I grew up in the beautiful San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties of California with bountiful fruit and nut orchards, vineyards and abundant crops. I am grieved to see the combined devastation of climate change with its fires and floods and the gun culture with its ever increasing shootings ruining lives. Growing up in the 1960s during a time of great hope and great change, my generation thought we had changed life for the better. We could not have imagined that within our lifetime Roe v Wade would be reversed. There’s still work to do. Together with my Canadian husband, a retired agricultural scientist, we’ve lived and worked in seven countries. I’m a dual national.
What is the greatest thing about the place you call home?
My husband and I now live in rural southern Alberta, Canada, in the rain shadow of the majestic Rocky Mountains to the West. This Is truly the land where “the deer and the antelope play”. Mule Deer herds graze daily on our shrubs and grasses making spring clean-up and pruning redundant. Pheasant hens scurry around the Mule Deer hooves pecking for seeds hidden in snow-flattened grasses. With neither passports nor visas Pronghorn Antelope range freely between Alberta, Saskatchewan and Montana. I can imagine a race between Pronghorns and Cheetahs—the two fastest land animals on the planet—with Pronghorns, with their ability to sustain their 60 mph speed, winning. From high above the Old Man River valley we never tire of the ever-changing panoply of weather played out upon the canvas of our big prairie sky.
What turns you on creatively?
Whether it’s painting, writing, poetry or my ongoing activism, something I may happen upon captures my attention. I become the proverbial “dog with a bone”, and I cannot do anything else fully until I allow that particular inspiration to be fulfilled. First I try to understand what it is that captivates me. Quite often it’s just an amorphous feeling of something special that I can’t really pinpoint. The impetus might be anything, a word, a conversation, a news item, a scene, an interaction… I just feel this captures something that’s been just out of reach. It’s something I’ve been trying to understand or know. I write a lot of notes and take lots of photos. My iphone is my journal.
What is your favorite word, and can you use it in a poetic sentence?
Both my parents loved words, so it’s really thanks to them that I learned to play with words. My Mom loved “inadvertently”, which is such a great weasel word. My Dad loved the catch-all words: “thingamajig, doohickey and whatchamacallit” to name a few. I love onomatopoeic words, like grouse as in “I’m totally groused out”. You can feel the disgust in your mouth and on your tongue. I love slang words and combined words like frenemy which my kids think I invented to describe their childhood bully buddies. Recently I found diaphanous to be just the perfect word for a poem describing dragonfly wings. It’s got lots of mouth feel.
What is your pet peeve?
When there’s so much to learn and even so much to understand about the real world, we don’t need lies to confuse people. In my professional life as a teacher, counsellor and psychologist I loved helping people learn and learn to learn. With the proliferation of lies clouding reality, it’s difficult for people to make knowledge-based decisions. It’s hard to imagine the intentional corporate lies about the cancer risks of smoking cigarettes. That and the recent revelation that Exxon knew 40 years ago about their impact on climate change on our earth makes me furious. I have been an activist since the 1960s. The major difference now, is that I’m older and I’m working on wiser. My youthful vitality has given way to a lifetime of fighting to find the hidden truths.
What defines Bev Muendel-Altherstone?
I think most people would say that I have high energy and I’m very passionate, especially about those our insatiable capitalist/greed economy dismisses and throws away. At present, I am very involved in our community trying to find ways to help reduce homelessness. My passion gets me into lots of trouble as I love our earth, our flora and fauna living on it so much that I rage against all of our destruction. To channel some of my great passion I am a member of the Raging Grannies who write and sing songs about the iniquities in our society and the complicity of our politicians in it. We get lots of good press. I am currently retired, which is like being a teenager with money and wheels, aside from the aging body issue, but the good news is, I can spend all my energy on criticizing the powers that be without fear of economic reprisals. I am passionately committed to our family. My husband, of almost 55 years is my soulmate and helpmate. Our adult children, grandchildren, and great granddaughter help provide the focus on that which is current and relevant.
After writing poems in various rhyme schemes I have decided to try non rhymes. As I feel passionately about the inequities of our times, my poems have turned political. It is freeing to find the screaming voice of dissent that is trapped within the convention of daily living. Poetry is the last refuge of the suffering while standing tall as the vanguard of change.