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Shengjia-Ashley's blog

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Self Evaluation

I started at a pretty bad place. I did not even realize how little time I spend with nature and think ecologically until I attended Ecological Imaginings course. In choosing an on campus site, I was the only person in class to adopt an indoor site and intended to observe nature from afar through the window, which I later learned in Terry Tempest Williams book, is an unnatural thing to do. Since I had little memory of nature and was not used to ecological thinking, I even compared the natural scenery of the night sky with the scenes from man-made films. Worse still, as an international student whose first language is not English, I was overwhelmed by the readings and had a difficult time fully expressing myself in my essays. On top of these, I was also dealing with culture differences (that my essay is always not explicit enough), my procrastination and my homesickness.

I could talk little about the first few readings, not because I did not read them carefully because they are talking about those new ideas that were higher than my normal thinking horizon, for example Bohm confused me by comparing the usual method writing with quantum, because I think writing and physics are incomparable at that time. I could only turn in a somewhat beginning of a paper for my first paper, simply because I did not have the confidence to write a paper at that time. Nor have I been used to setting time to sitting alone on  grass thinking how dependable human are of plants and other ideas or refelctions.

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[PPT] & [Script} Ecological Journey from Campus to the World

The link to the sky burial video from youtube:

Comment if you want to learn more about sky burials!!!!!!!

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Questioning Wandering Learning

Questioning, Wandering, Learning

Why go to college? Why spent thousands of dollars and four years of youth for rigorous academic works? Conventional wisdom says attending colleges and universities is the key to a successful life. Young people can gain knowledge and skills they use for the rest of life. However, a recent survey by Pew Research Center show that 57% of Americans say colleges fail to provide students with good value for money spent. Herein is the problem I detected: when viewing higher education with narrow lens of cost effectiveness and monetary payoff, people are blinded from the real aim of higher education: to teach people to think ecologically, to see the conflicts within our ecosystem and to ponder the questions for the rest of their lives. I believe higher education is not limited to the several years of schooling but a life-long education, and higher education is not merely keys to successful lives but meaningful lives filled with curiosities, wanderings and new findings.

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Chaos left unanswered

It is very difficult for me to write the last site sit. The rain is seeking into my hair; my head is aching with reflections of how this semester had been for me. I couldn’t help to take retrospective examination of myself and my site. The exuberance beech trees I see from “Carpenter beach” have only a few leaves left now. People loved to lie on the beach at the beginning of the semester haven’t returned for a long time. The grass stayed relatively the same: well-trimmed. My mind is not well-trimmed but muddy and clustering like the fallen leaves in the corners and sides of the trials.

The voices of the ecologists were arguing in my head. Are human doomed by human’s encroaching the earth? Or is the environmental crisis just an imagination of some ecologists? How should we represent the world? Can we compose an understandable literature without human as a subject? Or is human an inseparable part of the ecology? What shaped the actions of human in the nature environment? Is it the fear of nature or the control of the landscape? How should we speak green? Radically or simply let it be and enjoy what we have now…

 Many questions are still left unanswered. Many topics are still open in the untamed space of imaginations. Even though the class is coming to an end, I don’t think I can simply left the chaos of the different world views, opinions and imagination in the readings we have done. There is much I can ponder on for years.

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My Blinded Experience

On the blind field shuttle tour of Bryn Mawr Campus, Carmen showed us that being blind does not mean being impaired but possessing a different way to perceive the world.

I was first at the back of the line. I could feel (or I thought I felt) the girl behind me shaking as we walked in the woods. I could hear a big humming engine right beside me as we crossed the street. Any small vibrations turned into big swings in the back of the line, as I consistently stepped on and off the paved trial onto the grass during the “peaceful” later part of the shuttle. Though I didn’t open my eyes during the whole trip, I couldn’t keep myself from aimless waving one of my arm for branches or imaginary obstacles. My shoulder is now a bit sore from all the sketching and waving in the air.

On the way back, I was at the beginning of the line. Knowing the route I was going to walk on, I felt easier and paid more attention to the flickering of lights on my eyelids.  I even noticed that the paved trial on front of the English house was more “rough” than the paved trail parallel to senior row. However, it was still terrifying when I heard a car shooting through my front as Carmen called everyone to cross the street again.

