Tuesday, July 29, 2008

End of Summer Poem


Poor summer, it doesn't know it's dying.
A few days are all it has. Still, the lake
is with me, its strokes of blue-violet
and the fiery sun replacing loneliness.
I feel like an animal that has found a place.
This is my burrow, my nest, my attempt
to say, I exist. A rose can't shut itself
and be a bud again. It's a malady,
wanting it. On the shore, the moon sprinkles
light over everything, like a campfire,
and in the green-black night, the tall pines
hold their arms out as God held His arms
out to say that He was lonely and that
He was making Himself a man.

--Henri Cole

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Things Becoming Things: Images by Gunther

Gunther isn't here, instead I am. This summer crawly things have loved the dwarf arctic blue willow shrub. Below are images of things becoming things. Then a butterfly who has seen better days. Then the tree althea is coming on (rose of sharon on a stick). Then an ironweed shot Gunther said he liked.

With the althea and sunflowers out, it's only a matter of time until it snows. I'm taking bets on what blooms last in my garden: I'm pulling for the turtle head. Other candidates are joe pye weed, sweet autumn clematis, the newly planted lily bulbs, or the late-growing blue morning glories. Oh, I'll also throw in the goldenrod. This is undoubtedly more fun if it's your first garden in its first full summer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Derivatives in Bench Nuderprop for Hold Make Build

In honor of my birthday, and in abhorrence of gardening tools and such strewn about the deck (it's too far to go to the garage), I purchased a storage bench that can also be used for seating. It's nifty. I am in love. No pictures. Luckily, I didn't need to read the instructions to put it together. It was made in Vietnam. See if you can guess how much the translator made (enjoy).

Installation Process:

1, first made the pipe of pneumatic nuderprop installation the need open an close cupboard door, installation size is about 70mm from cupboard door's runing axletree.

2, Keep cupboard door at the place of open 90 degree, made the pneumatic underprop free protend, then made the beanpole part rivet on rim of cupboard door.


The pneumatic underprop's pipe part need upturned, the beanpolt part need adown.
Wish made the cupboard door open and close power increase installation size can at 80-100mm.
Wish made the cupboard door open and close power allay, installation size can at 50-70mm.

I imagine this is what my translations looked like in my 5 week summer german course many years ago.

I have to go readjust my nuderprop. Excuse me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Yet Another Coneflower Cultivar From Hell

Echinacea tennesseensis 'Rocky Top Hybrid.'

The ground gets pretty windy, doesn't it?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Don't Have Liatris? Then You Are Stupid.

Yup. You heard me right. The last few days have seen more and more monarchs hitting the blooms, and last night, I counted at least 12 bumble bees alone mining for gold. I couldn't keep up. Incredible. Everyone is even skipping the coneflowers and buddleia.

Today I caught the below pics. The black fellow or fellowette I'd never ever seen before--and it's bigger than a monarch, too! So cool!!! It landed first on the ironweed (which also has many brightly colored flies on it), but spent most of its time on the liatris, as did many moths. Ah, update: tis a female black swallowtail. The other day we did have a regular ole swallowtail.

And finally, who doesn't like culver's root? It even has the best french fries of any fast food chain.

Know what I like best about grad school and teaching? The time it allows me to experience these wonderful things. Huzzah for 9 years of grad school!!! (barf)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Buddleia Poem

Butterfly Bush

I used to love the buddleia,
its long purple trumpets in summer
buzzing with hummingbirds and butterflies,

until someone told me it was common,
invasive, a weed —

its withered flower cones
spilling armies of seedlings
to colonize the neighborhood.

Then I was embarrassed to have loved it.

I began to see its offspring sprouting
everywhere, hated how they rooted
between loose bricks, flourished
from cracks in the sidewalk.

So I cut mine back to nothing,
buried the broken stump —

only to find it returned
the next spring, multiplied.

And though I hated it
then, a part of me wanted it
to live. So I resolved to remove

the spent flowers, trim the branches.
Each autumn its size diminished,
and each spring an open

relaxed shape returning.
Its abundance held in check.

And now I love the buddleia
again as before,
but by second nature —
as one who returns to the garden
after the fall.

--Peter Pereira

Friday, July 18, 2008

Eco Policy & The End of America

I'm going to rant, and since my rant will likely fall only upon the ears of the ecologically-aware choir, I want everyone to at least tune themselves to a high c. This will go on for some time, and will be scatterbrained.

