"When the artist is alive in any person, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-impressive creature. Where others close the book he opens it and shows that there are still more pages to see..." Robert Henry
Welcome to our "Friends of Paul Gruchow" page. It is a work in progress. Paul had many friends who have contributed to the foundation and we will be adding to them to this page in the near future.
Moira Bateman, a Minneapolis Land Artist, has incorporated some of Paul's essays from WORLDS WITHIN A WORLD: Visits To Minnesota's Scientific and Natural Areas into her “Elements In Material” exhibit at the University of Minnesota Architecture and Landscape Architecture Library.
She has also posted some of Paul's previously unpublished journal entries, poems and photographs in her installation space. Links to Moira's website, as well as the exhibit, can be found here, along with an interview and photographs of her work.
Taylor Brorby, a poet and native Iowan with a special interest in the prairie, has given us permission to
share his Writers Rising Up Paul Gruchow Essay Contest winning essay on our “What's New” page.
It is a wonderful reflection on the prairie, very much in the spirit of Paul Gruchow's JOURNAL OF A PRAIRIE YEAR.
Angmo & Kristina
Kristina Nadler, an author living in Nurenberg, Germany, who has written a memoir about living among the members of a small village in Northern, India. Kristina contacted The Paul Gruchow Foundation asking permission to use a quote from one of Paul Gruchow's books in her memoir. A special needs teacher, Kristina has a gift for connecting native peoples and the places where they live and work. Although the book, LOVELY LITTLE LINGSHED, is currently only available in German, we have published an English summary along with the interview.
How many countries outside of your native Germany have you visited?
Well - including the European countries I sometimes visit for short trips on weekends, it might be around 50 different countries.
In what country or region of the world did you learn the most about the natural environment? What did you learn?
I don’t have to think about this – it’s definitely Ladakh – a part of the North Indian state of Jammu/Kashmir, high up in the Himalayan Mountains. There is only one other country I’ve visited where the pureness of nature is comparable to Ladakh – Mongolia – but I haven’t had the chance to spend as much time there as I spent with the people in Ladakh. Living with them, taking part in their daily work, cooking their food and caring for their children was the most important lesson of my life. I learned how they prepare the soil, how they harvest and thresh barley and how they lovingly care for their animals. Most impressive for me was the essence of my involvement, which I could only understand after watching these peaceful and satisfied people – their deep love of nature, respect for every being and unshakeable faith in the good. I will never forget my feeling after days spent helping thresh barley with yaks and horses. Freeing it from chaff with my own hands, I let the cleaned grain ripple through my fingers. Filled with veneration for the crop I almost cried because in that moment I understood that most of us have lost touch with this ardor and gratefulness.
Paul Gruchow has written that he found a wilderness within his house, and in his backyard. Have you experienced wildness in your own life, in the place where you live?
I’m not sure if I understand the meaning of “wilderness” the same way Paul did. Wilderness for me is an untouched place, a place formed by nature, “a place drawn by wind and weather”, a place made by divine love.
My home is in a city: streets, houses, not a single tree that wasn’t planted by a human being. But when I think about it nature, real nature, has found a place inside my apartment – my own nature. At home I am ME, forthright and natural. There, my inner being can be as it is and retreat from the outside world – untouched – just like in the great-outdoors. Now as I think about it, I like calling it “wilderness.” I think that it’s important for everyone to have this kind of wilderness inside their homes.
What is the relationship between nature and everyday life in Ladakh? How did you become aware of that relationship? How is it similar and how is it different than your relationship with nature?
