Sunday, October 2, 2022

John Cady, award-winning Minnesota poet, educator, eco-philosopher, passed away

John Cady, an award-winning poet, educator, eco-philosopher and naturalist, died on Saturday at a care facility in Apple Valley, where he had been living for the past year and a half.

Cady, born in 1937, had a passion for using art to connect with nature and was a pioneer in teaching others how to do the same.

For decades, Cady lived with his wife, Lynn, on 10 acres near Forest Lake, where wilderness and wetland fauna informed his poetry. He would walk his land every morning, watching squirrels, insects, and the occasional large turtle, then write a poem about what he saw, illustrated with a picture. He posted these “healing images” on Morning Earth, a website he started in 2005 that combined poetry and nature education. The site attracted more than 2,000 visitors daily, over one million visitors from 120 countries, and went to 1,500 classes.

“My goal is to raise people’s awareness that so much nature still exists,” Cady told the audience.

Descendants of hard rock miners who arrived in Minnesota from Cornwall, England in the 19th century, Cady would eventually be established as the Bard of Cornish Gorsed for his contributions to Cornish literature. He took the bardic name Singer of Earth.

Cady grew up in a derelict home in Virginia on the Iron Range in Minnesota. To avoid being beaten up so hard that his bones were broken, he went towards the forest where nature saved him.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota in English and Education, Cady was one of the first Twin Cities poets selected to participate in the Poets in School program. He taught at the University of Minnesota and Hamline University and is estimated to have taught approximately 75,000 students in 800 schools during his 40-year career. He led dozens of workshops that helped teachers learn to use nature to stimulate students’ creativity.

In 1973, frustrated by the Vietnam War, Cady and some friends started the Sundog Environmental Studies Center near Lake Itasca.

While he was at Sundog, Cady had a reading with political poet Tom McGrath, who encouraged him to write from the working life of a mining town. That advice led to his award-winning 1989 collection “The Color of Mesabi Bones,” the title of which, alluding to the red dust, caused a stir in the mines. The collection won the Minnesota Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award.

He doesn’t want to move.

old frat paddle cracks

On her skinny buttocks again and again…

Cady’s first collection of 1986 was “Eating the Sting”, based on nature. During the summer when he was teaching at an Audubon camp near Spooner, Wis., he went to the cook’s shack and saw a deer rat holding in his hands a wasp he had killed earlier:

… holding the yellow

in his fine fingers

like an ear of black striped corn

A wasp that I slapped before.

Emily Buchwald, the then publisher of Milkweed Editions, was impressed by this poem.

“The rat is taking the wasp venom into its body and transforming it,” she wrote in a chapbook when the caddy won the McKnight Distinguished Artist Award in 2012. “It’s such a fine yet subtle image for artists. It’s fascinating, it’s deep, it’s accurate. That’s what John brings to his depiction of the physical world—the sensibility of a poet but the precision of a scientist.”

Cady was proud that her poetry was accessible.

on the deck

Cat Traces in the Frost

wait for the eraser of the sun

“I want my readers to feel connected to nature through poems that have some connection to their personal experience,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how easy it is.”

Cady’s life was changed when, on a May morning in 1994, she suffered a stroke, which left her paralyzed on her left side. Instead of lamenting, he used this experience to dedicate himself to helping people reconnect with the natural world.

“Being so close to death opens our eyes to everything else,” he told Pioneer Press. “It opened me up to enjoyment in a way I hadn’t experienced since childhood. I’ve always loved nature, but when I came home in a wheelchair, after a month of rehabilitation, I realized that everything was more It was intense and interesting. Green had learned a thousand new names while I was gone.”

In 1995 Caddy launched Self Expressing Earth (SEE), an environmental education program at COMPAS. It was later transferred to Hamline University’s Center for Global Environmental Education.

Cady’s Ultimate Poetry Collection. “Morning Earth Spring: Celebrating Gifts from the Earth” was published in 2014, three years after he retired from teaching at Hamline University. In retirement Cady kept busy writing poems and working on his website, which he eventually closed as his health deteriorated.

Cady died because a forest fire ravaged the earth and so did a pestilence. It’s glad he left us with his six eco-theories:

  • Life is governed by the flow of energy;
  • Life lives in circles;
  • We all belong to the whole;
  • All lives are constantly changing;
  • Living entities seek balance;
  • All life is symbiotically interconnected.
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