Ruth Rudner
Ruth Rudner

David Muench's National Parks


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In Everyday Mind, Thich Nhat Hanh writes “If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. . . .Each is present in your body.  You are the continuation . . ."

So, my biography is not just mine, but a continuation of all that has happened since that initial explosion of energy that created the possibility for everything; that created all my ancestors �? amoeba, morganucodon (early mammal), grandmother.  I like that idea because that’s what writing is �?an explosion of energy that creates everything.  Writing, dance, music, art of every sort.  It is why, for an artist, nothing is fixed.  You cannot create out of stasis.  Yet, you must be still.  Stillness and energy—the same dynamic, the same connection to the universe.

Are the places I choose to live, then, some kind of reflection of my ancestor’s dreams?  Or do they constitute a purely personal part of my biography, a kind of sidetrack along a continuum, places that birth the particular creative energy I need at any given time.  I think these places define me as much as anything can. 

When I went to New York for my first co-op job as an Antioch College student, I was in love with New York, its streets, its architecture, neighborhoods, the lives of its artists, its intellectual energy. Craving intimacy with it all, I lived there for years once I finished school.  Then, needing mountains, a world of nature my father gave me,  I moved to Innsbruck.  Austria provided an ideal combination of civilization and high mountains.  I could ski (indeed, had to, since I was writing for Ski Magazine at the time), climb, hike and engage with the literature and music of a language I love.  Years later I was assigned a ski story in Montana. Although I had once spent a winter in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the next state south, I had never considered Montana.  It seemed too remote to me, too wild.  Yet, flying over the prairie toward the front range of mountains, I knew before the plane landed I would stay. Here were mountains, the wide open space of the plains, and my own language. (Living in another language is freeing, perhaps because you are allowed mistakes.  But your native tongue is precious, an access to your own mind, and to your soul.)

Most important to me, I was hungry �?finally—for wildness.  In the Alps there is a wildness of weather and terrain, but wildlife that can eat you was hunted out a long time ago.  The wildness you feel when you live where there are grizzly bears is different.  It demands of you alertness. You are aware.  Awake.  All of life becomes larger, grander, more present.  (Living in New York, or any of the world’s great cities, requires equal awareness.  Just different outfits.)  Montana’s wildness insists you be up to it.  I wanted to be tested.  And to pass the test.  (I think I also wanted the romance of the American West, although that’s less easy to admit.)  A psychic I spoke with after I had lived in Montana about a year said to me, “You had to come here to be born.�?nbsp;

Is this what my ancestors sought? A place to be born?  A place that was theirs?  Don’t we all seek that?  What is it that I continue?  How did all these generations in the palm of my hand imagine life? Can I enter into their imagination?   Is all biography a question?