A Message for the Harvard Class of 2020

by helenzuman in General

More than twenty years ago, as I was nearing graduation, I instigated a protest against Harvard’s commencement speaker, then Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Not because I vehemently opposed his politics, or anything specific he’d done, but because he was a banker. Who I expected would bore the hell out of me with some sold-out […]

On Villaging: World Made by Hand

by helenzuman in General

In James Howard Kunstler’s 2008 novel, World Made by Hand, the people of the Hudson Valley are struggling: vast numbers have died of influenza; others have succumbed to encephalitis; still others have left Union Grove (a fictitious town in Kunstler’s own Washington County) in search of something better, and—in the absence of telephone, postal, or […]

If COVID Could Talk…

by helenzuman in General

Hey, humans—how’s it going? Oh, right. Badly. And you blame it on me. It’s true, I am a nasty little fucker (I had to be, to fight my way out of the bat world and into yours). And, yeah, I would love to destroy your way of life. But I’m not actually out to get you. […]

On Villaging: “Develop”? Try “Monetize”!

by helenzuman in General

[This is my January column for Livelihood magazine, which recently appeared in print. Enjoy!] As soon as I heard about Jenny Odell’s new book, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy (Melville House 2019), I put it on hold at the library—only to find that I would have to wait in an unusually long line. Apparently, […]

On Villaging: What Makes Work Fun?

by helenzuman in General

[This is my December column for Livelihood magazine, which recently appeared in print and may eventually show up on the Livelihood website. Enjoy!] When I first started visiting Earthaven Ecovillage, in Black Mountain, North Carolina, nearly four years ago, I found the term “work party” mildly Orwellian. Huh? I thought. I’m not only supposed to […]

On Villaging: Against Whizbang

by helenzuman in General

[This is my November column for Livelihood magazine, which recently appeared in print and may eventually show up on the Livelihood website. Enjoy!] It’s Friday morning. I step out the front door of my house and climb the bluestone steps up to East Main Street, to check the Gift Library for new offerings. Sure enough, […]

On Villaging: Work, Money, Art

by helenzuman in General

[This is my October column for Livelihood magazine. I’m posting it here, temporarily, until it appears on the Livelihood website. Enjoy!] In past columns, I’ve purported to know what I’m talking about. This month, for a change, I’d like to explore something that remains mysterious, perhaps to you as well: how to create and maintain […]

When the Oil Runs Out

by helenzuman in General

I wrote this song in 2006, after completing my Permaculture Design Course at the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center in Occidental, California (and Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature). When I sand it last week at the NYC Permaculture Festival, some listeners requested a recording. Here it is, with lyrics:   Oil runs down from […]

To Build a Sentence

by helenzuman in General, Madgelma

At first, she thought the tools didn’t belong in her writing area (which double, tripled, quadrupled, quintupled as her bathroom, dining table, charging station, ancestor altar, art studio, and so on). After all, she hadn’t put them there—she simply hadn’t bothered to remove them. Once she’d wiped the blackened boards of the ancient workbench a […]

Ripened Scab, Rest in Peace

by helenzuman in General, Memoir, Zendik

[In late summer 2004, a couple weeks before I left Zendik Farm, a dog named Apache ripped a chunk out of my left calf, while I was diving into the pond. This scene, in which I reckon with the bodily aftermath of that attack, didn’t make it into Mating in Captivity. But I do so […]