April 18th-20th kicked off the 2nd annual Sowell Collection Conference at Texas Tech University’s Southwest collection. This conference featured well-known writers such as Rick Bass, Barry Lopez, Robert Michael Pyle, and John Lane as well as students and fellow lovers of the natural world. I presented my paper, “(Re)sensing Place: Somatics in Rick Bass’ A Thousand Deer.”
Rick Bass’ reading, “The Thinness of Soil,” reminded us that we are “all part of something larger,” and that stories are under the thin soil, the foundation of the West is held up by “smoke, mirrors, and faith.” Soil or stories are created slowly and we must move from absence to presence. He states, “wilderness is the 1st place for stories – filling the soil.” What then for the future? How can we move people to act against the atrocities and crimes against our land? Bass offers the solution of creativity, that “beauty is the caulk to plug the ship… it is definitely time for different crops and different gardeners.”
Barry reminded us, too, that we need stories to “hold it down,” that a successful story is a “constant restoration of Beauty.” He claims, “you have a responsibility,” to spread the beauty of the land to move people to act.
John moved us all with poems from his collection: Abandoned Quarry.
Bob described the making of Mariposa Road and how he went on an expedition for 1 year to discover as many butterflies in the United States that he could.
During the conference, we gathered ’round in a circle to sing “Texas River Song” lead by David Taylor and Bob Pyle on harmonica.
It is almost impossible to convey how this amazing experience affected me. As a long-time fan of Rick Bass, I was moved by his words and by the end of the three days, I feel inspired and satiated. I feel so full of love after meeting some of the most beautiful human beings on Earth. I can’t wait until next year.