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0This past summer, July 2019, I had the honor of receiving “Honorable Mention” in the annual Fish Publishing prize for poetry; one of my poems, “Capes and Daggers,” was published in the Fish Anthology 2019. Poet Billy Collins judged the poetry contest in 2019; Collins will also judge the 2020 poetry contest. This is a huge honor and I was very grateful to be included.

To learn more about Fish Publishing’s future / upcoming poetry and short story and memoir contests, visit Fish Publishing’s website. They are based in Southwest Ireland in Co. Cork.  The book is also available on Amazon as a Kindle version.

In June 2019, I traveled to southwest Ireland, Co. Cork, to attend a conference at UCC, to explore nature preserves, to learn more about Ireland’s saltmarshes and intertidal zone. I participated in a traditional seaweed harvesting workshop and paddled a kayak on Lough Hyne, a rare saltwater lake. I also visited a saltmarsh in Kinsale, outside of the city of Cork. I learned a lot while I was there. Here’s a quick overview of Irish saltmarshes:

Screen Shot 2020-02-28 at 12.05.58 AM

Sorry about the typo above. This is a map showing the saltmarshes along the Irish coast (2017 data from Wetland Survey Ireland.

saltmarsh-wmi-2016_med  I went to a bird sanctuary in Kinsale. It’s a restored saltmarsh. The marsh is an artificial lagoon with restored saltmarsh habitat for conservation. This includes some rare species recorded in the 2007-2008 survey (of all saltmarshes, Ireland). Notable: changes in range, increase in Borrer’s saltmarsh grass (Puccinellia fasciculata) found here. It was a really windy day and the wind kept pushing my binoculars against my face as I watched egrets. 20190627_122955

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Cammogue Marsh Wildlife Marsh and Bird Sanctuary, Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland (Stetson photo)

To All the Horses I’ve Loved Before

When I took riding lessons as a girl,
Mares liked my hair: they muzzled it,
Mistook it for hay, nosed the curls,
My long blonde wheat fronds
Nuzzle-lipped and pepper-minted
It was all innocent horse-play.

Jumping fences, I dreamt
Meadows and willows, shady
Glens where I was never meant
To wander; no boundary made me
Slow long enough to see how far
I’d strayed, or where I went.

When I rode rodeo horses
In Wyoming at a calf ropin’,
We galloped toward the other
End of the arena at full speed;
I learned why cowboys often
Walk bow-legged. (How I love
Bow-legged men.) One of them
Propositioned a seasonal position
On his ranch: “You may not go out
A cowgirl but you’ll come back
As one,” in a broken John-Wayne
Affectation. He served me a bowl,
‘New England clam chowder.”

Vibrating in the saddle,
Reins between my fingertips,
I communicated—a slight pull,
A nudge of my leg, the cowboy
Insisted, “Be one with the horse!”
Utilizing my natural weight, I
Tilted forward and felt seized
By the animal’s innate power.

One arm raised (to practice)
We darted and dove, a game
He demonstrated; I relaxed,
Centered in my hips; the horse,
Mid-conversation, urinated
On the spot—this quarter horse,
A seasoned athlete, made me…
Wait. A roper asked, “What did
You do to that horse?” with coarse
Laughter. Tamed manes, the horse’s
And mine, flagged in synchronicity.

For Those Wyoming Boys 

Poet’s note: This is part of a 30/30 Poetry Challenge in support of the nonprofit Tupelo Press. If you would like to support me in this fundraiser, please donate here and mention my name in comments or in the “in honor of” field that comes up with PayPal. Thank you, friends. -Leah Stetson

imagesAs luck would have it…

hemingway-and-gelhornI’m a little excited about this serendipitous turn of events at my local library tonight. I took a box of books to donate. Since I haven’t been able to write creatively for months, I thought I better clear away some distracting clutter. This includes donating old clothes to Good Will, a 1986 Volvo to Maine Public Radio’s Car Talk program and a bunch of books to the local library.  While there, I wandered over to glance at the summer book sale that they were just beginning to sort. Genres mixed together, a real free-for-all. I was the sole patron and started to talk with the librarian as she sorted. All my recent obsessive fantasies about Hemingway and Gellhorn came out, the film, how I’d hunted down a copy of a collection of his short stories including, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” which he wrote while he was in love with Martha Gellhorn, etc. She was a war correspondent and travel writer, well-known and well-respected in her heyday. While I’m gabbing away about the 10 year relationship between Hemingway and Gellhorn, I ran my fingers over the spines of various books, looking up at the librarian. She asked me something, I stopped and fingered the cover of one vintage book, a dark cover, without a book jacket or image. It did not have the title on the front. I opened the book to the dedication page:

“This book is for Martha Gellhorn.”

