What I'm Reading
Allison Hedge-Coke's Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer: A Story of Survival.
I heard Allison speak at a conference recently. The title of her panel intrigued me: "Witnessing: A Workshop." I came into the room late and sat at the back. Allison was sitting at the front speaking so quietly I had to strain to hear. She told of being a shy child who was extra-sensative to the outside world. She wasn't as attentive to the social networks around her as she was to the way the shadow of a tree fell upon the grass each day or the way animals gathered in a certain section of her native landscape.
After a several minutes, I moved closer to the front so I could hear better. Allison stopped her narrative and had us do some amazingly generative exercises, instructing us to "witness" our surroundings. She then told us about survival. "Survival is a catch-all word in contemporary culture," she said. "But survival is more than that. It's an active force." Later, I looked up "active force." It's a physiological term that refers to the length of a muscle in proportion to its strength. Survival, then, is located in the heart of the body, literally (the examples I found referred to the heart muscle, specifically).
After her talk, I went up to Allison and said I had to buy her book. She told me to go to the University of Nebraska Press's table and tell them, "I know there's only one left, but Allison said I could buy it." Which I did, directly. The book table woman seemed a little flustered, but with my determination, what could she say? She slid my credit card and the book was mine.
Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer is, according to the University of Nebraska Press, a narrative of Hedge Coke's life "as a mixed-blood woman coming of age off-reservation, yet deeply immersed in her Cherokee and Huron heritage. . . . The title Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer refers to the life-revelations that brought Hedge Coke through her trials, the melding of language and experience that has brought order to her life."
Books added to my list for the holidays:
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
Dolores Hayden, The Power of Place
Paul Sutter, Driven Wild
Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities
Donald Appleyard, Livable Streets
William Whyte, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces