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Lava, a pub date, an essay link, Gila topminnow, and more.
A year ago I traveled to the Big Island of Hawaii where I walked for miles across lava on the volcano Kilauea. I couldn’t get enough of that volcano. I peered into its cracks, lay down over its ropy surface, let its smell drench my clothing. I was staying with a friend who was housesitting near Pahoa in the Puna district for a few months. While I was hiking, he was trying to trap wild chickens, build a water catchment system, and sharpen his spear to kill feral pigs. We bought giant avocados and pineapples at the farmer’s market and at night listened to coqui frogs (invasive species from Puerto Rico) sing loudly. Not everyone on that side of the island was carrying a spear but many of them seemed to have run from something at some point. Nearly two weeks ago Kilauea started erupting. The lava came up from fissures and swallowed that house where we'd stayed. I called my friend and said, Pahoa is burning. He said he'd left an expensive hunting bow in the house. He couldn’t stop thinking about all the wild pigs. Where will they go?
A playwright I know is binge-watching Holocaust movies. As research. Meanwhile, too many people  believe the atrocity never happened. The word "holocaust" means disaster from fire or burning. The playwright is writing about one of her Polish ancestors, a sausage maker, and also about a Polish woman who saved over 1,000 children from the Nazi camps by hiding them in suitcases and musical instrument cases. The playwright says she doesn’t know how to arrange the material. She loves monologues, but the industry no longer does. No one wants to sit that long to listen to anyone. She asks, It okay to also write about the sex lives of Polish grandmothers?
In Oakland, California, if you are Black, you can’t burn charcoal in a grill in the park for a picnic without having a white person get afraid and call the cops on you.
There are threats and there are threats.
On the Big Island of Hawaii, you might eventually have to run from lava. You might lose everything. But lava isn’t afraid or cruel. Lava is earth reinventing itself. Lava is a sensual grandmother. Lava is a child in a cello case. Lava is hundreds of Black people throwing a dance party--belonging--in that Oakland park.
It’s getting hot in the Sonoran Desert. Nothing is on fire, but the saguaro crowns are bursting with blooms. It’s going to be a ripe red harvest. Here’s my latest. Thanks for following and reading.

The Lightest Object in the Universe

My novel is in production right now! Big gratitude for my editor,
Kathy Pories, and her west coast assistants, Tura & Julius.

Publication Date: July 2018 (Algonquin Books)
I believe what Chimananda Ngozi Adichie says about the danger of a single story. But I also believe when we tell ours in the most honest and illuminating way we can, we sometimes end up sounding a silence not only our own. At least that seems to be the case with an essay of mine published in this month's Guernica, a special issue on Deserts. I crawled back into the cavern the day it came out, but by and large I've been both floored and buoyed by the response. One woman wrote to tell me she had her own saguaro friend, one she visited for years, while grieving a lost baby and the pain of endometriosis. Here's the piece.
Gila Topminnow Returns to the Santa Cruz River
Gila topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis). Photo by Brian Gratwicke via Wikimedia Commons
Last November the Gila topminnow, an endangered Sonoran Desert fish that was once one of the most abundant fish in the lower Gila River basin, returned to the Santa Cruz River in Tucson. I've been working with Brian Powell at Pima County and Claire Zugmeyer at the Sonoran Institute to let this fish become a messenger for the river itself, which--thanks to improvements to our local wastewater treatment plant--is now a thriving riparian ecosystem again.

We'll be painting stencil artwork that I created on the Loop Path along the Santa Cruz River (and in a few urban locations) introducing you to the fish and its stories. Look for them starting in June. We're commemorating the fish and the artwork with cocktails, a bike ride, and a picnic dinner. Join us!

Gila Topminnow Commemorative Cocktail & Bike Decorating Party
Thursday, June 14  |  5-8pm
EXO Bar, 403 N 6th Ave, Tucson
All ages welcome. Bar food and drinks available for purchase.
Come decorate your bike on the back patio. We’ll toast to the topminnow with a commemorative cocktail and provide supplies and inspiration for the June 16 ride.

Topminnow Returns Bike Ride
Saturday, June 16 |  8-10am

Does a fish need a bicycle? Well, no. But come see the new artwork honoring the fish (and maybe see the actual fish, too) with a festive bike ride along the Loop Path. Come decked out with your best fish-on-a-bike costume. Prizes for the fishiest bikes and riders!

How to get there:
For a 4.7-mile ride, meet at 8 am on the west side of Santa Cruz River and Speedway Blvd. From there, ride will go north on east side of The Loop. For a shorter ride, join us anywhere along the east side of The Loop. Destination: Outfall, beginning of flowing water on east side of The Loop, .2-mile north of Sweetwater Drive. Here is a map.

Riverside Picnic Dinner
Saturday, June 23 |  6-9pm

View the new artwork and dine by the riverside, where the fish actually live! Don’t worry, the highly treated wastewater in the river is clean, without a strong smell!  This is a DIY event: Bring your own meal (plus blanket, chairs, table, candles) and gather at the outfall area on The Loop Path. Leave no trace: Pack out everything you pack in & respect the no-open container law.
How to get there: East side of Loop Path, .2-miles north of Sweetwater Drive. Bicycles can park on site. Cars can park at Sweetwater Wetlands Park, 2511 W Sweetwater Dr. From there, it is a .6-mile walk on a paved road to the river. You can also get dropped off (or drop off your stuff) at the entrance to the Loop Path, just west of the Sweetwater Parking lot and walk .2-mile on paved bike path to outfall area). Here is a map.
BorderLore and This Is Folklife classes

I'm now an official employee of the University of Arizona, part-time, as the Communications Manager for the Southwest Folklife Alliance. One of my duties is editing and writing for our monthly e-journal BorderLore, which shares stories about the culture and heritage of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. One of the things I love most about the publication is that it focuses on the hidden beauty of the region. We don't shy away from hard topics, but mostly we offer stories of joy in the otherwise challenging and depressing "news landscape." Hit me up if you have a story idea or if you're a writer and want to contribute. We pay a little and the journal goes out to over 10K subscribers. If you're not already a subscriber, you can do that here.

The Folklife Alliance is also offering a summer This Is Folklife series of workshops/classes.
  • Unpack the genre of country music with an ethnomusicologist.
  • Visit Alice Manuel, an O'odham basketweaver, and Ron Carlos, a potter from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to learn about their traditional artforms.
  • Learn how to think like a photographer with Steven Meckler. 
You made this far. As a reward, here's a little sneak preview of the Gila topminnow artwork. Come see the rest of her, and others, on the Loop in June!
Copyright © 2018 Kimi Eisele, All rights reserved.

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