And the reason that I wait until the year is completely over before summarizing was perfectly illustrated for me as the final days of 2020 contained Linda Hogan’s The Radiant Lives of Animals (2020), just as it contained a perfect set of illustrations by James Blackburn (wood-cut style).
The essays and poems are a pleasure to read, creating an intimacy out of ordinary events. How, for instance, she comes to live in a building that she preserved on the page as a dwelling place for one of her characters in Solar Storms (a book that I loved in 2019). The unexpected connection she experienced with a horse who needed a home (and she, apparently, was in need of that horse, although she didn’t recognise that need until later). The frustrations and joys associated with preserving a balance between the various creatures who inhabit the land around her home. Her gradual and ongoing recovery from an accident which caused substantial and traumatic brain damage several years ago.
What will make it a valuable reread in the future is the simple way in which she expresses vitally important and complex ideas that are absolutely essential for us to understand immediately and wholly. Here, in “This Land I Live”, for instance:
When I think of change, I consider the re-minding of ourselves and I mean that it is time to consider other kinds of intelligence and ways of being, to stretch our synapses to take in new ways of thought. As an indigenous woman, I look toward our Native knowledge systems, the times when our relationships with the earth wasn’t the disjointed connection most of us have learned from our Euro-American education systems. I am one human animal who wants to take back original meanings and understandings in ways that are possible and are necessary.
It’s not often that ‘wisdom’ appears to be the exact word to describe one’s reading; that’s true, for me, with this collection. And, yet, simultaneously, ‘searching’ is another word that would also fit, because I also have the feeling that Linda Hogan isn’t saying that she has all the answers, only that she is equally invested in searching for the right questions to ask, too. Something that all of us who have some hope for the future must actively engage in, fervently and relentlessly.