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Thick and imposing, rich with humus and root, a lifting mist, palpable silence: this image personifies wildness. It is what I saw as I read about Wilder Island, a mythical place in Corvus Rising. I can hear the Raven calling.
Since childhood, I have been drawn into the woods, playing in an Oak grove behind my grandmother’s house in Central Texas for hours, swinging from the trees on ropes, building tree houses out of sticks and grapevines or hiking with my grandfather in the East Texas Piney Woods, listening to the crush of pine needles underfoot, listening to him call the birds.
To this day, I fantasize a simple life: a wooden bowl, a rudimentary shelter, a fire and solitude. And reading Corvus Rising allowed me a few precious moments in such a life. As I read, I wondered if the author felt the same, so I asked her:
D: Have you ever lived in or wished to live in a forest or jungle? Where do you live now?
Mary: Yes of course! Not a jungle though. Forest, yes. As a young girl I fantasized about living on an island with a black bird and a cat. And a rowboat so I could go into civilization when I needed food or other necessities. I reckon that was a huge inspiration for Corvus Rising!
I live in the North Fork Valley of the Gunnison River in Colorado, at the foot of the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains. Only about 5500 people live in this valley; it is very quiet—people complain about crickets…sheesh!
Mountain lions and bears stalk the streets of our towns (really), raising a stir, but strangely no one has tried to shoot them, strange, because this place has a goodly share of gun freaks.
Politically, we go from wingnut to wingnut here. Plenty of everyone. I like it that way.
D: How do you think living environment— personally and ancestrally— influences who we are and how does this influence our relationship to the planet and other humans?
Mary: I was born and grew up in New Mexico, as an adopted daughter of the desert—
Both my parents were born in greener places (Mom in MN and Dad in NJ). They moved to NM in the late 1940s/early 50’s. My mother lived in Roswell during the ‘alien invasion’ of 1947.
Wilder Island in my book was inspired not only by my girlhood dreams, but by Nicolette Island on the Mississippi River, which cuts through Minneapolis. There is no other resemblance, however to this fine city. Minnesota calls to me sometimes, the green land of plentiful water, lots of fish. Hard to be hungry in a place like that—ghastly cold winters, though (Did you hear that MN closed schools last week? Never heard of them doing that before).
In New Mexico, white people are the minority(not by much)—but they are the dominant culture in terms of money and privilege. However, the influence of the Mexican and Indian cultures is prevalent everywhere, and it makes for a richness that is absent in other places where white people dominate the population as well.
I taught geology at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville for four years. Can we talk culture shock? Flattish land of cornfields and few rocks exposed—a nightmare for a geologist! No mountains…no green chilé, which is not only grown in New Mexico in great quantities, and the air is full of the aroma of roasting green chilé in the fall. I grew some chilé here in Colorado last summer. Not bad! It’s tasty, and hot enough.
Astounding humidity in Evansville, something that is hard for a woman of the desert to get used to. I spent summers in dry, mountainous New Mexico and Colorado.
Evansville is about 98% white. I missed the Mariachi music blaring out of open car windows.
I think growing up in the West had a profound effect on my life. Would I have loved rocks and mountains as much had I grown up in Minnesota or New Jersey?
My son lives in Brooklyn now (he grew up in NM also). It is noisy and exciting, the city that never sleeps. It has no crows. I surmise this is true due to rat poison used by people to rid the buildings of rodents.
Crows would eat a dead rat long before they’d peck at an apple.
I have mule deer nibbling at everything in my yard and a flock of wild turkeys that stroll through every day or so, and I hear an owl in the early morning. My son never hears or sees any of that.
In New York, there is plenty of noise and art and coffee shops and theaters and all the great and awful things that humans do. We live at opposites ends of all that, my son and I.
I think being a Boomer probably had the most effect on my attitudes toward the Earth and the environment. The rights of the earth have been part of our collective unconscious ever since the late 1960’s, as is also true for civil rights and women’s rights.
What do you think about how living environment effects one’s attitudes toward or love of nature & other humans? Tell me where you live and how you feel about it. Post a link to a photo of your favorite spot on earth!
d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, Balboa Press, 2013.