Sidewalk

I feel your warmth through my warn soles

Underneath your surface the earth groans and shifts

The roots of urban forests reveal your superficial nature:

A thick slab of concrete, rows of laid brick

Sun-bleached and uneven with

complex networks of cracks and holes, the result of

a constant rhythm of expansion and contraction

like the movement of my diaphragm as I

wander on you.

Chagrin River

What happens inside me when I visit a landscape of my youth?

The trees that embraced me as I cried, the water that soothed me as I dreamed.

The river bank may not remember me, but within it I keep eroding memories, 

of feeling alone in what I felt,

having all the time to wonder and walk,

drowning in time,

in fantasies of the future, in anxieties of then...

Now following trails that no longer hold my teenage footprints, those adolescent emotions fade in and out of focus,

tumbling and merging with ones inside me now, leaving me to question the authenticity of the flashback.

I remember standing on top of this ridge, surrounded by rows of trees.

I remember feeling unbearably content, not wanting to walk back to my car, only hearing the sound of the river below and the sun pulsing through the forest canopy.

I remember smiling manically, not caring who stumbled upon me,

actually hoping someone would, so I could say:

How’s it going?! What a beautiful day! Do you feel what I feel? Are you glowing too?

 The Chagrin River

The Chagrin River

Walking

The following poem is inspired by musings on my practice of making and readings by Anthropologist Tim Ingold such as The Textility of Making

 

———————— Walking is like making

The next step

because of the one before it, the way it is.

and before,

and before…


A process of following and becoming


Always varied, like an open line,

no beginning or end,

just moving, simply being


There isn’t A or B:

It’s the inbetween.


This is it


The path widens, curves

Can you see it through the fog?

Today, mud

Tomorrow, dust

Wind in your eyes, diffused sun

or sunburnt and breezy?

Up, down, repeat


It may look the same,

but never is —————————————

 Image from  Being Alive  by Tim Ingold

Image from Being Alive by Tim Ingold

Vital Materiality: A Train Ride

“I believe in one matter-energy, the maker of things seen and unseen. I believe that this pluriverse is traversed by heterogeneities that are continually doing things. I believe that it is wrong to deny vitality to nonhuman bodies, forces, and forms, and that a careful course of anthropomorphization can help reveal that vitality, even though it resists full translation and exceeds my comprehensive grasp. I believe that encounters with lively matter can chasten my fantasies of human mastery, highlight the common materiality of all that is, expose a wider distribution of agency, and reshape the self and it's interests.” - Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter

I recently was on a long train ride through Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia. I was hypnotized by the odd landscape that unfolded on the other side of the scratched and bruised glass window. The land oscillated between small towns littered with corroding cars, half-frozen rivers that meandered lazily alongside the train, and mysterious naked forests scattered with abandoned tents. The screech of the wheels was a whistled lullaby as a young Mennonite couple attentively cared for their newborn baby; we all collectively swayed back and forth on the rails in a dizzy peace. 

I watched the light transform from crisp early morning blue, through half-awake momentary glances, to late afternoon gold, with wide eyed attention and admiration. I watched others sleep beside rocky hillsides, wrapped up in makeshift blankets made of winter jackets. I watched them wake up and experience that moment when they had to remind themselves where they were.

At moments the trip seemed like a monotonous drag; impatience would make me restless and achy. But then the sun would begin to vibrate in the gaps between the trees. It would illuminate the objects and things on the train at an irregular and unpredictable rhythm: my opaque blue water bottle, a man's wool sweater, the youthful skin on my hands. They were unified as coexisting and cooperative matter, together on an overnight quest from here to there. 

A compilation of observations from the trip

Stretch

How my body stretches

to turn and whisper

 

Is quenched into

loose and fluid

 

Soaked in dense smoke and

waxy steel

 

How it strengthens gradually,

A humble growth

 

How my body stretches

Best when telepathic with soft glass

 

Another organ that forms

to then be frozen

 

City Life for a Nature Lover

I deeply miss open areas of nonhuman life: breathing, moving, growing, multiplying, reproducing, dying, decomposing, communally operating, and ecologically diverse. This absence makes me more in awe of these places now. 

These were the only spaces I knew as a child. Now I am surrounded by architecture and pavement; the smell of exhaust and garbage are mixed in the autumn breeze.

There are things about the city that I love: it stimulates me as a young creative person with its anthropological history and diversity. But the city is purely a product of human creation. It is measured, calculated, controlled, and strategically designed.  

