Ecologs

Tucson

Tuesday, April 19th, 2022

April 6

Sitting in $300/night room in the Westward Look Resort. Discounted for Jan’s semiannual reunion of her 1965 Stanford-in-Germany Group to $150.  I agreed to accompany her since it coincided with our 55th anniversary the day we arrived and because I remember Tucson as an appealing place from two earlier visits.

The last of these was a reunion I attended was six years ago at Asilomar near Monterey that’s always been associated with an apologetic phone call I received upon arrival from an official saying that the big grant that had been sustaining us at City Farm had been rescinded because the Foundation making it was no longer funding anything in San Luis County.

This time around my experience has been a mixed bag. The official tour the group took this morning recalled the nightmare of taking grandkids to a theme park: endless wait time, exorbitant admission charge, being stuck in a tram with earphone-delivered recorded narrative by a 1950’s style authoritative narrator. No chance to walk or explore the tourist packed canyon.

Yesterday’s solo excursion was also disappointing.  I’d been anticipating the prospect of  exploring the city on an electric bike, but the rental process—all via text message with three combinations to allow access to the suburban storage unit where they were kept, ambiguous instructions, no map, and no lock, left me spending hours on a desolate ring road and then doubling back to go downtown where I was unable to leave the bike out of my sight.

 

 

 

But the group dinner that night in a famous Mexican restaurant was enjoyable—eight people at our table drinking pitchers of margaritas and reminiscing (as always) about Stanford in the sixties. This time I was able to participate by talking about my grad school experience there–Peace Corps expulsion, draft, and meeting Jan soon after she’d returned from Stanford in Germany at a poetry seminar in Free University of Palo Alto.

 

 

 

 

The day before, I took a solo hike up a busy trail into Pima Canyon, close by this resort, which still offered some mountain solitude, grand rock formations, the primal experience of finding running water in the desert, and a high altitude view of the new Tuscon’s limitless sprawl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the previous day, before the group arrived, Jan and I came across the kind of travel surprise one hopes for: a brilliant concert in a nearby botanical garden by two guitarists and a tenor.

 

 

That night we drove to South Tucson for some street food in a neighborhood recommended by the local hip weekly.  It was a little edgy being the only gringos and drinking cans of beer in paper bags.

April 7

I wrote the previous entry alone in our room while Jan attended a Zoom gathering of present and absent reunioneers. It was to be followed by dinner in the hotel dining room and then a planned discussion for the group on an undisclosed topic.  I told her that five hours of uninterrupted sitting was not going to work for me, and she said she understood and that I should feel free to go my own way.  After writing the recollections above, I went outside where the late afternoon light on the mountains along with the extra gas in the car I’d already paid at the airport rental spurred me on to a vehicular excursion.  I remembered a description in a tourist guide of the Mt. Lemmon highway  in the Catalina mountains and traced out a route to get there on my phone.

The challenge of navigating through the new suburbs raised my morale and I reached the base of the ascent less than an hour before sunset. Having texted Jan with a picture and my location I ascended the smoothly curving road which was surprisingly free of traffic, my attention nicely focused on the sensations of steering and the vistas unrolled by changes of altitude and direction.

Stopping briefly at turnouts to allow the occasional car to pass and take a picture, I looked forward to relating my adventure to the assembled group upon return.  The road ended at 8000 feet flanked by small snow banks.  The thrill of coasting down the 27 miles of perfectly banked curves in the settling dark was heightened by the precipitous dropoffs on either side.

As I pulled up to the hotel at the end of the three hour adventure, Jan phoned, extremely distressed with worry.  She hadnt received my text.  The group in the hotel restaurant had been waiting for food for 2 hours and were engaged in a moderated sharing of medical problems.  There was no occasion to describe my exploration.

The next morning after the others departed we drove downtown to the U of A campus and visited the Arizona State Museum.  The  exhibits of indigenous ceramics, basketry and weaving brought us together like the concert several days earlier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After afternoon siesta we met Bill, the one remaining group member, and drove back downtown for a great Italian dinner serenaded by a duo of troubadours.

