The Grass Canoe

This is a journal about my 30+ year career telling hopeful stories about land and people, starting with my decision to become a novelist at age fifty-eight.

I chose this particular title because my creative journey has been as unconventional and daunting as trying to navigate a river in a canoe made of grass. That I made it this far is something of a miracle. From the beginning, I knew my mission in life was to chronicle our times. I was drawn to archaeology and anthropology initially though I knew I would never be a scientist or academic. What I really wanted to be was an ethnographer – someone who studies a people and their culture during a particular time and place. I began by creatively examining the American West, my home ground, eventually becoming a participant-observer with my decision to start the nonprofit Quivira Coalition in 1997. My activism, which I always considered to be a form of storytelling, took me to a hopeful and wonderful land, expanding horizons and provoking new creative responses. Eventually, my adventure down the river carried me beyond Quivira and I adjusted my chronicling accordingly. Looking back, I see that my work, in all its variations, achieved my original goal. It forms a creative ethnography, not of a people or place so much as of a time – The Age of Consequences.

My journey in the grass canoe began in a small stream in the desert and flowed downriver in twists and turns, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, sometimes eddying, sometimes discouraging, sometimes anxious, but always exciting and always hopeful. The water grew wider and deeper as I went, which changed the nature of the journey in ways I didn’t expect, challenging my faith in the future at times. Still, you keep paddling and pray that your little canoe can hold together just long enough to see what’s around the next bend. Life should be an adventure – make it a good one!

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