This year more of my students worked on anchorites than ever before. Covid-19 has affected all of us, but students in my Medieval Women Writers class gravitated towards those women walled up for life in cells who dedicated themselves to God. Julian of Norwich in particular was an inspiration to my brilliant and creative students. Her most famous line–"All shall be well"–resonated with my students during this time of self-quarantine, anxiety, and loneliness. From crochet to short stories, research papers to screenplays, Julian and her sister nuns became a sanctuary for my students to explore their own fears, annoyance, pessimism, and even hopes. Teresa de Cartagena, the deaf Spanish nun of the fifteen century, whose ears were "cloistered" by God, was also a touchstone. Read more about my students' work here.
I was delighted to have been interviewed by Literary Classics after Home Front Girl won their top award: Words on Wings. My favorite exchange:
DO YOU HAVE ANY QUIRKY OR FUN WRITING HABITS?
Well, when I write at home, my little corgi Gwen barks to be let in and out all the time. It gives me lots of exercise!
Interviewed again about the history of toilet paper. I guess I'm on a "roll."
My short story, "FaceTimes," has just appeared in TEJASCOVIDO, edited by Dr. Laurence Musgrove. It's about trying to connect with a dear family member during the early days of the pandemic.
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.