Little did I think when I wrote about Chaucer's fecopoetics over ten years ago, that I'd be interviewed for The Talk of the Town in The New Yorker about toilet paper hoarding.
"Not all those who wander are lost": I'm delighted to share a beautiful piece of writing by Emily R. Cordo. She interviewed me about walking, wandering, pilgrimage, slow ecopoetics, the environment, and the campus of Texas State University. Replete with gorgeous photos, I hope it gives you joy and a moment to reflect!
My article, Walking as Memorial Ritual: Pilgrimage to the Past, braids life-writing with the practice of pilgrimage. Here's part of the article:
"In 1966, my parents took my two older brothers and me on the Pilgrims' Way—not the route from London to Canterbury that Chaucer's pilgrims would have taken starting south of London in Southwark, rather the ancient trek from Winchester to Canterbury, famously chronicled in The Old Road by Hilaire Belloc. The route follows along the south side of the Downs, where the muddy path was dried by what sun there was. My parents first undertook the walk in the early 1950s. Slides from that pilgrimage depict my mother, voluptuous in her cashmere twinset and tweed skirt, as my father crosses a stile. My parents, inspired by Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, decided to walk along the traditional Pilgrims' Way to Canterbury. Story intersects with material traversal over earth on dirt-laden paths.
By the time we children came along, the memories of that earlier pilgrimage resonated with my parents, inspiring them to take us on the same journey. We all carried our own rucksacks and walked five or six miles a day. Concerning our pilgrimage when I was seven, my mother wrote in her diary:
As good pilgrims should, we've been telling tales along the way. Yesterday Jimmy told the whole (detailed) story of That Darn Cat, a Disney movie. Today I told about Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey, which first inspired me to think of walking trips and everyone noted the resemblance between Stevenson's lovable, but balky, donkey and our sweet Sue. (We hadn't planned to tell tales, but they just happened along the way.)"
This article, Dynamic Dirt: Medieval Holy Dust, Ritual Erosion, and Pilgrimage Ecopoetics, concerns the "liveliness" of nonhuman matter, in this case, dirt. In the picture of my mother walking through the forest along the Pilgrims' Way, you can see the path itself has lowered below the grassy tufts around it. Erosion is an element in pilgrimage. But soil augmentation also is--as well as dirt as healing relic.
This article has had a long genesis--perhaps you could say it began in 1966, when I was 7 years ago and we walked on sections of the Pilgrims' Way to Canterbury. I was not a fast walker. This inspired what has ultimately become my article, "Slow Pilgrimage Ecopoetics," published in Ecozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment.
This article of mine explains what Waste Studies is as a field of study. "Emerging as a response to the imminent dangers of climate change and overwhelming pollution, the critical exploration of waste has emerged as a field of literary and cultural analysis. Waste Studies offers ethical frameworks to pay attention to, understand, and act on bodily, cultural, and societal waste—material aspects of our world. As an aspect of the environmental humanities, Waste Studies expands traditional approaches of ecocriticism, once devoted to "nature," a loaded and complex term. Rather than looking at, say, trees or flowers, the waste theorist focuses on decay, built environments, and dystopic or toxic sites. "