Sunday, June 8, 2014

Writing & Wildness: Opposite Impulses?

Grandiose, moi? No-one impresses as a writer/activist, surely, more than I. As a child, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Carmel Pine Cone protesting the proposed highway through Hatton Canyon. I stated decisively: "Cars are stinky." Decades later, the pine-scented canyon remains marred only by a quail-tickled dirt trail.

My subsequent efforts resumed in earnest five years ago, when I decided to put the words "Stop Mass Extinction" in front of as many eyes as was reasonably possible for me, a mere Nobody. How? My daring technique sacrificed my privacy: gossip is underutilized as a sustainable energy source. Public exposure is my device to use sexism and other prejudices to dodge Everyman's apathy:

"What idiocy is this [female version of jerk] spouting about tigers? Who is this [word for female loser], and what does she know about huntin'?" 
My valiant warning paid off: you will notice that the world, having heeded my alert, does not yet suffer mass extinction.

Y'all seek to detect the vanity of careerists here? 
May I recommend my stylist, Mother Nature?
Wildness not to mention full-frontal female brilliance - is a threat to many spectators in our commercially pre-packaged culture. Humans are objectified, rendered interchangeable, and then sold standardized products to adjust the object for presentation and pricing.

Competition and territorial machismo fit into business-as-usual consumer society, keeping our yearnings superficial and selfish. By contrast, femininity's inclusive boundaries ("Let's feed the poor!") can seem like weeds invading a strip mall's parking lot. Maternal instinct is nature. Writing can nurture it. Words can be a womb for our infantile cris de coeur... and sentences can structure the sanctuary of a private Amazon Basin for ladies to explore fearlessly. Ladies may access wildness through writing even when we're stuck in an office, kitchen, or (stinky) car.
Words are like animals politely paper-trained, caged from readers until unleashed. How often is a woman's originality and passion accused by the status quo of being insane or out of control? However, an untamed woman can seem safe to even the most intransigent misogynist when, say, "HYSTERIA" is described neatly in Times-New-Roman font. A marginalized woman who's sensitive to the plight of our Earth may find that writing isn't a safe outlet as much as a mental fortress from the tsunami of the acid-ocean mainstream.
 Free the captive feelings you have for endangered beasts!

Ladies, please do write about hysteria-inducing issues like Global Warming. 

(Meanwhile, men may remain steel-jawed about extreme weather; doggedly turn survivalist; or secretly welcome apocalyptic thrills as the climate goes "on steroids.")

Estrogen has a place in poetry slams, comments online, or even a letter to the editor of the Carmel Pine Cone. Like me, you may venture far from your comfort zone by sharing thoughts about pollution and extinction. Where can you turn for encouragement? Environmentalists may reject their "brand" getting contaminated by gender issues... as if women's "Half the Skywere superfluous to the Big Picture, and we sew lace on the bottom line. Don't be surprised if the literary establishment throws back what doesn't fit their fishtrap or fill their trawlers. Even feminists may assert that it's too strident to aspire to anything more than parlor humor (ha ha) or to embroider on our God-given ability to multiply. Your creativity, idealism and chutzpah may arouse a surprising degree of hostility from folks you assumed would be supportive. How dare you care? You violate the social contract of indifference and mediocrity; you betray the conspiracy of negligence. How uptight of you to think. Wouldn't you rather buy the Consciousness brand of Distraction? (Your mind is nothing but ego, right? An Enlightened One just asked me, "How do you know that mass extinction is bad?") Keep writing. It's, like, one of your chakras, or something!

I hope my own story proves that not only is the challenge worthwhile, it can be a constant source of giggles. And when I measure success by the expanse of my soul, becoming an eco-feminist writer made me... 

. . . phat(Yes, me, a squeaky lady from Carmel!) 
Okay, I admit that writing also made me FAT. Want to know my biggest secret as an author? The only way I could sit down to type out my novel Pax of Wildly Women was to bribe myself with treats. You know that equation of 10% talent and 90% perspiration? I had to fit 90% eating into there. I'd originally resolved to inspire someone else - someone qualified - to do the "Fanged Wilds" project. I presented the idea formally to appropriate academics, my feeble offers of cash leveraged with "movie magic" since I know a few people in Hollywood. [Also, movie stars owned ranches near me. Stalking is on my To-Do list.] 
My resources were not inconsiderable:
  1. I grew up with kids who went to Hollywood. 
  2. I had a lap-top. 
Isn't our Earth worth any ambition? I studied library books about cinema, took a college class with the obligatory prick, and wrote two screenplays about women championing the ecology of fear. The specific requirements of the film format ultimately served to overcome my literary insecurities: finishing a book seems do-able when you write it one "shot" at a time. During the process, I shared my enthusiasm with everyone I could: surely among hordes of educated tree-huggers was a single one who cared enough to lift a soft, smooth finger for such a sparkling idea (and maybe meet George Clooney!

Forgive them, Lady; they know what they do. Glutted with gaming, bloated with Oneness, stuffed with trivia, or engorged with ego, were they? I was full of snacks. On the plus side, maybe my global perspective was enhanced by my becoming spherical. If you wonder why my fiction is fecund, maybe it's that other "chick lit" is by anorexics: someone should update Virginia Woolf's classic to A Belly of One's Own. But I did lose the weight from the year of endless gobbling. In retrospect, it was fun to have an excuse to pig out as if I were pregnant.

Writing lifted me from the capitalist-greed-breeder paradigm: my books are my babies, and I ultimately consume less because I produce my own meaning and delight. I soar beyond my domestic details to transnational concerns, released from a lady's unspoken vow of compliance and complacency as I give language to the mute species whose homes our commerce invades. 
Leaf-cutter Ants
In the Costa-Rican jungle, the highways of leaf-cutter ants reminded me of urban commuters industriously destroying our own habitat. How about diverting some of our energy to speaking up? It's free! Invest your life in what's whole: our ecosystem, and your integrity as an individual. Why let your dollars vote instead for mindless hedonism, more consumers, or numbing substances that substitute for genuine satisfaction?

Another example of escaping the economy is that I travel stand-by at the expense of the (polluting) airlines industry.
I visited Aida Bustamante, founder of Yaguará.org, in 
Costa Rica, where the human rights of women are 
almost as  impaired as jaguar habitat.
(Its carbon footprint reaches all the way down from the sky!)

Women all over the world protect predators, and my next book, Let Me Take a Stab at It, documents some of them... as well as genuine miracles that prove how extraordinary your life can be when you love nature with all your selfless heart.

VC Bestor

Fanged Wilds and Women Program is a 501c3 Tax-Exempt Organization

Your curiosity is still hungry? Check this out:

Women who made Wilderness History (...that is, women who made history in this topic, not women who made wilderness a thing of the past! See how important grammar is, fellow writers?)