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Dear Governor Ducey,

You are the only one I can talk to some days. Today was particularly rough; I didn’t get a fellowship I had been so hoping for. I emailed my friend Stacy who reminded me that getting up and shaking the dust off is the only way to be a writer, which is true, but oh my, it’s spring in Flagstaff and there is nothing but dust. It snowed a week ago, a tiny bit, but that moisture has evaporated and now we are in the windy season. Spring is the worst season in Flagstaff—winds up to 60 miles per hour. Tree branches scrape the roof. Wind advisories beep out over scanners and phones. High-profile vehicles move to the side. Tomorrow, when I go running in the forest, I will see whole trees felled. Not live, healthy trees, but dead snags which are good for hawks and owls but not good for bare human heads out in the forest. I don’t go running during the storms.

I wish I could be so clever as not to run through other kinds of storms. I’m not good at chess. I can’t see three moves ahead. I don’t understand subterfuge. I have a horrible poker face. I also hate to lose. This is not a good cohort of characteristics. On days like today, I wonder what line of work I should have gone into. I like certainty, birds, and a daily infusion of a feeling of success. Maybe I could raise ducklings. But even baby ducks grow up to be big ducks and stop following you around and eventually they leave you for other ponds and, as they try to up and fly, the wind picks them off, tosses them off track, and sends them squawking into high-profile vehicles. Not even the ducks are safe in Flagstaff or in metaphors of Nicole, who is feeling a little bit sorry for herself but is going to get over it right now.

These letters. They have a point. One of them is to please, dear governor, please commit real, paradigm-changing funding to education in Arizona. But the other point is persistence. These letters mean a lot to me because they mean almost nothing to you. I can keep writing them forever, I believe, even if it gets me in trouble or even if, once and awhile, they’re a little self-serving and a little too meta, like this one is.

So let me make a point before I annoy myself any further. Today, in addition to my personal bad news, I received an email that the National Endowment for the Humanities will suspend their project grants program since they have not received expected funding for this year and most likely will not receive funding next year. I talked about the National Endowment for the Arts in a previous letter but not the NEH. I don’t know as much about the NEH. I do know it supports and funds programs in Arizona like University of Arizona Poetry Center’s collection of recorded readings, NAU’s “Footprints of Ancestors: Intergenerational Learning of Hopi History and Culture.” The University of Arizona and the Hopi Tribe of Arizona collaborated on “Moquis and Kastilam: The Hopi History Project” thanks to the NEH. 

Let’s face it, not all of us are interested in museums. We don’t all want to know about the history of the Hopi. We don’t all love art or humanities, or even humans, for that matter. But you don’t have to go to plays and the opera to understand why it’s important for civil society: perspective, like the kind my friend Stacy gave me, is hard to come by. Perspective is what museums and plays and symphonies and books provide. You don’t have to access those books or museums to benefit from those perspectives shared. You don’t have to see everything and do everything and know everything to know that other points of view exist. Without the presence of art and culture, perspective as a concept dies. No one, after a rough day, gets up off the ground and dusts themselves off. Without the arts and humanities, it’s like spring in Flagstaff forever. Windy, rough, dusty, allergenic, cold when it seems hot, hot when it seems cold, you never know what to wear or how many layers or if you need to batten down all the hatches. Without the prospect of the different perspective of summer, you wouldn’t know to wait it out, that things will get better.

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Nicole Walker is an associate professor at Northern Arizona University, and is the author of Quench Your Thirst with Salt and a collection of poems, This Noisy Egg. She edited, with Margot Singer, Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction, and is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment from the Arts. The thoughts expressed here are hers alone and not necessarily those of her employer. For more letters, visit www.nikwalk.blogspot.com

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