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Towards Day 9 (Wed, Oct. 3): "Vegetable Love"

Anne Dalke's picture

MichaelF77, "Vaster than Empires, and More Slow"

I. coursekeeping

* due to heavy fog/dense humidity... eetong's taking us inside (w/ some thoughts about advocating for ourselves....?)

ekthorp on for Mon: 66 and clear...:)

*confirming writing conferences

* weekend work:
--tomorrow night
your weekly posting on your "site sit" is due (mine is up: this week it's wordless--all shaky youtube videos I made....)

--Sunday night: Analyze the literary form of your first webpaper (or, if you would rather, of your Thursday evening nature writing): What genre did you employ? What alternative genre might you employ? How would that change the story you tell? Re-write one paragraph in that new mode, and again, find an exploration by a classmate to comment on.

--Monday's readings are 4 selections from Thomas Berry's 1988 book, The Dream of the Earth; his focus is (ours will be) on what form the American college should take "in the Ecological Age"

--next Wednesday, as part of my inviting you to understand more fully this place where we are--and part of my initiative to expand our sense of space and time (what did this place used to be like, 150 years ago? what will it be like, 150 years from now?) I have scheduled a field trip to/guided tour of Harriton House, a working farm a mile from here (part of which was sold off to become the College....)

--> how can we get there and back efficiently? (how many useable cars? walkable students? runners....?)

--I had planned to collect your second (6 pp.) paper before break, but I want to give you yet another expansive space-and-time experience first: a "geological" tour of the campus, designed by Weecha Crawford, geology professor emeritus; turns out, that will have to happen after break, so your paper won't be due til the week after we return, and we have a little more time to think about really REALLY revising what we said the first time 'round...

II. as a warm-up, let's look @/listen to what happened when we revised our own "modes" of writing:
Listen carefully as we read aloud--our originals, then the revisions--for new linguistic situations (mturer),
for what happens to us in the process (Smacholdt), and for what the relation might be between those events!

rachelr's FIRST TELLING:
Where weathered rock and flowing water meet
When hot, moist air retreats at summer’s end;
Above, the vivid boughs do speak of fall
While underfoot the earth prepares for sleep.
The sparrow hops upon the iron rail
While under trees cicadas speak their death.

Not so long ago. In Kuwami from Tidyami the ts'itsi arrived. Here came Shuum'ə Daaw'aatra from Uw'aititaan Daaw'aatra, from Tidyami. K'uisrka went and k'uuchini came to the trees. Many animals go at kasraiti's end.

mturer's Original:
Pinecones bloom on bare branches like impossible flowers. I don’t think they look real. I have no idea what makes me think so. Maybe it’s the hum of the electrical green box just outside the tree. Maybe I have just forgotten pinecones over the summer and replaced them in my mind with underwater grass beds. They now constitute a fake tree, apparently.

Rheomode revision:
Blooming and flowering impossibly on branches, defying assumptions by existing as a pinecone, pineconing. Processing in the brain and opposing this vision. Knowing nothing about the causing. Humming of the perceiving to be green box invalidating visual clues. Forgetting pinecones and replacing with swimming grass and breathing of water by animals. Leading to confusing the seeing of pinecones during the happening. Changing the vision to being deceiving.

ekthorpe's Original:
It’s been a while since I’ve heard such words used to describe my interior and exteriors. Most visitors on this side are silent, reflective; these are analytical and there are lots of them. I do not resent visitation, even if only because doing so is futile. But I am a development in and of myself, only an abstraction of human will with the tools of nature at their disposal. I act, I react, I will myself into a tame type of exhibit for their primordial senses. I exist as an example to this tiny collection, but my essence comes from clouds and oceans. I know what salt water tastes like; I know what it is like to rush down a cliff with all the force of physics behind me. I know chemicals; I am not unsoiled. I know it in collection; I know it as every raindrop knows the endless cycle of repetition that water follows. 

Nomilazation, a la Andrew Goatley, revision:
Descriptions of interiors and exteriors are created.
Silence descends from past visitors;
analysis ascends from current ones.
No resentment of visitation from me, as resistance is futile.
Existence is a development of nature’s tools and human will.
Action, Reaction, I do.
For human primordial senses, willing action occurs in me.
Existence of me as example for them;
Existence of me for me originates in clouds and oceans.
Salt water tastes are known.
Chemicals are known, unsoiledness is not.
Knowledge exists in collection; knowledge exists in water’s endless cycle.