I stayed up late last night watching a large chunk of Al Gore's speech for / sponsored by / initiated by The Alliance for Cimate Protection and their We Campaign. Al Gore pissed me off. It's better to be pissed off than pissed on, but I feel pissed off in a good way.

Jack Turner, in his book The Abstract Wild, calls for a sacred rage toward environmental issues--he, in fact, borders on calling for outright anger manifested in physical ways that IMMEDIATELY stop torturing animals, ourselves, trees.... He lambastes our culture for being so damn apathetic. We are. He says the test of a true culture, a viable culture, is that when push comes to shove, our moral and ethical standards propel us to immense action. (Did you know that once upon a time in Germany, long long ago, if a person stripped bark from a tree his navel was cut out, nailed to the tree, and he would be forced to walk around it until his insides rapaired the tree's wound? Not that I'm saying such justice should again be exercised--oh, what the hell, I am. I'll go for it.)

Where is our anger? I'm tired of reading "green articles" and watching "green" reports on every national and local newscast. What a placebo those are. Petition this, petition that, contribute $10 so we can send out more stickers. Here a speech there a speech everywhere a speech speech. Screw it. The only hope I see is when my hands are in the soil, my nose to the filipendula rubra, and the whole rest of the world quietly sealed off in my head. Oh, gosh darn it, that's what American's do well!

Gore's speech called for 100% renewable sources of energy for the U.S. within 10 years. You know what? It's so freaking possible. What's happened to America? Look at us. A bunch of glossy-eyed slobs scratching ourselves living a Thoreauvian wet dream in our nostalgiac mind's eye.

I loved how Gore (yes, even though it's yet another speech) made connections between health, jobs, national security, and a gazillion other things we worry about ala public policy. Can you imagine if we actually did what Gore proposes? If somehow, like a divine wrath, someone washed away special interests in Washington and cleared the walls that separate politicans from we the people? How does that happen? Why did Rome fall?

The other day on the phone with my parents, all three of us lamenting our energy policy, the pure lunacy of Bush (who, could, if he wanted, actually leave some sort of a positive legacy equivalent to, oh, Lincoln), I said something like "this is how cultures die, how civilizations end." If we became innovators in technology, in upgrading our infrastucture to more efficiently transmit electicity from the wind turbines of the midwest to the coasts--and 50 other technologies ready to go--we'd save our country, literally. Then, we'd have China and maybe even Saudi Arabia calling us asking if they could give us a few billion dollars for what we've developed. Sure, we'd say, and in the interest of international goodwill and oneness, have a 10% discount, and have some technical advisors for a year as you implement these new technologies.

Oh GOD I'm angry. I can't do anything, really, stuck in this electronic box that's sucking on dirty dirty energy. I can't do anything BIG, really impacting, NOW. Not later, not through process, not careful patience--freaking now. Something that gets me put in jail, maybe.

Obama is a twit. He's a baby-hugging, smooth-talking, glazed-over-looking lollipop sucker. He's way too smooth, way too filled with air. McCain? Geeze. C'mon. Maybe a decade ago, I guess. No good options, really. Of course, why expect that a president can fix things? He can't. It has more to do with the fact that we don't respect ourselves, then by extention--or in direct one to one relation--we don't respect or deeply feel the pain of each other, animals, plants, anything, really. We've become homogenized, duped into thinking that being the same (and thus silent) is equal to free will and democracy (look, for example, at how the egalitarian suburbs have destroyed entire ecosystems with a monoculture of lawn and foreign barberries, how neighbors run from each other when they spot one another getting the mail--we think suburban in most everything we do).

I've read around 100 nature / environmental books in the last few years: heady philosophical and policy-making junk, and memoir / personal narratives of such deep placeness and passion. EVERYONE says that what our culture requires--in the way of all art mediums--is a sense of deep connection to the world, some moral center revolving around it, lives that reach deeply into where we are, the places we dwell. Great. Yup. That's true. How's that going to happen? You can read a book, watch a film, and be deeply moved, made aware, awakened to some cause or fact emotionally--but the resonance fades, doesn't it? How can we have that resonance almost daily? Does it start by being German, schooling our kindergartener kids in the forest for weeks at a time (going on right his minute)? Ah, a utopian dream. It sure does seem the Germans know how to do things, doesn't it? Ah, the irony.

I'm frustrated. I feel like by the time I die, hopefully living a long and fruitful life, our country will be on its last legs, and by 2100, only a disparate collection of shadows. The amount of money we send overseas for oil imports alone... my god. The amount of money we're wasting on Iraq (though we have to see this thing out now, in part, can't leave them on the lurch and watch the middle east spiral more easily into what it seems to always want to spiral in to).