I picked it up (!) and turned it over in my hands. It’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Hemingway, 1940.  It is said that Martha Gellhorn inspired For Whom the Bell Tolls.  The librarian thought it was “spooky” since it was the only Hemingway book in the whole library, to her knowledge, and I happened upon it at the moment I mentioned Martha Gellhorn. I can’t tell what edition it is, if it’s a first edition, or second, but it just has the 1940 date, which is when it was first published. This sort of thing has happened to me before. I once found a 1955 first edition of Rachel Carson’s “The Edge of the Sea” at the edge of a dump in Southwest Harbor and I salvaged it. It inspired me to take some dramatic action at the time. I take these sorts of things very personally as signs or omens the way some people interpret bird droppings. There is a John Donne quote on the opposite page facing pg. 1 of Chapter 1 starting with, “No man is an island…” which is one of my favorite lines of all time. Here is the John Donne quote that appears at the start of Hemingway’s novel:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

In finding this 1940 edition, I feel like I have a new crush, an infatuation with their words, an old story…their love story, their exchange of ideas, letters, writings and the energy between Hemingway, a Cancerian man, and Gellhorn, the war journalist and writer, a Scorpio, over the ten years they were together (as lovers and during their short marriage). It’s been a while since I’ve had a crush like this. It makes me happy and I feel inspired, too. Energized. I’m on a deadline, so I am pretty focused on the newsletter right now….but this happenstance puts a little more pep in my step!  If you’ve found a rare gem of a images-1vintage book, and it’s inspired you, leave a comment.

I started my new job as Editor of the National Wetlands Newsletter at the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. It’s exciting. I’m busy setting up my new home office, getting technical things sorted out and underway with the summer issue. My trip to the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington was a treat. The cherry blossoms had already bloomed and dropped but it was still very pretty, though the air was thick with pollen. I developed crazy allergies that I had never before experienced.  Still, it was great to visit D.C. and get to know my new colleagues…and attend the event at the U.S. Botanic Garden on the evening of the new moon eclipse in Taurus (5/9).  ELI hosted its annual National Wetlands Awards ceremony at the Garden in its beautiful conservatory. The Hawaii exhibit was my favorite.

The National Wetlands Awards program, created nearly 25 years ago, recognizes professionals and landowners alike in wetlands conservation, protection and restoration. The stories are quite moving. When the new website for the NWA program is up and running, and I’ll have a little to do with that, since I will be the new manager of the wetlands awards program, I will post a link. In the meantime, there’s information on the existing webpage here about the program in general. The 2013 award winners’ photos and stories will be posted next week. May is American Wetlands Month, so there are a number of events happening all over the country. For ideas and to learn more, go here. 

Tonight I cooked a fiddlehead pizza.  The fiddleheads are local (from somewhere here in the Sebago Lakes Region, Maine) and the pizza has spinach, pesto, feta, kalamata olive and tomatos topping it. IMG_1818

I love new writing utensils. In middle school, I nerdily-enough spent my babysitting cash on new writing supplies. I made lists of lusty marbled papers, pretty stationary and colored pens. There was a wonderful little shop called Area’s, where I spent a great deal of time picking out writing utensils, note paper and Kitty Cucumber erasers.  (I included mention of Kitty Cucumber to take away the power of would-be blackmailers.) Keep in mind, this was the ’80s. Kids didn’t have cell phones or hand-held video games. We rocked those hand-held mazes with the little rolling ball.  Then I proudly displayed these prized supplies at school, complete with folders of marketing materials for my PPKO club, which had by-laws, a mission, logo, a feline theme and a board of directors. Yes, yes. Even in 6th grade. We held our club meetings on the top floor of my tower bedroom in the Victorian home where my family lived for a while. My role on the board was President and my friend, Gillian, was V.P. Her younger sister, Cammie, Secretary/Treasurer. We made buttons and brochures. I designed our logo–the word “CATS” written in the shape of a black cat, loosely inspired by Manet.  I recruited new members at school using the marketing materials I developed in the tower. That was the most fun part of it for me–creating the content at the heart of the club.

Flash forward to grad school, 2001: I got my first PC, a Dell 8100 Inspiron laptop, which lasted 8 years. It was a reliable, beautiful beast of a machine. That Dell 8100 Inspiron survived a house flood in 2004 (where an entire portfolio of art & graphic design work from 9+ years of art projects soaked up the water and disintegrated before I could rescue it) and many, many moves from apt to apt throughout grad school and after. I wrote the first few chapters of my creative nonfiction book and my master’s thesis, along with all of my graduate study work in human ecology and sustainable business on that PC. I loved that computer.

