One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Landscape and Joy Harjo

Just a poem today, by one of my favorite poets.  I just spent a weekend with my dearest friends at beautiful Vermont College...they teach me again and again to open my whole self up.

Here's to all of us opening, opening, opening...


Eagle Poem
by Joy Harjo

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadly growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thoughts on Urban Gardening

 Reading Tam’s June twenty-eighth post, The Landscape of Root, inspired me to get out in my own tiny urban garden, to scrub out the birdbath, thin the heavenly scented rose geranium and coax the climbing hydrangea to grab hold of the scrim it’s meant to cover. 

Shaded by multi-story houses on three sides and a tall fence on the other, my little garden will only tolerate low light natives, although the small potted citrus tree has bravely endured the lack of light, with a single orange that has been growing slow and steady for the past 18 months—now nearly two inches in diameter! I praise its efforts and do not openly compare it to the more prolific members of its kind. (I know how disheartening that can be!)

In San Francisco, where houses stand shoulder to shoulder with little more than a few inches in between, and tiny backyards are shaded by surrounding buildings, people have learned to be innovative; some try container gardening, others have planted vertical wall gardens. But many have turned to community gardens to grow their flowers, veggies and herbs. There are over forty community gardens in the city, accommodating anywhere from six to a hundred twenty-five gardeners.

The community garden in upper Fort Mason is one of the largest and most abundant; here gardeners grow everything from roses to dahlias, apples to lemons, artichokes to pumpkins. The wait list is years long for a plot.

My husband David (who has never taken any previous interest in gardening) had a sudden hankering to grow some vegetables last month. He went out and got a twelve inch pot, a bag of dirt and six two inch Kentucky Wonder Bean starts, and set them up in the sunny corner of our kitchen. 

In the past month, the story of Jack and The Beanstalk has moved from folktale to non-fiction, with the plants now towering well over eight feet tall and the leaves the size of elephant ears. Well, baby elephant ears, anyway. It’s quite astonishing. A recent visitor mentioned the issue of pollination; we worried but then learned that beans are self-pollinating, so we will not need to bring bees into the house.

Some years ago when visiting a friend’s parents in a small rural town in Switzerland, where everyone has at least an acre-sized yard filled with flowers and vegetables, I commented on how surprised I was to see a huge community garden on the edge of town. I was told it was for city people who would make the hour drive from Basel to dig in the soil and tend their plants. Turns out, it’s a common practice in Switzerland; you can buy a tiny plot, big enough to construct one or two raised beds and a small shed that for many, not only house trowels and hoes, but a cot and a hot plate, so the gardener can spend the night. I love the idea of urbanites driving to the suburbs to work and sleep in their gardens. Someone even built a bee chapel on their plot—a tiny hive-filled church with mail-slot sized windows for the bees to come and go.

As Nature Deficit Syndrome becomes more of a recognized issue for urban children, parents and educators are pressing for school gardens. Once the privileged domain of private schools with expandable budgets, many public schools in San Francisco are now finding ways to make space and fund a school garden. Arden Bucklin-Sporer and Rachel Pringle have written a fantastic book, How To Grow a School Garden, that will tell you everything you need to know from why to how, including ideas for fund-raising. Check out what School Garden Weekly has to say about it:

Gardens and gardening have been used as life metaphors for centuries. When Voltaire said, ‘We must cultivate our garden,’ we understand that he was talking about more than tomato plants. May Sarton is quoted as saying, ‘A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.’ Osho, said, ‘Life is a garden. It is an opportunity. You can grow weeds, you can grow roses; it all depends on you.’ And it was Abraham Lincoln who said, ‘You can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.’

There are also many apt garden metaphors for the writing life, where the writer can be seen as both garden and gardener. We must plant seeds through contemplation, experience and research, we must dig deep in ourselves for our seeds to take root, we must nourish ourselves with reading, classes, and community, we must devotedly tend the seeds we plant with our focused time, protecting them from too much exposure early on and we must thin out and continually weed in order for our creation to blossom and come to full maturity.

I will leave you with a blessing from Thich Nhat Hanh;
May our heart's garden of awakening bloom with hundreds of flowers.

Take Good Care, 


Thursday, July 5, 2012


Our guest today is our dear friend and Vermont College classmate, Erin Moulton.

KISSING THE EARTH: Hi Erin! We’re so happy to have you back with us at Kissing The Earth to talk about your wonderful new novel, Tracing Stars!

ERIN E. MOULTON: Thank you guys for having me on again.  I am so happy to be back on your beautiful blog.

KTE: The landscape in Tracing Stars is very different from the landscape in your first novel, Flutter; you’ve taken us from mountains to seashore. Tell us a little about the landscape that inspired the setting for Tracing Stars.