Swear word. Swear word. Swear word. America can be a leader again, set the tone; instead we attend global summits, act like we'll play a part, then come home and say we'll do 1/10th of what we said we would, maybe sometime in the next few decades, sure, why not, sounds about right, something like that, hey is the game on tonight? You know, like, whatever.

This incoherent collection of crap was brought to you by other crap that so enrages me I feel simultaneously hopeful and hopeless--to live such a dichotomy daily, some religious thinkers would say (Thomas Merton for one), brings me closer to myself, the world, and divine intention. I say it makes me feel stagnant and unproductive. And yet Christian Wiman, o great editor of Poetry the magazine, says, "I consider not being able to write as a manifestation of grace; I think grace sometimes can be anguishing." If you equate writing with pretty much anything else we do or think, perhaps Wiman means that from our anguish comes hope, possibility, greater awareness. Perhaps it's what Turner talks about when he wants us to feel our ecological crisis--and connection to the world--painfully from the gut; that it truly truly matters so deeply, in so many ways, that to avoid doing anything, saying anything, living anything loudly and immediately, is to literally refuse goodness and embrace evil. We are living in a time of great evil. And yes, of great hope.

It's not so much about global warming as it is about America existing as a nation; or maybe it IS about global warming, that if we see the harm we're doing--feel the emotional and psychological crisis and death of ALL life--by extension we'll see the links to our lifestyle. I'm not so sure that convincing ourselves that we can keep living how we are while enjoying clean energy is the best way to go (as Al Gore seems to be saying), but maybe we have to go that route, say clean energy means more jobs, our own independence from foreign governments, and hey, as a side bonus, a healthier planet (at least in the air, anyway, maybe up in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, too). It seems to me that we must feel the agony of extinction--it's not about global warming, it's about murder. Genocide. Self mutilation, by extension, and finally literal and spiritual suicide. Emptiness and silence. What will it be like to wake up in the morning and not hear any birds? (1% of all bird species go functionally extinct in their ecosystems each year.)

How do we feel this? Do we have to join in the chorus of death? Really FEEL the air choking us, the water ripping our guts out, the soil starving us (this is already happening in some parts of the world)? Do we really have to have our backs to the wall? And yes, that's then too late, isn't it. Most days I am HAPPY the price of oil is going up. I'd like to see $200 a barrel by January. I know what that means when I say it--it means poverty, disease, bankruptcy, and so much more. But, I guess we need it. The choir may now exit. Amen.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rilke's "The Panther"

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars, and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tense, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

-Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. Stephen Mitchell)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Happy Birthday A Moi

Blotanical, that great garden blog hub, holds the wrong date for my fete national; but I fixed it. Many thanks to all the wonderful bloggers I've met for the salutations--it's like having two birthdays. So, if anyone wants to wish me a happy birthday again, today, on my real birthday, now's your chance. And... go.

To celebrate myself, and much hard work over the last year (and many successes with their evil twins, failures), below are pics of my garden (celebrating its first birthday). I've got a photo somewhere of white liatris in my garden, and it is perhaps TOO much white liatris in my garden.

And somewhere below: for our anniversary one week ago, my wife purchased an ecosphere. You should check these out. Inside is a bit of coral, some tiny shells, algae, and four shrimp; the shrimp can live anywhere from 2-10 years in this self-sustaining environment. Pretty neat.

Drumstick Allium

Queen of the Prairie smells like roses, and is thus better than roses

Purple Prairie Clover adding nitrogen to my clay

Floristan White Liatris makes me look like a naughty flower connoisseur

Many storms this year, many cool sunsets

I think people call these things gardens

Can you see the shrimp? Yummy.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Chlorophyll = Blood

Switching from writing to reading today, and / or organizing my research notes, I picked up a book I'd like to read (of about a dozen) and at random opened it up. The book is Tree, A Life Story by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady (it follows the 500 year life of one douglas fir); the page is 69 (ewww).

The topic is Donald Culross Peattie, discussing a part from his book Flowering Earth, in which Mr. DCP recalls how, as a student of botany at Harvard, he extracted chlorophyll and noticed its resemblance to human / animal blood.

