Local authors look state of the world in the eye

by Barry Johanson Review Publisher

One of the most unique experiences I’ve had as a local publisher and printer was to come to work Monday and find two new books on my desk written by a couple with deep roots in Sheboygan County who had compiled 47 essays in recent years for The Review.

One, “Notes from the Field: Strategies toward Cultural Transformation” is by Belden Paulson, a university political science professor and grassroots community organizer. The other, “Of Stones and Spirits, Sixty Years of Travel,” is by writer and artist Lisa Paulson who traveled widely with Belden (and often with assorted family members) and kept detailed notes.

Currently, they divide their time between their solar home at High Wind in Town Mitchell and their country home in Vermont. The books were published by Thistlefield Books, Plymouth – www.thistlefieldbooks.com for ordering information.

This is not an attempt to review the books in depth. I have followed their writing in detail for many years, however, and in scanning these it is obvious each lives up to the summary statements on their covers, which follow here.

“Notes from the Field”: Today there are mini-revolutions in many parts of the world. It is not only the downtrodden who are rising up, but also the middle classes. The institutions that are supposed to run things are not working very well. The challenges to solve the most critical problems seem beyond the capability of the governors.

Violence can spread to any area. Each circumstance is unique in its own setting, but behind all the eruptions, the essence is the same. PROBLEMS ARE NOT BEING SOLVED.

In the United States we still live in a fairly stable environment. But the protests we observe elsewhere are coming closer to home. Our government often appears incapable of confronting the great issues: environmental perils threatening the planet, growing economic and social inequality, inability to handle finances, chronic joblessness.

Despite the above, however, human creativity is really limitless. Go to any town or city, to any community, to find people at work who are defining the challenges and coming up with solutions. Sometimes they fail, but they are out there, and there are victories.

You have here a kind of casebook in problem-solving, focusing on an array of issues. “Notes from the Field” pulls out key sections of materials compiled over many years – authentic, real-world experiences. The reader will find accumulated wisdom from decades of work. The overlapping themes are international, urban, community, and sustainable living. These flashes from frontline projects are all directed toward building a better world.

“Of Stones and Spirits” is about freezing particular times and places in history – the poignant and delightful details that otherwise might have been lost. Lisa Paulson takes the reader on a magical carpet to places where she has worked and lived or visited over the past sixty years, from post-World War II ruins in Naples, Italy, to the much older ruins of Ephesus in Turkey – all juxtaposed against the lush backdrops of nature, which she delights in.

The travels begin with Lisa and her husband-to-be in 1953 and gradually expand over half a century to include children, grandchildren, and other relatives and colleagues. The book takes the reader inside the pages of meticulously kept notebooks where adventures were recorded in real time.

You will weep with her in the horrifying, heartbreaking wreckage of Naples, wonder with her at near-miraculous healings wrought by doctors of traditional medicine in China, and prowl with her through prehistoric caves in southwest France. You will drink wine on the terraces of restored, two-hundred-year-old farmhouses on sunlit Tuscan mountainsides and pound across Scottish sand dunes dotted with prickly golden gorse bushes to the North Sea….

And in countries with delicate, controversial, or changing governments and cultures, Lisa offers penetrating observations. She burrows beneath the pleasant surface attractions aimed at tourists – often because she is deliberately exposing herself to the raw crossroads that nations find themselves standing at in moments of seismic shifts and painful decisions.

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