Friday, January 30, 2009

desert aesthetic

just land and sky, sun and rock, night and day, winter and summer, pairs of nuance and dimension finding richness and depth in just a few elements instead of being overstimulated by too many details

but of course "simplicity" is a gross simpli-fication of landscape and imagination, for you can spend hours days lives crawling on your hands and knees looking for dinosaur teeth or sagebrush wings or coyote hair, there's such detail even there, in the sparsest place imaginable

even in a small white box, so many shades of white

Life as a series of parentheses

If I lived in a movie, the fluctuations in temperature, the changes in light would just be background effects meant to emphasize psychological turmoil. The waxing crescent moon in the sky, the flocks of crows in the fields, the rows and rows and stacks of books on sensation, perception, cognition, space, place, time, home, wilderness, pure science to pure fiction it's all too much.

The idea of too much is both beautiful and damning.

A few days ago, during a discussion of environmental ethics, someone happened to mention clear-cutting a forest as an example and I immediately recoiled in physical pain. Then during a discussion of fences and wilderness areas, I suddenly found myself standing there in the Painted Desert juniper in the wind and sun on my face and clay in my pores, I was actually there. Like vertigo, but real. My mind was so powerful that it defied all rules of time and space to transport my body. Then today, I was incapacitated by the words "laparoscopy" and "color," curled up in a tense little ball, yet in so doing found myself thinking detachedly "hmm, interesting that a mere phrase entered my brain, was computed and interpreted along some sort of neural pathway, associated with all sorts of abstract concepts, transformed into electrical impulses that involuntarily forced muscles in my abdomen and toes to contract." Then, of course, I thought, "hmm, interesting that my mind now recognizes that my abdomen and toes are tense, and finds that something to consciously ponder." Add to that the layer in which I'm now engaging -- pulling all of these thoughts out of my mind, stuffing them back into words and typing them out for some virtual audience.

I had to stand on my head (recognizing, of course, the sheer absurdity of that) to make myself stop thinking. Headstands or fresh air, distracted by clouds and cookies, there's too much to think about and the more that I want and try to learn, the less that my brain can function. Little sparks starting nuclear reactions, can someone think themselves into meltdown?

It's a poor excuse for an escape, but a little park nearby at least gives me the chance to stretch my legs, get out of the confines of this office and this city and breathe a bit, ruminate on footprints and turkey clucks. Last week it was too cold to carry a sketchbook (won't even begin to touch that subject, memorializing experience)(hmm "memory-a-lize," "re-member," as in re-body...)(see the problem?), so I tried a tape-recorder for the first time.

"Cold. Cold cold cold." was all I said, apparently, "Fingers freezing, breath burning," muffled through three layers of scarf, "cold but oh I needed to come, just had to come." Had to, needed to, voice breaking.


Tempting frostbite, internal monologue pouring out into the harsh reality of winter silence, but simply had to, needed to.

Oh, it's beautiful, fascinating, too much, I simply can't let thoughts feelings flow by without trying to grab and overanalyze them all, how do you turn the brain off? Especially when it's connected to the body? Which is physically philosophically part of the world?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Boots laced up, don't know if where how to go

"Everyone has "[an] ideal place, [a] right place, ... one true home" promises Edward Abbey.
"Find your place on the planet, dig in" says Gary Snyder.
"If we are not home, if we are not rooted deeply in place, making that commitment to dig in and stay put ... we are living a life without specificity, and then our lives become abstractions. Then we enter a place of true desolation" asserts Terry Tempest Williams.
"Are space and place the environmental equivalents of the human need for adventure and safety, openness and definition?" asks Yi-Fu Tuan.

I don't know my place, don't have a true home, can't dig in, crave adventure and openness more than safety and definition. Buffalo, New Hampshire, Arizona, Morocco, Russia, California, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas, all home, all not.
I'm part snow, part water, part sunshine, part sandstone, part juniper, part coyote, part meadowlark. I'm part river, part forest, part desert, part grassland.

What if we're every place, and thus no place?
What if we need to move every few months, before who we are can catch up with where we are?
Barry Lopez would say "you must stay. This is the pain of it all. You can't keep leaving...What makes you want to leave now is what is trying to kill you."
I don't know what making me want to leave now, don't know how to keep it from killing me, so I'm sorry, I can't tell you whether it's better to sit still, to dig in, to find depth in the here and now or forever strive for answers in some there and then.
Please, I'm just lists of quotations, albums of photographs, a mind full of memories, a soul full of questions, an accumulation of rocks and leaves and driftwood.