Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

rachelr's blog

rachelr's picture

In Between Dreams

The exact origins of the dream catcher are unclear due to the destruction of oral Native American tradition by white settlers, but it seems that the dream catcher originated with the Ojibwe people, who refer to themselves as Anishnabe, meaning “first people.” As the most powerful tribe in the Great Lakes region, heir territory covered what is now Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ontario, and Manitoba.


The Story of the Dream Catcher

rachelr's picture

(Mental) Construction Zone

My assignment for our trip to Ashbridge was to hold an online reflection of my shared experience with the class. That can be found here. Something that our blind shuttle made me think about was the difference between hearing r.graham.barrett and eetong’s auditory description of the history (past and present) of Ashbridge Park and the waterway restoration, and the visual differences I encountered that were in contrast to the mental image I had constructed. I wasn’t really expecting the trash, especially after hearing about all the conscious efforts to revitalize and preserve the area. I assume if I did not have my sense of sight that I would have retained the visual image I constructed from the stories, unless perhaps I had someone describing the reality to me. Carmen Papalia said on our blind shuttle that not having sight could be a beautiful thing, that sight gave us so much to be distracted by that our other senses don’t work as hard as they could. I am now left wondering how my experience at Ashbridge might have been different if I had taken some time to close my eyes. Would I have had a more watery experience if I let me ears and nose take over, uninhibited by the distractions my eyes plagued me with?


rachelr's picture

With eyes closed wide

I opened this class with a Thoreauvian ramble that was in the form of a rhymed poem in iambic pentameter. In my final site sit I hope to show the influence of our botanical ramble and blind field shuttle, and to respond to Anne’s “push.”


To the left sun


and to all else the push push push of the wind


leaving shadows dancing


sounds fading


true blue sky and deadened brown leaves.


How long in this place? is every day a new breath of life


disturbed by the powdering of leaves into confetti and a sharp cold blade leveling the hibernating


the sleeping


the fighting


the surviving


the living


life of plants.


i  trespass in my presence


hearing breathing tasting seeing


stationary but ready to move.


reflection of life as now but future too


Ending only to begin again anew. 

rachelr's picture

Day 24 Reflection

While I loved our visit to Ashbridge Park today, I personally did not get the watery experience that I think many were hoping for. I found the portions of the river that I saw to be upsetting- there were water bottles sitting in the grass, an Arizona Iced Tea bottle dipping up and down in the water, and other miscellaneous trash littering the banks. Constant reminders of us, humans, and the mark we insist that we leave everywhere.

The activities we did made me feel like we were very much together. Without wooden, man-made chairs holding us in our places I was able to sense the community that we have become over the course of the semester.

We chanted together, we screamed together, we learned together, we read poetry together, we ate together, we explored together, we wrote together.

I thought when we discussed the plan for this course that the neat schedule of events was too structured for what I had hoped would be a collective Thoreauvian ramble, but once we were there it didn’t seem as structured as I had anticipated. There was still some presence of structure and time constraints, and time seemed to move much more quickly than it normally does when seated.

rachelr's picture

An Education of Experience


          This is a history lesson about the future. The climate is changing at the most rapid rate in history. The years are hotter, sea levels are rising, arctic ice is melting, hurricane frequencies are increasing, infectious diseases are spreading north from the tropics, and crops are dying; this all conveniently coincides with technological and production increases, human expansion, deforestation, overfishing, and general living beyond our means and the means of the earth.

            This problem is the white people’s problem. Had the past unfolded in some alternate way perhaps this would not be the case; but here we are in the midst of that vague term “post-colonialism” where the white man has expunged his declaration of control, and yet the remnants of colonialism can still be clearly found from the poverty in many parts of Africa to the displaced Native American tribes of North America.