"Using spectrum analysis, Peattie learned that the constituents of a chlorophyll molecule were eerily familiar. 'To me, a botanist's apprentice, a future naturalist,' he writes, 'there was just one fact to quicken the pulse. That fact is the close similarity between cholorphyll and hemoglobin, the essence of our blood.' This is no fanciful comparison, but a literal, scientific analogy: 'The one significant difference in the two structural formulas is this: that the hub of every hemoglobin molecule is one atom of iron, while in chlorophyll it is one atom of magnesium.' Just as chlorophyll is green because magnesium absorbs all but the green light spectrum, blood is red because iron absorbs all but the red. Chlorophyll is green blood. It is designed to capture light; blood is designed to capture oxygen."

I appreciate being blown out of the water. You bet your bottom dollar it's going in my book.

Have Some Terry Tempest Williams

My lord, if you've not read Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, you've denied yourself the full power and glory of being alive, of feeling this earth with your full existence. SERIOUSLY. It's a powerful book, deftly weaving a family narrative of illness with an awareness of ecological change in Utah--and more. So much more. Lyrical profundity. Grace. Intense intense intense beauty and pain and faith. But, I go for quotes on solitude that hit home with me at this writerly period in my summer.

“It is what sustains me and protects me from my mind. It renders me fully present. I am desert. I am mountains. I am Great Salt Lake. There are other languages being spoken by wind, water, and wings. There are other lives to consider: avocets, stilts, and stones. Peace is the perspective found in patterns…. We are no more and no less than the life that surrounds us. My fears surface in my isolation. My serenity surfaces in my solitude.”

Quoted from the Indian teachings of Samkhya: “If you consciously hold within yourself three quarters of your power and use only one quarter to respond to any communication coming from others, you can stop the automatic, immediate and thoughtless movement outwards, which leaves you with a feeling of emptiness, of having been consumed by life. This stopping of the movement outwards is not self defense, but rather an effort to have the response come from within, from the deepest part of one’s being.”

“We usually recognize a beginning. Endings are more difficult to detect. Most often, they are realized only after reflection. Silence. We are seldom conscious when silence begins—it is only afterward that we realize what we have been a part of. In the night journeys of Canada geese, it is the silence that propels them.

Thomas Merton writes, “Silence is the strength of our interior life….If we fill our lives with silence, then we will live in hope.”

And I also like this:

“Faith defies logic and propels us beyond hope because it is not attached to our desires. Faith is the centerpiece of a connected life. It allows us to live by the grace of invisible strands. It is a belief in a wisdom superior to our own. Faith becomes a teacher in the absence of fact.”

And this:

“What is it about the relationship of a mother that can heal or hurt us? Her womb is the first landscape we inhabit. It is here we learn to respond—to move, to listen, to be nourished and grow. In her body we grow to be human as our tails disappear and our grills turn to lungs. Our maternal environment is perfectly safe—dark, warm, and wet. It is a residency inside the Feminine.

When we outgrow our mother’s body, our cramps become her won. We move. She labors. Our body turns upside down in hers as we journey through the birth canal. She pushes in pain. We emerge, a head. She pushes one more time, and we slide out like a fish. Slapped on the back by the doctor, we breathe. The umbilical cord is cut—not at our request. Separation is immediate. a mother reclaims her body, her own life. Not ours. Minutes old, our first death is our own birth.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vernonia to the Rescue! Bye Bye Oil!

After getting my email from the major airlines whining about fuel prices again (my oversees trips better come sooner than later, wouldn't you say?) and an email ad from Wayside (yuck), I found some intriguing stuff. A bit of research led me here http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/vernonia.html whereupon I found this neat little bit of prose for your general perusal and edification. Cheers.

"Vernonia seed contains about 40 to 42% oil of which 73 to 80% is vernolic acid. This is about 30% more vernolic acid than the best varieties of V. anthelmintica. Products that can be made from vernonia include epoxies for manufacturing adhesives, varnishes and paints, and industrial coatings. The low viscosity of vernonia oil would allow it to be used as a nonvolatile solvent in oil-based paints since it will become incorporated in the dry paint rather than evaporating into the air. Consequently, it is possible that emissions associated with photochemical pollution can be reduced by up to 160 million pounds per year if this crop is fully exploited.

Vernonia could also serve as a natural source of plasticizers and stabilizers (binders) for producing polyvinyl chloride (PVC plastic), which currently is manufactured from petroleum. The potential use of vernonia as a petroleum substitute is important since the demand for petroleum each year in the USA is approximately 8,500 pounds per person, of which about 500 pounds per person is needed for production of plastics and industrial petrochemicals. Some vernonia species have been reported to have medicinal properties."