SarahShaw's Original:
I’ve never been very good at wandering or walking without any sort of plan.  Hence the reason a planned to circle the campus out edges and then explore its inner parts.  Of course, like with any sort of plan, it inevitably changed. I began my walk after brunch, around noontime, heading down Erdman Driveway.  In this part of campus, the boundaries were very clear, usually marked by sidewalks or beautifully trimmed bushes.  After deciding that these boundaries were easily identified, I turned my attention toward my surroundings, marveling at the clear sky with perfect clouds and reading license plates.  Eventually my gaze fell upon this little white house right beside the Admissions parking lot.  Here began my true saunter and my plan began to fade away.  I was able to identify the building as the site of Human Resources and continued through the parking lot to take a look at the next never-before-seen sight.  After learning that the gate to Admissions was adorned with lanterns given to the college by the Alumnae Association to celebrate past, present and future Mawrters, I turned the corner onto Yarrow Street and was met with a yet another gateway that presented me with a little bit of a conundrum.

Rheomode revision:
Never wanderlusting.  Coursing west under high sun, bounded by controled, fighting foliage, underfooting concrete.  Awing at surroundings; floating cloads, license plates, small white house.  Off-coursing north and identifying; reading "Human Resources". Off-coursing intending to course. Noticing gate lanterns celebrating Mawrters.  Coursing northwest noticing gateway.

hira's Original:
As I was looking out at the pond again, I had in mind Gary Snyder's suggestions, to see the wild, the unspoken parts of nature. To concentrate on the grit and the hunger and the survival rather than the peaceful. This was really hard still, but the closest I got was to notice the continuous ripples in the pond. They came very often, and I remember hearing somewhere that if there was a ripple, that meant something in the pond had just been hunted or eaten. Thinking about this, I saw the ripples differently, and started wondering what exactly was going on under those waters. There was a sports game going on to my right ...and the players were cheering on eachother loudly...that lead me to imagine the organisms in the water. Were they also 'shouting,' 'yelling,'did they make enough noise to make the water ripple? What did it sound like under there.

Bohm and Snyder revision:
Walking to pond looking, thinking Gary Snyder, seeing wild unspeaking nature. Concentrating on gritting, hungering, surviving. Rippling in pond, the water. Meaning what? Something hunting eating? Thinking, viewing rippling differing. Sporting to the right, soccer balling? Cheering playing loudly, communicating, maneuvering. Wondering under water sporting, how loud? Rippling any? Imagining organisms gathering, ‘shouting,’ ‘yelling,’ creating rippling? Sounding how? Picturing rippling but no movie making :(

eetong's Original:
Leaves – I don’t remember much from my HS biology class. But I remember learning about leaves and pigment and autumn – the trees withdraw their support, close/sever ties with the leaves… lack of the connection means gradual death, going out (for some) in a fiery blaze of color – colors that were there under the surface all along, only waiting for enough chloroplasts to die so they could shine through. Something like that.

Seeing the leaving is forcing re-levating/re-calling studying biology and the changing of seasons in high school. Leaving is withdrawing support, severing ties. Leaving is lacking connection, moving towards death, going out blazing and firing color. Leaving is dying. Leaving is making space for waiting colors. Now, coloring is happening, shining though.

graham's Original:
I'm particularly fond of Haverford's Nature Trail, having spent the last couple of years regularly taking advantage of it for runs, visiting it for class, and walking it with my friends....I've enjoy the Nature Trail largely for the changing views it provides as the year progresses during the varying seasons. This one shot ...particularly captures this concept of the ever shifting visuals of the trail...the blossoms are there for only a brief time...

Rheomode revision:
Feeling fondness with the Nature Trail, by means of running, visiting, and walking overtime passing by. Offering proximity and conveniences, existing enjoyment likewise coming from shifting seasonal happenings....reminding of short living existence. Resulting from short lifespan, appropriate foregrounding of flowers...

Smacholdt's Original (in the Maoof style of “telling a story and putting yourself in it”):
To find the boundaries of the campus I walked around it in a circle starting and ending in the same spot. I didn’t begin to ruminate on the subject of circles, however, until I reached “The Labyrinth,” which is what I would consider the center of the campus. I have always felt that there is a definite power in circular shapes. Traditionally, circles have been used to symbolize everything from wholeness and completion to life, eternity, and even the void. Circles occur naturally- you only need to look at an orb web or the ripple a rock makes when thrown into a pond to confirm this. But to me they have the spiritual meaning of the beauty of imperfection, the fact that we often “walk around in circles” in our lives, and the fact that all of us will, ultimately, circle around to death.

The same ideas represented in a rheomodic way:
Finding and circling I tried to establish boundaries of the campus. Ruminating and considering; watching, looking, waiting. Feelings of innate power of circles. Symbolizing completion, wholeness, eternity,  the void. Occurring naturally and discovering themselves in orb webs, and rock ripples. Beautiful imperfections. Circling around, in time, to death.
Carved into rippling grasses, open to those searching inner peace and calm. Winding labyrinth. Walking, walking, circling and circling. Round and round and round and round. Frustrated movements and fluid feel of muscles moving. Moving only forward and onward. Knowing not any answers, only flooded with eternal questions.

Srucara's ORIGINAL:

Yellow little sunflowers
Sparkling rocks
Sunlight blanketing treetops and bushes
Dead leaves
Falling leaves
Students in hats, carrying books
Hazy sky


Wind on face and in hair
Grass in my fingers
Chills (shoulders, spine)


Yellow sunflowers existing beside sparkling rocks bathing in sunlight overwhelming treetops, bushes, and all that is. Leaves dying, falling, re-falling, touching students in hats carrying onwards under a sky filled with clouds connected to clouds connected to jetfuel residue.

Olfactory analysis confirms particles flying, re-flying in the air of the garden, entering cells within nasal passageway and brain percepting rose, grass.

Air moving through pressure effect(ings) carrying colder air particles colliding with skin. Colliding and re-colliding with skin cells to create vibrations vibrating down spinal cord.

sara's Original:
I tried to begin this essay several times by describing why I started my walk where I did, but finally came to the realization that I did not actually have a reason. I had been hesitant to begin my Thoreauvian walk and I wasn’t quite sure why. I felt like it should be such an easy thing, to take a walk. However, I couldn’t get myself to begin. I would feel an uncomfortable tightening in my stomach, almost bordering on fear. I felt silly, why would I fear something so simple as walking? As I thought more, I realized what I feared was not the walk itself but having to be “directionless.” I was scared to clear my mind, to expect nothing. I felt the need to control the walk, to ensure that I had something valuable to say at the end of the experience. As I thought about our class discussions revolving around fear and bugs, I realized the only way to let go was to begin, and not think about how or where”

Initiation was attempted regarding walking,
however realizations occurred that there was no reason, ire-initation.
Re-initation of walking through writing  …
Fearing not walking but directionless motion….
Clearing the mind re-inspires fear… controlling the walk, ensuring something to be said. Thinking occurred revolving around bugs and fear.
Re-realization to re-initiate

Nan's new poem,  "A Kind of Speech":
Though we do not speak
the same language, I will try to speak
in your language.  We share an eon
of soft sibilants silenced
after you have gone.
Do you think you own us?
Clearcutters and clearfellers.
Canopy strippers.
Can you hear the crickets
sawing their bell song?
You of the pipeline and waste line.
Ground poisoners, sky belchers.
You of deafening racket.
Can you hear the waterfall trill of the wood thrush?
The geese are already leaving.
And the deer.
I will shred in their mouths
and go down the long chute.
You, Cutters, understand trash talk.
I can read your name on your garbage.
Where are you going?
What is your intent?
What power do you invoke over us?
The bear have gone into the hill.
I am here
sprouting green and speaking
to you but do you hear me?
You with the long shadow.
I have heard you before.
I have been waiting for you
with my green mouth open
and spreading in hot sun.
I drink light like water.
I sing of some ancient memory
ancient and sharp
like the winter wind
that will turn me
turn me toward the slippage
of my being. Will it tear me?
Goring ice draining my blood?
Or a slow hot burn turning me red?
I have heard your footsteps before
keeping me company
keeping me company
and I hold my breath
before you touch me.
Did you pray? Did you ask my permission
before you cut me?

What did you hear? What have we done?
eetong: It seems like a lot of people chose to use the rheomode ...Is this the most natural way for us to write? The easiest? Or perhaps (and I think this may be the case) is it the clearest mode to emulate.

Sarah Shaw: directionals such as north, south, east and west are more suited to "wandering" because they are much more open, I guess?  I think "moving to the left" is a lot more specific than saying "moving to the east".  East just seems so much bigger than the left.

mturer (commenting on eetong): Leaving, the action of a leaf, is also the action of departure, so it's almost like our language has framed the essence of a leaf as something that departs or separates. A very interesting linguistic situation has been created here!

Smacholdt (commenting on eetong and her own experiment):
the rheomode is not descriptive in the way that I want it to be. It really is a different language that highlights much different parts of life than our traditional English does...many of the ideas I talked about were not as significant to the rheomode...I had to take myself out of the paragraph in order to focus on the connectedness and motion of all life, but in the process, the story lost its meaning as an experience in my life....

sara.gladwin: I just did not want to the experience into words...putting it into words seemed so... detracting. To make it a readable essay I felt like I would have to pull out one important aspect or part of the experience and forgo the rest....I think I am so used to experiencing through words....When I finally abandoned them, I found the experience so rich that I was almost saddened when having to limit through words.

Is it true that we all (always?) want a form of story-telling that
places ourselves @ the center? (& is that inevitably 'tragic'?
is it also anti-environmental?)

is it true that we can have experiences that are not in words?

III. froggies315 asked a question about our focus in this class--too much on the "word," not enough on the "world," and our experiences in it?
In class we spend our time talking about how our words and our grammars and our genres have contributed to our current ecological crisis.  We want to figure out whether or not changing them up can get us out of our mess.  To help us, we’re reading stuff that is supposed to help us re-imagine the way we see the world.  For example, Le Guin argues that rather than being “killer stories” our narratives should “hold things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.”  (p. 168 and 169)

Who can argue with this?  The Le Guins and Bohms and Goatlys of the world are right.  Our words shape our experiences in the world.  Stories, grammars, and words which elevate us above the rest of the world make us think and act in ways that are domineering and not in line with the lofty ideals of these beautiful liberal arts colleges we love so much.  

If all our readings are correct, then why am I so irritated by them?  I think it has to do with their unsaid assumptions.  Their underlying assumption is also the underlying assumption of this class: “that the environmental crisis is a crisis of imagination”

Is it?  The way I see it, emphatically, no.  The environmental crisis is a crisis of experience.  If every time I walk across the green some one follows behind me with grass seed, how will I ever learn that when I walk across the grass, I kill it?  If all my food comes wrapped in cellophane, how will I ever understand that once, it was alive?

The experiences where we get to feel/know ourselves and our impact in the world are the ones that teach us “the simple power that is just enough.”  Have we experienced this power?  Can we imagine this power if we haven’t experienced it?  How important is this power to solving problems of all kinds?  Do our readings expect us to know this power?  Do our discussions?  Right now, I’m struggling because I feel like we’re expected to know and imagine the nebulous term: “environmental crisis.”  I do not understand this.  I have not experienced it.    

what's the relation between imagination and experience....?

IV. Ursula LeGuin invites us to imagine a world in which plant life is
the center-->she actually invites us to re-imagine our relation w/ plants.
But let's (re)start this conversation not w/ her imaginings, but w/ our experience.
We have been talking alot about our relationship to bugs/ our fear of them...
but how would you describe your relation to plants? What has been your experience?
(Write about this for 5 minutes....)

What do you know of plant life? How does it affect your own?
How central have plants been to the stories you have been posting on Thursday evenings?

In her Forward to "Vaster than Empires...," LeGuin said,
The relation of our species to plant life is one of total depen­dence and total exploitation—the relation of an infant to its mother. Without plants the earth would have remained bare rock and water; without plant respiration we'd suffocate promptly; without vegetable food (firsthand or, as in meat, secondhand) we starve. There is no other food.