 

Interbeing and the Rhizosphere: An Address to the White Heron Sangha

Monday, January 31st, 2022
Interbeing and the rhizosphere

Exchange with Richard Powers

Friday, February 28th, 2020

From: “Powers, Richard S” <rpowers@illinois.edu>

Subject: RE: ATTN: Richard Powers

Date: February 28, 2020 at 8:52:00 AM PST

To: “Steven R. Marx” <smarx@calpoly.edu>

Dear Steven Marx,

What pleasure it was to get your good and thoughtful letter.  Your words were very satisfying to hear, and I was delighted to hear of the connections between your personal journey and the journey I made while writing The Overstory.  It also moved me to learn of Eagle Waltz, whose productive response to a challenging situation would have made a wonderful addition to my fictional version of that challenge.  I look forward someday to hiking that trail he mapped and built.  Thanks for telling me about it, and for taking the time to write me with your generous words.

With gratitude,

Richard Powers

From: Steven R. Marx
Sent: Wednesday, February 26, 2020 3:31 PM
To: english@illinois.edu; Powers, Richard S
Subject: ATTN: Richard Powers

Dear Richard Powers

I’ve been meaning to write to you since last September when I finished reading The Overstory.  I kept putting it off until now because I felt shy of requesting the attention of an author I so admired. The fact that the book affected me so deeply and personally was outweighed by reluctance to add to what must be a heavy load of fan mail from others in whom it’s created a need to share some of their stories.  But after all this time, and as I ready to tackle The Echo Maker, the resistance has crumbled.

I learned about The Overstory from Eagle Waltz, an old friend from back-to-the-land hippy days near the end of the road in Lund, British Columbia, where I moved from New York with my wife Jan in 1970, lived in the woods for nine years, and where we return annually with our children and grandchildren. Eagle was another exile at the time, from Germany, who was entranced by the wilderness and horrified, like all of of us, by the systematic destruction of old growth forests whose grave markers we lived among in the form of gargantuan springboard-nicked stumps.  Rather than merely learning to live with that grief, Eagle decided to try to save the few grand specimens still scattered through endless slash and second or third growth plantations by mapping and building a 150 mile-long hiking trail  connecting the old sages. He calculated that opening the back country to locals and eventually tourists would produce support for his lifelong efforts to negotiate with logging companies and the government to spare the last remnant, which it has done.

The book’s connection with Eagle and its portrayal of the pain of outsiders who moved to the woods and ended up in industrial logging zones created one bond.  But then there was Stanford/Palo Alto/East Palo Alto.  I had moved there first in 1963 to go graduate school in English in order to avoid the draft after being kicked out of the Peace Corps for being “too intellectual” and having “the wrong attitude toward authority.” Jan and I met at a poetry seminar In the Free University of Palo Alto, got into lots of trouble and fun as student activists, married in the backyard of a cottage we rented in EPA, moved to NYC  where I taught at Columbia for three years and then emigrated to Canada. Nine years later we returned to Palo Alto so I could complete the dissertation on pastoral ideals and the life cycle I’d started fourteen years earlier. My interest in trees was rekindled when, unable to secure decent academic employment, I became  a part-time arborist.  A couple of years later upon yet another return to Stanford as lecturer I also worked on the tree crew and wrote a piece for the Stanford Magazine about the combination. After four years, and having secured  a tenure track job at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I gave a  capstone talk for “Literature and  the  Arts in Western Culture” entitled “Everythihg’s Dead but the Tree.”

Its clear from descriptions of other books of yours I plan to read that trees are but one region of your exploration, and I look forward to discovering some of the others. But the striking intersections between the incidents, places and passions so compellingly narrrated in this novel and episodes in my life make me feel uniquely part of The Overstory.

Gratefully,

Steven Marx

Albert Drive

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

The mockingbird returned
on Spring’s first day
filling the silence
left by students
gone on break.
Its bebop warbles
replaced their hiphop grunts
with a memory of hope.