from the big picture. She can’t see that the two mysteries are one. She’s like me—I can’t look at those images where you let your eyes cross and the fuzz turns into a picture. In her mind, the two mysteries are compartmentalized. She would never get around to connecting them, never. It takes a sledgehammer to get her to see.

Q: The narrator’s job in “Bad Berry Season” is to keep humans and animals apart, and the story features a surprising twist on this. What do you hope readers come away with after reading your story?

A: I hope readers come away asking themselves what lengths they will go to in attempting to re-embody their animal selves. We all remember our long lineages in the fiber of our beings that trace us back to the beginning of creation. We remember what it feels like to live the short, manic lives of ants. Or to migrate the globe as terns. That’s information we can access. But how—that’s the question. This is the story of how one man chooses to do so.

 amonganimals_250

Posted in Books, Eco-Fiction, Eco-literature, News from Ashland Creek Press, On animals, On nature, The writing life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment