John Boylan’s: The Conversation

| October 11, 2013 | 0 Comments
October 16, 2013 @ 2:00 am – 4:00 am
1508 11th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122
John Boylan

The Summary

This time we’re talking about wildness, in nature, in culture, in our lives.

Read on for the details.


The Guests (see the bios below)

Tessa Hulls, artist

Siolo Thompson, artist, publisher

Phil Bennett, urban forester

And possibly a fourth


The Story

The questions are simple: If Thoreau is right, and “in Wildness is the preservation of the world,” what exactly is “wildness?” And if 1920s blues singer Ida Mae Cox is correct, and “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues,” what do the two propositions have to do with each other? Do the ecosystems that we tend to characterize as wild have much to do, say, with such human behavior as we also characterize as wild?

Our culture often tends toward seeing wildness as something else, somewhere else, something exotic: that wild dancer, that woman with the wild hair, that strange, wild place. But what if wildness is integral to our lives, appearing everywhere, deep within ourselves? How do we recognize that, and should we embrace it?

Wildness is culturally determined, and usually in ways that are often ignored or misunderstood. In the United States, it is easy to see the music of samba or African drumming as being wilder than, say, a Bach concerto or a Chopin nocturne. But what if they’re both wild, or not? How does that work? I’ve often thought that a scrubby lot behind a gas station can hold the same wildness as a piece of old growth thirty miles from human habitation. How can that be true?

For guests we have Tessa Hulls, an artist who has spent a lot of time in the woods and thinks about wildness a lot; Siolo Thompson, an artist whose book about strong women, “The Better Bombshell,” was published this year; and naturalist Phil Barnett. I met Phil a few years ago, when he was leading a workshop on building a forest shelter through the Wilderness Awareness School. We all worked hard that day building the shelter, using only knives as tools. That night, during a heavy, pounding autumn storm, we were warm and dry in the shelter. I’ll always remember crawling out through the small entrance in the darkness just before dawn. The storm had coated the forest floor with a thick layer of Big Leaf Maple leaves, looking in the early twilight like a beautiful coating of snow.

Come talk about wildness.

(If you are interested in reading Thoreau’s essay, “Walking,” where the quotation above appears, it is available in three parts at You can hear “Wild Women…” in the first minutes at I believe that’s Cox, but I’m not sure.) I first heard the song performed by the great Barbara Duncan (



Café Nordo returns to its roots with a restaging of “The Great American Chicken.” The Chef is back, and he is not happy.


The Guests

Tessa Hulls ( is an artist/writer/adventurer with a compulsive need to be alone in wild places. Her literally bipolar wanderings have led her to work in both Antarctica and Alaska, and to solitary bicycle rides across the United States and into the heart of Denali National Park. Tessa is currently trying to figure out how to reconcile her half-feral nature with her need for the cultural landscape of a city, and has a sneaking suspicion that atavism is a stronger force than civilization.

Tessa is a freelance artist, an embracer of tangents, and a voracious reader. She is an editor of the Off-Paper online journal at The Project Room, the kitchen manager for Sprout Seattle, the sous chef for Café Nordo, an arts writer for Redefine Magazine, and a generally restless person. She has been writing a series of essays about people who are known for going rogue and dropping out of mainstream society as part of The Project Room’s current Big Question of How Are We Remembered?, and she is—very slowly— working on a non-fiction graphic novel about Antarctica. She was recently interviewed about her restlessness as part of the Manifest NW project:

She is leaving Seattle in March to head for Alaska, Antarctica, or Africa. She also can’t resist being alliterative.


Siolo Thompson ( is a self-taught visual artist who lives and works in Seattle, WA. She uses multiple mediums and techniques in her work with a focus on draftsmanship and narrative development.   A background in comparative literature aids Thompson in her quest to translate complex ideas, stories and emotions into the language of visual art. Thompson falls most neatly into the category of figurative realism though her work often dallies at the edges of other disciplines including comic art and animation.

She is the co-publisher of The Better Bombshell (, a book that seeks “positive, multidimensional female role models.”


Phil Bennett is an arborist and urban forester for the City of Snoqualmie, where he encounters asphalt, black bears, public engineers, laminated root rot, fiber-optic cables, badly-scabbed crabapples and bio-degradable pet waste bags misused by small boys as water balloons in public restrooms.  This is called the “urban/wildland interface.”  Phil is also an environmental educator, having worked throughout the West in national parks and wilderness areas.


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