It's easy for me to become negative in civilization with its obsessive consumption and selfishness. I try to find comfort in the ways the uncontrollable and mysterious forces of nature (which i love) infiltrate these urban environments. Tree roots moving and cracking concrete sidewalks from underneath, sun bouncing between glassy buildings, and spiders spinning webs around abandoned bicycles. 

It reminds me of human's interwoven existence with the natural world. It allows me to view the city as yet another natural landscape. It is a landscape that was built by extreme exploitation of Mother Nature's resources, but nonetheless it is the human's bizarre and twisted version of a natural landscape.

I find the city simultaneously fascinating and disturbing. I now more than ever crave lakes, rivers, trees, mountains, plants, insects, and the solitude found within these environments. Even while in these places I can still see the effects of humans with pollution, the weather, and within the management of parks/forests/nature reserves. 

Instead of being crippled with anger I try to simply observe this moment of interaction between body and land, and I do what I can to work against the destruction of the Earth through education and action.

I spent time this weekend in one of these awesome (in the true sense of the word) landscapes I knew intimately as a child; bellow is a short poem I wrote while there.

IMG_4556.JPG

Lochloosa Lake

My brother fished minnows out of the lake.

He grabbed one in between his dirty fingers, its gills flapped open and closed

"You're gonna die motherf******," he said.

I watched him pierce the hook through the minnow's 

glassy black eye and

cast out a line

Rolling: The Highs and Lows of Art Making

The process of making art is a constant roller coaster. Sometimes I feel deeply inspired, energized by a crystal clarity. But this moment of clarity doesn't typically last for long. It comes in waves; I can go in and out of this epiphany-like feeling throughout the day.

I'll be in the studio working away on something new, headphones in my ears listening to some groovy jams, and I'll feel bottomless focus. My mind becomes calm, thoughts are positive, and I feel I have a deeper understanding of what the f*** I am doing. Even alone in my studio I am able to feel connected to the world around me and can more clearly see the complexities of the human experience.

Then an hour later I'll be distracted, unsure, confused, and insecure. I'll stumble around on a walk in the hot sun, lost in the loneliness inside my skull, thinking "well is any of this important at all?"

Then 10 minutes later I'll be having a conversation with someone and I'll float at ease back into the rich sea of knowledge I had found myself in earlier.

I used to have these dreams as a little girl that I was on a roller coaster. I'd being going up this hill and intensity would build and build and build. My dream-heart (and maybe even my real-life heart) would beat faster and faster, and all my dream-muscles would tense and suffocate my bones.

As I peered over the top of the climb I would hold my dream-breath.

All the muscles in my body would completely let go. I would feel incredibly light, easy and free. I was floating on air, blissful.

Then before I knew it there was another hill ahead of me; the anxious panic would start building again.

Then down again, back into the heavy calm.

I would ride up and down these hills until eventually would find myself awake in my mother's arms drenched in tears from the exhausting effects of the emotional roller coaster nightmare.

I can't help but recall this childhood reoccurring dream when I think about the roller coaster of a dedicated studio art practice.

The emotions are different, but both in the dream and in my practice, I cannot control when there are highs and when there are lows.

The highs are what motivate me to create, but they unfortunately aren't possible without the lows. It's tiring, just as the dreams were as a child, but this is a dream I cannot and do not want to wake up from. 

 Part of a series I am working on of altered photographs of hands in motion

Part of a series I am working on of altered photographs of hands in motion

Consciousness is Only Possible Through Change

The Art of Seeing by Aldous Huxley, written in 1942, is a book about an alternative way of correcting vision impairment through odd movement meditations developed by William Bates. This method has been proven ineffective except for a few subjective cases (including Huxley himself), but the exercises employed in this alternative method bring up interesting concepts about visual perception.

I was reading the book earlier this summer, and it got me thinking about a myriad of topics, such as the history and use of eyeglasses, the difference between sensing and perceiving, meditational movements that are psychologically beneficial even if not physically, and afterimages (i.e. when you stare at the sun too long, and then when you look away you see spots).

We’ll see if any of these ideas appear in my future work; what made me think about The Art of Seeing was a short passage early on in the book.

