Ursula died today.

She was 88. Lived on NW Thurman Street here in Portland. She had no idea how much of an influence she had/has on community acupuncture and POCA. She will be missed.

“Life rises out of death, death rises out of life; in being opposite they yearn to each other, they give birth to each other and are forever reborn. And with them, all is reborn, the flower of the apple tree, the light of the stars. In life is death. In death is rebirth. What then is life without death? Life unchanging, everlasting, eternal? What is it but death, death without rebirth?”

—Sparrowhawk, ‘The Farthest Shore’

Ursula K. Le Guin, RIP.

Skip Van Meter
Author: Skip Van Meter

Skip is Lead Acupuncturist and Co-Founder of <a href="https://www.workingclassacupuncture.org/" target="_blank">Working Class Acupuncture</a> in Portland, Oregon. With the earlier part of his life spent acquiring knowledge about geology, urban planning and teaching high school, he has now been an acupuncturist for 19 years, using about a 1,750,000 needles poking his patients. He likes all things soccer, has three fabulous sons, the best wife in the world, and a great dog and two cool cats.

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Responses

  1. RIP indeed. Sch a brilliant, creative mind and fearless social voice.

    I remember getting a copy of The Dispossessed sent from Portland when I joined the CAN board. That and Finding Normal helped me understand CA and your experience of it so much.

    The Telling is one of my favorites of hers also.
    Sorry for (y)our loss.

  2. Here is what she wrote on writing when she wasn’t being sassy):

    A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.

  3. Here s a look at her sassy side, which is part of why she is so important to community acupuncture. This is a total snipe at Ruth Franklin, critic, and b biographer of Serious Literature. Ursula of course was derided for years as a write of lesser, genre fiction. She should have won a fucking Nobel as far as I am concerned. Tell me you don’t see the humor of CA in this:

    Something woke her in the night. Was it steps she heard, coming up the stairs — somebody in wet training shoes, climbing the stairs very slowly… but who? And why wet shoes? It hadn’t rained. There, again, the heavy, soggy sound. But it hadn’t rained for weeks, it was only sultry, the air close, with a cloying hint of mildew or rot, sweet rot, like very old finiocchiona, or perhaps liverwurst gone green. There, again — the slow, squelching, sucking steps, and the foul smell was stronger. Something was climbing her stairs, coming closer to her door. As she heard the click of heel bones that had broken through rotting flesh, she knew what it was. But it was dead, dead! God damn that Chabon, dragging it out of the grave where she and the other serious writers had buried it to save serious literature from its polluting touch, the horror of its blank, pustular face, the lifeless, meaningless glare of its decaying eyes! What did the fool think he was doing? Had he paid no attention at all to the endless rituals of the serious writers and their serious critics — the formal expulsion ceremonies, the repeated anathemata, the stakes driven over and over through the heart, the vitriolic sneers, the endless, solemn dances on the grave? Did he not want to preserve the virginity of Yaddo? Had he not even understood the importance of the distinction between sci fi and counterfactual fiction? Could he not see that Cormac McCarthy — although everything in his book (except the wonderfully blatant use of an egregiously obscure vocabulary) was remarkably similar to a great many earlier works of science fiction about men crossing the country after a holocaust — could never under any circumstances be said to be a sci fi writer, because Cormac McCarthy was a serious writer and so by definition incapable of lowering himself to commit genre? Could it be that that Chabon, just because some mad fools gave him a Pulitzer, had forgotten the sacred value of the word mainstream? No, she would not look at the thing that had squelched its way into her bedroom and stood over her, reeking of rocket fuel and kryptonite, creaking like an old mansion on the moors in a wuthering wind, its brain rotting like a pear from within, dripping little grey cells through its ears. But its call on her attention was, somehow, imperative, and as it stretched out its hand to her she saw on one of the half-putrefied fingers a fiery golden ring. She moaned. How could they have buried it in such a shallow grave and then just walked away, abandoning it? “Dig it deeper, dig it deeper!” she had screamed, but they hadn’t listened to her, and now where were they, all the other serious writers and critics, when she needed them? Where was her copy of Ulysses? All she had on her bedside table was a Philip Roth novel she had been using to prop up the reading lamp. She pulled the slender volume free and raised it up between her and the ghastly golem — but it was not enough. Not even Roth could save her. The monster laid its squamous hand on her, and the ring branded her like a burning coal. Genre breathed its corpse-breath in her face, and she was lost. She was defiled. She might as well be dead. She would never, ever get invited to write for Granta now.

  4. Okay top 10 UKL book which is nuts cause I’m about to leave off this list books like Planet of Exile and Rocannon’s World and The Word for World is Forest.

    10 Changing Planes: Stories
    9 Always Coming Home
    8 The Lathe of Heaven
    7 City of Illusion
    6 Catwings
    5 Four Ways to Forgiveness
    4 The Left Hand of Darkness
    3 The whole Earthsea cycle (I can’t choose.)
    2 The Dispossessed
    1 Lavinia. Her last book and besides being her best, its so CA. The book takes that classical Roman tale The Aeneid by Vergil, which is about Vergil’s hero fights to claim the king’s daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. Lavinia herself never speaks a word. She’s just the object. So Ursula LeGuin gives Lavinia a book to speak. That’s CA. That’s freedom.

    And I just put one of her short stories collections here which is just silly on my part. All I can say is that there’s only one way out of Omelas.

  5. Thanks for this. I was not aware of her passing. It reminds me of a great “ill-behaved” role model for women and to finish reading her book on writing–The Wave in the Mind: talks and essays on the writer, the reader, and the imagination.