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Tension between vegetarian and meat-eaters

The book The Lives of Animals is ingeniously written and surprising compelling, although Coetzee used a lot of layers to “cover” his true feelings toward contemplation of animals.

Besides human’s cruelty toward animals, I see another “tension” in this book: the alienation between vegetarians and meat-eaters. In the books, the ageing mother’s ardent vegetarian conviction put a lot of tension on her son and her daughter-in-law. In some parts of the books, to me, it almost seemed like the mother and her meat-eating daughter-in-law had nothing in common to discuss about. However, at the end of the book, the son consoled the distraught mother, “There, there. It will be over soon.” Could it mean that the tension between the vegetarians and the meat-eaters will be over soon? As meat-eaters learn to respect animals more ardently, there will be a bridge that will connect in the gap between vegetarians and meat-eaters?

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Things I didn't post

A dandelion grew on my campus site- the lawn in front of carpenter library.

A huge mushroom the the tree near the pond.

This is a picture of the sunflowers planted in stduent garden right after the storm.

Beautiful scenary at Nantasket Beach Hull MA in the morning, tourists who were drowned by the view and early communtors who ignored the scenes.

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The leaning tree and vine swinging

The botanical and geological exploration of Bryn Mawr campus I experienced with three “Sarahs”, Wanhong and Emily was quite interesting.

We started with a group of 5, Emily Tong, Sarah Macholdt, Sarah Cummingham and Wanghong  Zou. We talked about our experience of our two different Ecological Imaging classes so far. We went on the geological exploration first. We identifyied the rocks, went to the Mills creek… Fast forward, fast forward. And we met three other ecological imaginers basking in the sun in front of the English house, which was when the trip got more interesting.

The eight of us first argued about whether the leaning beech tree in front of the English house would fell down at any point. One of us tried to push the tree down, but didn’t succeed, of course. Finally, we looked up high in the sky and found out the top of the tree was more branches on the opposite side of the direction the tree was leaning to. So the tree was in fact in perfect balance! I wonder if the tree had known about the laws of physics that it decided to grown in such special “gesture”.

Then our interest shifted to the vines that were grown on the beech tree. One of us did “vine swinging”!! A dangerous thing to do, I must say. The vine broke, and fell down an inch beside her! Sarah Cummingham said the tree was expressing its anger. I say we don’t have the skills of Tashan to do vine swinging. We had overestimated the strength of the vine. Eventually Sarah decided to take the broken vine home and make an art creation out of it. (Have you finished it, Sarah?)

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A book took me back to Colorado

Reading An Unspoken Hunger by Terry Tempest Williams, I felt her obvious passion for the earth and especially the western desert. Her love for the land, her eloquence in advocating environment protection and the detailed and vivid description of water, rock, and land was so engaging that she drew back a lot of missing memories I had when I visited Colorado. I felt the dry wind blowing on my face again, I felt thirsty in my throat, I heard the country songs in my mind and I smelt the salty and subtle smell of the rocks.

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Look for something different

Today I sat on the lawn behind Carpenter library, looking at the grass searching for “intruders” - other species of plants that was not grass. Perhaps because I didn’t have the knowledge of a biologist, the only two different species I can found on the land dominated by grass were clover and a kind of vine I cannot name of.

I learned from “ecological imaging 313” group that though some plant look very alike, they taste different, they smell different and they could be poisonous and nonpoisonous. Should I bow down to smell the grass if any of them has a different scent? Maybe I should, but I didn’t.

Do I want to find something different among the grass. I am not sure. The green is intended to grow nothing but grass. But what if all green grows nothing but grass? Would it be too simple, too plain, too dull? Yet, I don’t want to see chaos on the green. I don’t expect to see tomatoes, squashes and roses crowded together. That is too complex, too messy, too confusing.

Bryn Mawr going co-ed? To me, that would be just like transferring a peaceful grass field to an extravagant garden. Eveything that was good about a grass field will be lost. I do not want that.

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