I sat down to write about the positives and negatives of moving to a new place, and the following quote popped into my head. Huxley quotes The Psychology of Attention by Théodule Ribot:

“Without motor elements perception is impossible. If the eye be kept fixed upon a given object without moving, perception after a while grows dim, and then disappears. Rest the tips of the fingers upon a table without pressing, and the contact at the end of a few minutes will no longer be felt. But a motion of the eye or of the finger, be it ever so slight, will re-arouse perception. Consciousness is only possible through change; change is only possible through movement...Where there is no movement, there is no perception.”

Although Ribot gives the example of perception as simply looking at an object or resting your fingers on a table, one can use this example as a metaphor for something much broader and deeper. Without movement, without change, perception is stagnant.

When you drive the same route everyday, watch the same TV show every week, drink the same beer every night, go to the same grocery store every month, you grow numb; there's nothing new to ‘re-arouse perception’. Getting away from what you know, are used to, or comfortable with, has the ability to open your perception.

Movement and change in a routine, whether it be a daily or lifelong routine, is powerful; it can also be difficult and provoke negative emotions like anxiety and fear. My recent life-change was met with having to pack up all my belongings into a 6’ x 12’ trailer, a cockroach infested apartment, and 82% humidity. However I now have a whole new vibrant city to explore, creative and beautiful people to get to know, and a new studio to develop my art practice in. The good would not be as powerfully wonderful if there weren’t the tears and frustration.

I'm not saying routine is all bad; ritual and routine can be positive and healing, especially sometimes when everything else in the world seems chaotic and f****d up. I simply encourage a questioning of routines, and the welcoming of new experiences. 

I am a creature of trying to break habit. I get restless easy and desire new experiences to energize my senses. In my life at the moment I am trying to embrace all this newness, reminding myself that the bad is only temporary, and focus on soaking up all of the good. Grateful for this opportunity to stimulate my perception, I am going to continue moving and changing day-to-day within the larger move I have just made.

 Image from  The Art of Seeing

Image from The Art of Seeing

Enlightenment, Insanity, Embrace: A Reflection

Enlightenment

Salt water seeps from my pores, an exhale of deep release. Hands above my head as I regain control of each breath, feeling the beat of life in forehead veins. I take steady, slow inhales as I rest at the top of the climb. I am high; gained elevation and endless oxygen like a tsunami to my blood, an advanced state of euphoria. All the complex organic shapes of the forest are glowing in clarity, and chlorophyll drips into my eyes from the dense canopy above. I can’t tell if I’m radiating from a new found incandescence, or if I’m strung out, soaking up the final fumes of exhaustion.

Insanity

Internal heat rises to meet my sticky face; insides boiling with unconscious nerves like bugs crawling towards my slick skin (I’m afraid I won’t feel their tiny legs as they creep up my own and make a home under my skin). I suppress the hunger, the tired tendons, the fear of getting lost in a world I do not know how to live in. Inside the trees, isolated and helpless, among mysterious fungi and disease carrying parasites. The fear of slow death slithers around like a worm in my gut, but I bury it with light, with the peace I find in solitude, in health, in my youthful stride.

Embrace

As the trail hugs the hillside I narrow my focus on the sensation of boot on earth, the way my foot takes the contour of roots and rocks. Breathing and walking, basking in this simple and temporary life. I deny my gut-fear the ability to cast a shadow on the light I feel as an animal, with one purpose, walking to the rhythm of my long breath and the slow movement of the rugged forest.

Neighbor Observations

Throwing a faded tie-dye foam football across

a rusted fence, intertwined with overgrown and untamed summer-city foliage.

Everyone's cutting their grass after work at

golden hour.

The kids next door throw rocks, and I sip my warm beer as

shaky, rattling cars drive past.

The neighbor's dog is in heat and the neighbor girl fingers grass blades with

fleeting attention.

There's an old man on his front porch drinking a

blood-red beverage full of beets, vinegar, and turmeric,

and an American flag is twisting, wrapping itself around the post.

Across the street girls with colorful hair and sweatpants smoke cigarettes, mumbling.

 

Never silence, never dull, the sound of another can of beer opening…

 

I am still, I stay silent.

Observing all the subtleties of movement and sound, bathed in a

blinding evening light.

I notice the complexities of existing so close to other humans.

These people I don’t know,

they don’t know me,

but we breathe, think, sleep, and dream 100 feet apart.

 

Yet there's a fence, there’s a wall,

there’s somewhere else to look other than into each other's face.

The distance that brings comfort, security,

but creates isolation, disconnection, loneliness.