Actually, I would say that nature IS the everyday life of the people in Ladakh, as all their life depends on nature. They are fully self-sustaining. Nature is giving them soil to grow wheat, peas and barley, providing food for the animals who give milk, wool, and meat in the wintertime and giving them their working power. That’s the reason why Ladakhis know the importance of caring for nature; it is a treasure to them. But in the encounter between modern life and natural life, it seems to be almost perverse: These people who are connected to nature so deeply don’t know about the danger of plastics or sugar, for example. They throw plastic on the ground not knowing that it’ll stay there, almost forever, poisoning the rivers that are the source of their water. They feed too many sweets to young children and don't understand the consequences. That’s where we can help. I feel I am a bridge between their untouched world and my so called highly developed world. But I can only warn them and tell them to be aware of what they let into their life. Every society has to let development happen. Although its hard for me to listen to their dreams of having TV's in their homes, we have no right to not let them choose their own path. As they teach me about the importance of respect for nature, I can teach them about the modern world.
Since you asked me about my relationship with nature, I must say it is a totally different access to nature. Ladakhis depend on it, whereas in my country, Germany, nature is for relaxation. After having experienced the close and essential contact to nature these people have, I changed some of my behaviors:
Now, I see the fields with different eyes, I choose my groceries in a very different way, I try to take as much as I can from nature itself. I go into the forests and collect fir cones for my fireplace in winter (it’s better than any cut wood that I would expensively buy in a hardware store), I find apples and pears, nuts and berries and I love getting those gifts from nature. Whenever I find an abandoned tree full of fruit, I feel pure happiness! And eating it makes it even more precious. I'd love to have some goats like my host family had in Ladakh – but I'll have to wait for this! I don’t buy flour anymore, I buy wheat and other food directly from farmers – I plant lots of herbs.
Angmo, my friend from Lingshed, could tell me every single name of the flowers, grasses and herbs growing in Lingshed. I was ashamed that I would not be able to tell her as much in my native Germany. So I am trying to learn a lot about all the herbs here and I am surprised how many edible little plants grow in our backyards that we do not know and do not use! We go into the supermarket and buy Chinese leaves… WHY? Older varieties of apples die and we only buy cheap ones full of pesticides just because they look a little nicer? We are surprised when the tomatoes that grow on the balcony taste like tomatoes so much more than the ones from the supermarket. And we don't know how to preserve fruits or vegetables because it’s not necessary anymore. We've forgotten how wonderful it is to take a jar of mirabelles out of the cupboard in wintertime that we have preserved ourselves.
So if I've taken one thing home from Ladakh, it’s respect for all we get from nature and sadness for our society which has lost sight of this.
Could you tell us a little about your memoir, LOVELY LITTLE LINGSHED? How did you come to write a book about your experiences in Ladakh?
I’ve always wanted to write a book about my best travel stories. There are so many beautiful ones to share. In my sabbatical year from teaching I planned on finally publishing because I would have time for a project like this. And then life gave me one more journey and with it the best of all stories to tell: the story about my time in Lingshed. It all just happened and being there, I knew that no other story would be more worth telling. It felt like a miracle happening to me: these people, their happiness, the beauty of their untouched nature and the silence. I’ve never experienced such a silence. Paul Gruchow said that there is a certain “blessing” in the silence he experienced. I used this quote for one of my chapter headings: “It’s the kind of silence that calls to you inside where you can find the source of existence.” What he said is exactly how I felt in Ladakh.
What do you hope will happen as a result of publishing the book?
I hoped it would make me happy, and it has! The process of writing let me relive this wonderful time in Ladakh. I made amazing connections to people like you who without even knowing me got excited about what I had to tell. And I stayed in close contact with a group of lovely people who I’ve met in Lingshed: the crazy English guys who brought a piano over the Himalayan mountains right into my classroom (Piano to Zanskar – you can watch the trailer of their movie on the internet). With their help, I took part in a Lingshed-comeback with lots of presents for the children at their school. With the kickstarter campaign “children of Zanskar” (you’ll also find the trailer on the internet) we were able to afford some really useful things for them.
Is Lovely Little Lingshed available yet?
Yes. It is available in German online and in bookstores – and it’s also available in the USA, Great Britain and Canada. It is only in German so far but some great people are helping me publish an English version as well!