            Now, it seems, the people who used to care so deeply for the land are too busy staying alive, doing what they can to make ends meet to share the connection that they once had with the land, with life itself. They lost this because of the white people.

rachelr's picture

Flowing North

The much weather-delayed botanical exploration that froggies315, Srucara, and I led was part of our third web-event, the other parts being the class notes and a reflection. Here is that reflection, inspired by the class exploration, but also by recent readings, memories, musings, and opinions.


rachelr's picture


A reflection on a collaborative botanical and geological ramble

We began our collaboration sitting in the chairs outside English House, just like we do for class. When talking through our two different (and yet similar) classes I was most struck by how we seemed to cover the same general topics, but that we used different texts to build up these topics. The freshmen mentioned the rewrite of a paragraph with the tragedy/comedy lens; when I asked if they had read “the Shakespeare reading” they said no, that they had read Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir “Fun Home.” Having read this book in a past course with Anne I enjoyed looking back at my memory of it, wondering how my reading with this ecological and feminist lens may differ from the reading I had when it was in a non-fictional prose class. Since the book is currently residing with my mother, I may just have to pick it up again over winter break to see… 

We had the freshmen crush and smell the leaves of privet, viburnum, and spice bush, as well as explore the differences between beech and tulip trees with their sense of touch. Thinking back to the very beginning of the semester, I wonder if our willingnesses to do these things would have been different; did people feel more comfortable getting “down and dirty” with nature because of what we’ve discovered together in our outdoor classroom? I’d like to think so, especially considering some of the words that were said that one class where we were speaking our associations with nature.

rachelr's picture


In thinking about my site sit today I had a plan: I know there were some plants, some bushes at the base of the beech tree behind my bench. I knew that when I had collected leaves they hadn’t all been the same leaves. What could I find from Morris Woods at my site?

Surprisingly little. Or perhaps not so surprisingly. Morris Woods was once cultivated, a farmland; but since it has been left to its own devices, native trees, shrubs, and plants taking root while slowly but surely non-native plants creep up and across the landscape from the direction of English House. My site is manicured. The oak trees of senior row were planted and aligned, spaced apart. From the pairing of Hurricane Sandy with a sudden drop in temperature the leaves from the trees dropped, and sometime since last week the groundskeepers have not only cleared the leaves, leaving the ground bare save for some patchy grass on death’s doorstep, but also cleared of the plant life that, when I began my site sit, were densely packed around the base of the beech tree. No longer there, I can approach its root system, and its trunk that bears a plaque. A human mark on this easily scarred tree. Everything feels so bare.  Everything I like to look at has been cleared. The evidence of the loss of life has been stripped away, and the emptiness of my site in comparison to the (mostly) uncleared and dense Morris Woods makes me feel bare. I am no longer sitting amongst things, but rather against them and alone. 

rachelr's picture

"Research Suggests That Humans Are Becoming More Stupid"

An interesting paper (part 1 and part 2) was published yesterday in the journal Trends in Genetics by Gerald Crabtree that says humans are not as smart as we were thousands of years ago. With agriculture, cities, and less "survival of the fittest," deleterious mutations are surviving and being passed on, often combining with other mutations, producing cascading negative effects. 

Any thoughts on this? It seems in the last few thousand years that there have been some genius minds. But are they recognized because of our technological advances that allow us to spread ideas and cultivate theories? Were there super genius cavemen who just didn't have the advancements to be known today as pioneers of their time? I think its interesting to think of our external advancements as having potentially negative effects on what is going on internally. 

rachelr's picture


After several weeks of waking up at 7am only to find it darker than I would like for my site (or "sight") sit, today revealed the effects of falling back last weekend. The difference in light, combined with our recent LaDuke readings, made me think back to a storytelling gathering I went to at the United Indians Daybreak Star Cultural Center in Seattle…


How Raven Brought Light to the World

Raven was a shapeshifter. Like magic he could turn himself into a man from a bird and back again. Long ago there was a selfish Chief who lived alone with his daughter. The Chief was the guardian of all the light in the world, but loved only his daughter and so kept all of the light in the world hidden away. 

Now Raven was very tired of always bumping into things and seeing all the people on the Earth cold, so he turned himself into a white bird and so pleased the Chief’s daughter that he was invited into the longhouse. When Raven saw all of the light inside of the Chief’s longhouse he stole the light and flew through the smoke hole into the sky. He hung the sun high up in the sky. It was so bright that he could fly far far away, across from the sun, and hang up the moon and scatter the stars in the sky. Raven still had fire left, so he flew back down to Earth with the stick of fire in his beak. When he got closer to the Earth he dropped the burning stick on the rocks for the people there. That is why now when you strike two stones together, fire comes out.

Syndicate content