EEM: Yes, as you know from our last sit down, Flutter very much echoed the town and landscape that I grew up in.  So, this one took me a little bit out of my comfort zone. Still, I grew up in Vermont and currently live in NH, so I have been to Maine a few times J.  The town in Tracing Stars, Plumtown, heavily draws from some small towns in Maine. Pieces of Ogunquit and York Beach have, likely, slipped into the pages. 

KTE: Could you describe this landscape for our readers?

EEM:  Sure.  Plumtown is a touristy fishing village.  Meaning, it has a lot of wonderful little shops that draw the attention of tourists-- the primary means of income is tourism-- however, it is also home to Indie Lee Chickory, Bebe Chickory and The Lobster Monty Cola.  Indie’s Pa is a fisherman and he owns Chickory and Chips Famous Fishery.  Along the main strip, you also see Sandies Saltwater Candies, Squiggle’s fish stand, Crawdad Coffee Shop and Oceanside Players.  If you go out of town a teensy bit, you will see the Manors which is where the wealthier people live. And if you go way out beyond that, you will eventually hit Goff’s Pier and the Barley Lighthouse. Plumtown is full of buzz in the summer, and quiet and peaceful in the winter.

The people there are relaxed, like they understand there is a bigger picture. Additionally, even though it is a tourist town, like any tourist town, the locals know the quiet places to go, the ones that are tucked out of sight. Just like Owen and Indie’s Tree Boat. 

No  matter what time of year, there are not enough lights to impair the view of the sky, which is always heavy with stars. Other constants are the sound of those ocean waves and seagulls.  Not to mention sunrises and sunsets that no medium can adequately capture. 

KTE: And tell us about the role this landscape plays in Tracing Stars.

EEM: Well, the landscape is very engrained in Indie, especially.  Indie has grown up by the sea and her father is a fisherman, so she loves the ocean and the inhabitants of it.  She loves the ocean so much that she is an expert at making fish faces.  She also has a pet golden lobster named The Lobster Monty Cola. 

Additionally, Indie feels the ocean.  She often stares out at the sea and breathes with the waves in order to calm down. However, right off the bat, the ocean takes her best pal, Monty, away, so it is a point of both love and fear for her.

Tied to the ocean is the heavily-starred sky.  Indie and her sister Bebe were such big stargazers when they were kids, that their Pa told them that “their constellation” was Pisces (which means fish) and that whenever they had a wish, they didn’t have to wait around for a shooting star, but could simply wish on Pisces.  They did this religiously and Indie still does it when she is feeling down. 

The ocean, lobsters, and stars put the entire story on its track and plays a role of comfort and angst throughout.  

KTE: You’ve so beautifully captured what’s it’s like to live in a New England fishing town, as if you’ve spent a good deal of time here or someplace very similar. Can you describe your personal experience with this landscape and any significant importance it holds for you? 

EEM:  As if you haven’t guessed, I have a soft spot for New England and New England towns.  I love the seasons, the landscapes.  I don’t think I will ever move away.  As I mentioned, for this particular story, I pulled a lot from the beach towns of Maine.  Specifically York, where you can see the saltwater taffy working in the window of the Goldenrod’s Kisses. (P.S. blueberry is my favorite flavor at the Goldenrod’s. It tastes like a blueberry muffin. Trust me, you will love it!)

I’ve been up to Maine many times. I have even been deep sea fishing in Maine.  I spent most of the journey staring at the damp floor of the small fishing boat trying not to lose my breakfast.  Not my kind of deal. But it was a good experience all the same. 

And when I was still working in theater, I frequented Portland to work on shows for the Mad Horse Theater.  Obviously, most of my experience with Maine has been as a tourist or a worker from out of state. Because I have visited so often, the beautiful touristy towns and fishing villages are very clear in my mind, but I had to be able to write from Indie’s perspective; from a perspective of someone who lived there.  Who was growing up there. 

Luckily, I know just what it is like to live and work in a tourist-y town.  In fact, where I grew up in the Mad River Valley of Vermont, the economy is very tourist driven. Granted, tourist season in MRV is primarily ski season and leaf peeping season, but it evokes the same dichotomy: there are people who work hard to be able to make a living there and there are people who come to enjoy their time as tourists.  Indie’s family is a hardworking one.  And in the place where I grew up, we have a lot of those hardworking types, too.  So I simply mixed up the beauty I had observed on the coast of Maine and put in the local feel that I know well, and I had a native Plumtowner.  My hope is that her perspective feels authentic.
KTE: Erin, thank you so much for being with us today!

Erin E. Moulton graduated with an MFA in Writing for Children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2007. She is the author of Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and One Incredible Journey(Philomel/Penguin 2011), and Tracing Stars(Philomel/Penguin 2012). Erin is co-founder of the Kinship Writers Association and is currently the YA librarian at the Derry Public Library.  Erin lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband and puppy where she writes, reads, drinks tea and dreams.  You can visit her online at or on Facebook as Erin E. Moulton (Author), or find her on twitter @erinemoulton.