News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Farmer and artist authors 21st book

Sisters Country is home to some incredibly interesting people. They chose to live on the leeward side of the Three Sisters mountains for the region's beauty, access to land, and the possibility to keep a low profile. These unassuming characters visit stores dressed in well-worn garb used for ranch work often done in solitude. Scratch the surface of their lives and find fiercely independent thinkers living in connection to an inner source feeding their minds and hearts.

Lynn Miller is one of those people.

This story is a mere grain of sand on the shores of Miller's many accomplishments. Case in point: There's a two-page spread for a literary fiction novel on page 12 and 13 in an agricultural publication called the Small Farmer's Journal (SFJ). Published in Sisters by Miller and his wife, Kristi Gilman-Miller, the quarterly magazine harkens back to vintage publications of long ago. The magazine was a love child for Miller in the 1970s. When he and his father discussed Miller's passion for a return to bygone farming practices, before mechanization and monoculture crops spread around the world, his father suggested he start a magazine. Miller fleshed out a publication created to support small farmers using old methods and less destructive practices that offered a way to live in better harmony with the land.

Miller's latest book, "Roots in a Lovely Filth" is the third in a quartet of creations called the Duden Chronicles. Why the book is featured within SFJ's pages makes absolute sense to the Journal's readers. When callused hands, still wearing dirt from time in the fields, hold the edifying pages, readers soak in the writer's words like summer rain. This is an author and a life they know.

Lynn Miller arrived on this earth in 1947, born with a galaxy full of gifts he's spread like stars throughout his life. Miller is a painter, farmer, author, teacher, and philosopher. Even as his latest book opens its eyes to the world, he has seven other projects in the works. He could no more stop creating than the sun and moon cease to rise and set. His mind and inheritance demand it. He must paint, write, and share wisdom about everything he knows, from philosophy to fixing fence.

Miller was born of a Puerto Rican mother and a Dutch father, with English as his second language. Miller grew up filling himself with cultural richness and a language that sang to him. He went on to be a musician, singer, ballet dancer, actor, and inner-city small farmer.

How does one farm in San Francisco?

"On a very small scale," he said. "I had a house with a half-acre yard out near the ocean in the Sunset District that I called my farm... but really it was an organic garden."

Miller received two fine arts degrees during a time teeming with disorder and dissent. He recalled one of his professors at the San Francisco Art Institute who sometimes turned her class over to her boyfriend, writer and counter-culture icon Ken Kesey.

"At the time Kesey didn't mean anything to me. If it had been Bob Dylan, it would have meant something. I had no point of reference even though when I was 17, I was reading symbolist French poetry, and was deeply involved in reading Cervantes and Rabalais," said Miller.

With an ancestral pull for farming demanding attention, he left California and moved north, where he took any job he could find in agriculture. He managed a commercial broiler operation with 88,000 chickens, then an organic goat dairy, and later purebred Angus cattle operations and sheep ranches. His work for a cattle rancher, who was also the chairman of the International Trade Commission, took him far afield.

"He flew me around to buy bull semen and to show me off at cocktail parties. I spent time in Washington, D.C. and got inside those circles... things troubled me in those circles," he said.

After leaving San Francisco, and farming on 77 acres near the Oregon Coast, Miller moved to Sisters Country in 1988. He chose a location many miles from town that gave his family privacy and a new piece of ground to farm and leave better than they found it.

"I'm 76 years old and have been involved in a universe of my own creation for my entire life. During that time, I've spoken to audiences all around the planet. There is that ridiculous cliché that you have to travel some distance to be recognized in your own home. Those were my choices and I made that happen, it was deliberate," said Miller.

"I've insisted from day-one that what I write in a creative sense must survive on its own; even to the extent that when I decided to write the Duden Chronicles as a quartet, they don't depend on one another; they violate each other," he said.

"Roots in a Lovely Filth" features a young farming couple Enno and Ahnah and a secret society's mission to protect them. The book joins two earlier novels, "The Glass Horse" (2008), and "Brown Dwarf" (2020).

The latest literary creation by Miller takes readers on an era-bending, culturally prolific adventure within a collage of stories and ancient works of art joined with ligatures in embellished fonts. When asked about the peculiarly pleasing fonts, Miller said, "Each of those things are like digital drawings, every one of them is unique and would be hard-pressed for someone to repeat. I referenced it in the start of the book, 'All massaged custom ligature bracelets in this volume are the creation of the author and offered as shift markers or rest stops or dismounts.'"

Throughout the book, Miller includes recipes defying traditional approaches to cooking. Like his writing, his recipes can't be easily placed in a specific genre. A single father of three children until he met his wife, Kristi Miller was producing the Small Farmer's Journal as well as a myriad of other tasks, including feeding his young family.

"If I had to cook for three kids I either had to find the best possible thing I could do in a hurry or experiment in ways no one had ever imagined. As youngsters, my kids had no problem asking, 'Dad why'd you put raisins in the spaghetti sauce?' It became an adventure. They became a wonderful filter and jury for the whole process."

Reading Miller's latest creation takes attention and an ability to let go and let Miller blast off into another galaxy full of stars and planets. Some are identifiable, while others are conjured in his ever-churning mind, revealing undiscovered regions full of beauty, color, sweet-smelling dirt, and life's cruel realities. Just like life, the book defies reason, bursts with chest-burning emotions, and isn't easy to understand... but it's so worth the effort.

"Roots in a Lovely Filth" is receiving appreciative accolades from reviewers. It will be on sale at Paulina Springs Books and through Miller's publishing company, Davila Art & Books, at Davilabooks.com A full list of Miller's books are available on the site.

 

Reader Comments(0)

 
 
Rendered 07/13/2024 15:09