DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Joyous agitation: Moore’s prescription

WE WILL RECLAIM our laughter and joy, she told me, for the work ahead.

Kathleen Dean Moore, philosopher, nature writer and novelist, is about to lead a writing workshop — free. I’m going. I’m daunted by such things, but I’m going.

The event is part of the Port Townsend Community Read, which by the way is open to everybody, not only Port Townsenders.

“The Work of a Writer in a World of Wounds,” the workshop Friday, March 29, is for writers who want to make a positive difference on behalf of planetary and human health.

It’ll go from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Charles Pink House, 1256 Lawrence St., across from the Port Townsend Library. You can find out whether there’s still space by phoning the library at 360-385-3181.

Moore, 71 and a longtime Oregonian, started out writing to celebrate glorious biodiversity. She’s since transformed into a moral philosopher, defending nature with every weapon she has. She’s calling on us all to join her in confronting climate change. Her novel “Piano Tide,” set in an Alaska town transformed by its residents, is this year’s Port Townsend Community Read selection. The Port Townsend Library and local bookstores are where to go for a copy. Library Director Melody Eisler and crew have also laid out live events aplenty.

This Thursday at 7:30 p.m., actors from Key City Public Theatre will read excerpts from “Piano Tide” aloud at the Northwind Arts Center, 701 Water St. This means one, you can have skilled performers read to you, and two, you can behold the Community Read art show, titled “Response/Ability.” It’s on display at Northwind all month.

The show is “outstanding and not to be missed,” Eisler said this past week. Like all things Community Read, it’s free.

March’s end brings two finales: At 7 p.m. next Wednesday, March 27, Moore and her collaborator, pianist Rachelle McCabe, will do a music-and-spoken-word concert titled “A Call to Life” at Port Townsend’s Trinity United Methodist Church, 609 Taylor St. Then March 28 brings the two women to the Port Townsend High School auditorium, 1500 Van Ness, for meet-the-author night.

Moore preaches “joyous agitation” when protesting the status quo. She urges us to revel in the essential: being alive and being together. In a WhidbeyTV feature last year, she talked about how such gatherings — like those Women’s Marches begun in 2017 — are just incredibly fun.

If you want to change something major, look at it like a big river. Don’t try damming it yourself. Toss in a rock, or get together with friends and heave in a boulder: “Get in the way,” Moore said. When enough people throw in their rocks, the river changes direction.

Me, I’m always looking for joy. I’m also repeatedly butting heads with hopelessness. When someone like Moore arrives — when my neighbors turn out in big numbers for the Women’s March, for that matter — it lights the joy match.

“In this workshop, we will collect our thoughts, confront our dismay … [and] gather our courage,” Moore wrote to me of the March 29 program.

“Our fury may bring us to the task. But it’s our love for the world that will empower our voices in its defense. We can choose to be part of the great work of transformation.”

Leslie Marmon Silko might be Moore’s Southwestern sister. I heard an apt quotation earlier this month on the “Writer’s Almanac” podcast.

“Writing can’t change the world overnight,” Silko has said.

“But writing may have an enormous effect over time, over the long haul.”


Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be April 3.

Reach her at [email protected]

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