Deo, Demeter, the grain-mother, and her daughter/self Kore the Maiden called Persephone, raped by the Godfather's brother and buried to rise again, are myth-images of this relationship, recognized by 'primitive'farmers as fundamental. It is still fundamental, but can be completely ignored by a modem city dweller whose actual experience of plants is limited to florists' daisies and supermarket beans. The igno­rance of the urban poor is blameless; the arrogant ignorance of the urban educated, inex­cusable. There is no excuse for deforestation, for acid rain, or for the hunger of two-thirds of the children of the earth.

A very savvy genre, science fiction often acknowledges our plant-dependence—filling a room in the spaceship with hydro-panic tanks, or 'terraforming' the new planet so the colonists can raise grain—but with some notable fiction lacks much real inter­est in what's green. The absolute passivity of plants, along with their absolute resistance to being replaced by an industrial-age substitute (we can have iron horses, steel eagles, mechanical brains, but robot wheat? Plastic spinach? If you believe in that you must eat the little green hedge on your sushi plate) prob­ably makes them terminally uninteresting to the metal-minded and those to whom technology is not a way of living in the world, but a way of defeating it.

All the same, the story is...quite conven­tional science fiction...a story about boldly going where, etc. In it I was, in part, trying to talk about the obscure fear, called panic, which many of us feel when alone in wilderness. I have lost the trail on an Oregon mountain in logged-over second-growth forest, where my individual relation to the trees and undergrowth and soil and my relative position in their earth-and-ocean-wide realm, as an animal and as a human, were, you might say, brought home to me....

Let's talk about this: is this a story about our deepest fears...of the wilderness?
What is the source of fear in this story? Why are we/might we be afraid, alone in the woods?

--Barry Commoner's four informal rules of ecology:
* Everything is connected to everything else.

* Everything must go somewhere.
* Nature knows best.
* There is no such thing as a free lunch.

IV. Let's also look again @ genre (continuing our
discussion from Monday about literary "kinds," &
Meeker's argument that comedy would best serve env'l activism...
Who among you reads science fiction? Why?
Why does LeGuin say we should? (Turn to a partner and figure this out together...)
What does the genre of science fiction accomplish?

"Science Fiction and the Future"
our talk about 'going forward into the future' is a metaphor...
based on our macho fear of ever being inactive, receptive, open, quiet, still...
The future is not mere space...a place we are going to get to...
there is no way we can get there. The future is the part of the spacetime
continuum from which...we are exclused. We can't even see it...
what we do see is the stuff inside our heads...when science fiction
is really doing its job that's exactly what it's dealing with...

I personally prefer to stand still...and look @ what is...

Cf. "The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction"
the principal food of the species was vegetable...
I now propose the bottle as its older sense of container....
A holder. A recipient....the tool that brings energy home....
The story that hid my humanity from me...The killer story....
we'd better start telling another one...the life story...fundamentally unheroic...
a sack, a bag...its purpose is neither resolution  nor stasis but continuing process....
If one avoids the linear, progressive, Time's (killing) arrow mode of the Techo-Heroic,
and redefines technology and science as primarily cultural carrier pleasant side effect
is that science fiction can be seen as...a realistic genre...It is a strange realism, but it is
a strange reality....a way of describing what is in fact going on...this unending story....
In it, there is time

Cf. also her "Bryn Mawr Commencement Address" (on the father/mother/"native" tongues)

Cf. too the conventional generic distinctions:

  • lyric/drama/epic (narrative)

  • poem/play/story/essay (fictional/non-fictional prose)

  • romance/comedy/tragedy/satire (irony)

  • romance/realism/naturalism

What contribution might each of these make to "thinking/writing ecologically"?
What's the role of fiction in the environmental movement?
(Cf. ekthorp's story about refusing direct instruction...?
w/ srucara's preference for nonfiction, film and interview (but not "depressing newspaper articles"?)

Cf. also Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress"
(metaphysical/pastoral/carpe diem poem, c. 1650s)

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

        But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

        Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

[How does LeGuin's understanding of time differ from Marvel's?
Which is more "ecological"?]