The Younger Writers and Expeditionary Creatives Who Give Me the Most Hope for the Future

Celebrating 50 Years of Wonderful Co-Authors and Editors

Of the Rs on my radar, there are many, and a few of them are the younger writers and expeditionary creatives who give me the most hope for the future: Sarah Juniper Rabkin, Ashley Rood, Kanin Routson, Rafael Routson (de Grenade), and Gerardo Ruiz-Smith.

My first-time teaching nature writing in Moab, Utah, Sarah took my short course and after one of the first sessions, graciously asked, “Are there some ways I could help you co-facilitate the discussion of the participants’ writing part? You are going through them really faaasst!” Once, when she hosted me in Santa Cruz, we took a group down to the Gualupe/Nipomo Dunes area for field writing exercises.

I got an essay for TNC’s Last Great Places out of it, but Sarah partnered up with her husband, poet Charles Atkinson, who if I’m correct, wrote a beautiful sonnet there. Sara and I inhabit pages of Tom Fleischner’s Anthologies near each other.

Ashley Rood is now a leader in climate change and sustainable agriculture activism in the Pacific North West or Salmon Nation, but we worked together on several reports and monographs for Renewing America’s Food Traditions while we were in Flagstaff at the same time. I remember getting to celebrate us getting one of the West Coast rare foods reports out by drinking a beer from White Sonora wheat at the wonderful brewery in downtown San Francisco! Sometimes there are tasty rewards for such work.

I cannot honestly say I mentored Rafael and Kanin Routson since their teenage days, because they have each taught me more than I did them. Even as teens, they could find more rare cacti per acre than all the professionals at the Desert Museum that we’d go out to do field surveys with. Both are great scientists, writers and farmers, Kanin with a love of rare apples for making hard cider, and Rafael with a love of pomegranates and dates.

Kanin’s master’s thesis on rediscovering rare apples in abandoned orchards in the Four Corner’s states was so good that Verlyn Klinkenborg wrote about it on the editorial page of the New York Times two months after it came out; his award-winning Stoic Ciders are just as good! Rafael has already written five books and a dozen science articles, but her best writing is in Stilwater: Finding Wild Mercy in the Outback about cowboying her way around the Southern Hemisphere. The three of us are among the co-authors on a bunch of papers on the Mission Era fruit biodiversity of Baja California oases, which we visited 12 of one winter during the best-ever field trip of my life.

Gerardo Ruiz Smith joined forces with me and others to write the Mesquite Manifesto in Spanish and English, and now we teach rural community workshops together on both sides of the border.

Finally, kudos to an old-timer among the R’s, Amadeo Rea, with whom I’ve written many kinds of works over 40 years of friendship. He’s a great editor too, but always reminds me that I need to improve my grammar. “But my gramma’s too old to improve,” I reply, ” I like her how she’s is.” Extraordinary zoo-archeologist, ethnobiologist, Franciscan thinker, writer and curmudgeon. Have you noticed I’ve been trained by a long line of curmudgeons like Amadeo?

Most of the best stories I have about Amadeo have to do with the roadkills he picked up as “specimens” for DDT studies or bone collections. One time he picked up a roadkill turkey vulture about 40 miles south of the border, and carefully wrapped it up and put it under the pickup truck seat just before we crossed the border.

Needless to say, scavengers have an air to them even before they hit the road. When we got up to the Customs check at the borderline and opened the truck windows, the inspector winced like he’d just smelled a garbage dump. “How long have you guys been camping in the desert? If I were you, I’d scoot over this border as fast as you can, and quickly find some places you can take some long showers!”

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