I can’t say the same for the subsequent models of Dell notebooks (several models and a decade after I got my first), including the Dell Studio 1535–what a nightmare. I’m still working out some problems caused by a Cycle-of-Stupid with a Time Warner/CA Security incident last April, so I haven’t been able to enjoy a reliable PC at home in over 6 months. For a writer, that’s like fasting. One of those weird zany fad fasting diets that just makes a person crazed for anything that remotely resembles a writing tool, other than a pad of paper & Pilot pen. (I don’t chew pens. Let’s not mix metaphors.)

I love the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1!

Then I got the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and it’s fabulous! I’m learning how to use its many applications, including the S-pen, which allows me to write, draw, design, build presentation materials, doodle, brainstorm and create. I can work in two screens using the multi-screen lay-out, supposedly bring in images and items from another screen into my S-note document. There’s Adobe Photoshop Touch, which I haven’t explored yet, as well as countless apps. This is new to me since I have not used a Smartphone or iPhone (due to the drama with the frequency of CMP’s SmartMeters, which killed the signal for customers in most of southern Maine for using smartphone types of devices in their homes–with the exception of Samsung Galaxy products, which work fine). I learned this when CMP sent a consultant, who has worked for TimeWarner and CMP, to my home to sort out the problems I was having with my WiFi thanks to the SmartMeter. He recommended a Samsung Galaxy tablet, as they had fewer problems with getting their signals jammed by CMP’s new digital meter system. Good news for me: the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 works well in my home. No issues picking up my own WiFi in my house, in my backyard, or in other locations with WiFi. It’s user-friendly and the screen resolution is perfect. I’ve watched a few videos on it, though I’ve had trouble installing the latest version of Adobe Flashplayer, required by some videos (like those on ABC.com). Overall, I don’t think I would want to write an entirely new blog post on my new tablet, but I have found it to be useful for managing my social media sites, checking email, and surfing the web. As I get to learn the more advanced applications, I think this will be a fun and effective tool in my work as a communications & marketing professional, especially in meetings, on-the-go, in coffee shops (hypothetically speaking) or while traveling. Ah, to travel with a lightweight tablet instead of lugging a heavy laptop bag as a personal item. My new tablet fits in my work bag. Hurrah! It makes me feel sleek and chic. And the iPad cover fit the Samsung tablet well enough. I didn’t like the Samsung choices for tablet cases (boring, very expensive, etc.) This one looks like camouflage on my writing desk.

Thirty to forty foot swells – a scene out of the Sebastian Junger book, The Perfect Storm, was the start to my “relaxing” vacation on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. My friend, Sarah, and I boarded Speedy’s ferry, the Fantasy, our stomachs full of conch & mahi mahi and rum punch topped with fresh nutmeg, which we’d savored at the Petite Pump Restaurant after arriving on St. Thomas. Sitting atop the ferry on metal benches, I started taking pictures of the beautiful landscape: turquoise water in the harbor, a crumbling castle held up with scaffolding, houses painted in pastel pinks, corals, aqua and lime. Part-way into the two hour ferry ride, the sea got rough and waves washed over the bow of the boat, sending spray in powerful showers that smacked us across our faces, our laps, soaking our clothes in seconds. A man tied a windbreaker around his pregnant wife’s neck to cover her head so she could breathe; the rest of us held on for dear life and rode what felt like an amusement park ride gone terribly awry—and lasted over an hour. My sunglasses kept my contacts from falling out but beat a bruise across my nose. I cried hysterically in between waves while my friend choked and spit up sea water. I heard people swear and pray in the same breath, myself included. Then we arrived on Virgin Gorda and went through customs, standing awkwardly, dripping wet and shaking with nerves. The rest of our five night stay was full of thrills: we drove a jeep over a volcano dressed to the nines to go to a marina-restaurant, the sort of place where Morgan Freeman sometimes moors his sailboat; snorkeled in a choppy Savannah Bay, despite rumors of a bull shark—where my friend, Harmony, got tossed into fire coral by a rogue wave; and explored the incredible caves at the Baths with 3,000 tourists off of a cruise ship (our bad timing). Occasionally I found myself riding in the jeep wearing my dive mask with the prescription lens so I could see on the way to the bays for snorkeling. No sign of the Virgin Island tree boa or lizard that does push-ups but we saw dozens of gekos and iguanas, whose tails slashed through the undergrowth as we hiked along trails. Each night I showered outside our villa under a full moon in a swirl of warm sea breeze and magenta bougainvillea. I will have to go back to hike Gorda Peak, see the copper mine and ruins, snorkel Mount Trunk Bay, and take a boat over to Anegada, the so-called drowned island, which is a nature preserve. I’d go back in a heartbeat, with cameras packed in dry-bags.

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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