SEE?????? IT CAN BE DONE!! We don't need oil! Plus, I am so damn damn damn tired of turning on the local and national news and almost every story is directly or indirectly related to energy, oil, blah blah blah. Does anyone DO anything? I mean, s**t. I can sit around till I'm blue in the face, the cows come home, pigs fly, and ironweed supplants oil, but is someone gonna kick someone's a** and get things in gear? I hate growing up and being disenchanted with my kind. Do we need a third world war? Because, honestly, horribly, it sometimes feels like we need something BIG, but why does it always seem to have to be bad big?

I'm going to vacuum the house now with my ironweed-powered dyson (I spent all night getting it to work with this fuel source).

Monday, July 7, 2008

One Year Anniversary

It has been an interesting year, full of some of the biggest ups and downs I've ever experienced in my life--and I think I'm still trying to get my feet underneath me. A year ago I married a woman who is truly loving, sensitive, honest, forgiving, and wants, truth be told, little in return from me (though I insist we need an Infiniti G37S coupe to complete our lives).

Last year we stood in a church unable to fight back the 105 degree muggy Nebraska summer, and as I fought to stay vertical, partly ecstatic and partly weak from having just moved and the 6 months of wedding planning (please, people, just elope), my heart was pulled in two directions--forward toward my fiancee, and back to my family sitting in the pews thinking about my grandmother; she was in a bad accident 1 mile from the church the day before, trying to make it to rehearsal. I won't go on about that, seeing her in the ICU at the hospital and the continuing rehabilitation, because in my mind this is a year full of fantastic possibilities, no, full of fantastic definites.

We're FINALLY getting settled in this summer and it feels so good. Grad school puts so much on hold during the academic year--and it shouldn't, but it does--taking a large mental and finally physical toll on you. But the house is looking good, the garden very good, and I'm lucky to be here with this person--even though I'm not the easiest man to shack up with. There's a lot you learn about yourself and the world when you're married, and sometimes the lessons are hard, sometimes blissful, but always worthwhile.

The above picture is certainly my favorite, not because of how we look, but because of how she looks. It's the picture we sent out on our thank you notes, and so I'll send my own: Jackie, thanks for finding me in Ohio only 3 months before I moved west, sticking out the rocky road of a two year long-distance relationship, moving out here to Nebraska and acting on faith, and for being my best friend (and for having the same taste in art, for liking my writing, for trying your hardest to memorize names of plants in the garden like you learned counting in French...).

Saturday, July 5, 2008

My God--Montana is Now a Part Time Suburb With Airstrips

MISSOULA, Mont. - The Bush administration is preparing to ease the way for the nation's largest private landowner to convert hundreds of thousands of acres of mountain forestland to residential subdivisions.

The deal was struck behind closed doors between Mark E. Rey, the former timber lobbyist who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, and Plum Creek Timber Co., a former logging company turned real estate investment trust that is building homes....

The deal, which Rey said he expects to formalize next month, threatens to dramatically accelerate trends already transforming the region. Plum Creek's shift from logging to real estate reflects a broader shift in the Western economy, from one long grounded in the industrial-scale extraction of natural resources to one based on accommodating the new residents who have made the region the fastest-growing in the nation.

Environmentalists, to their surprise, found that timber and mining were easier on the countryside.

"Now that Plum Creek is getting out of the timber business, we're kind of missing the loggers," said Ray Rasker, executive director of Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit that studies land management in the West. "A clear-cut will grow back, but a subdivision of trophy homes, that's going to be that way forever.

Under the new agreement, logging roads running into areas controlled by Plum Creek could be paved — and would thrum with the traffic of eight to 12 vehicle trips per day to and from each home, according to O'Herren. Critics say that will further imperil grizzly bears, lynxes and other endangered species in the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, a region of rugged peaks, glacier-carved valleys, and sparkling rivers and lakes that straddles the border between Montana and Canada — and that in parts remains as Lewis and Clark found it....

"Look at that, Tom!" Parker yelped, after a climb up a knoll revealed a three-story log home, still wrapped in Tyvek HomeWrap insulation. "They're like mushrooms. You get a few sunny days and they pop right up...."

Most are the second, third or even fourth homes of wealthy newcomers who have transformed the local economy — 40 percent of income in Missoula County is now "unearned," from, say, dividends — and typically visit only in the summer. In Antler Ridge, across Highway 93, Web cameras installed over bird nests and a bear den beam photos to a hedge fund partner who visits his 200 acres just a few times a year.

"He was actually in France when the bear left the den," said "remote wildlife viewing" contractor Ryan Alter, on his way to install a camera at an owl's nest. "So I sent him pictures on his BlackBerry...."

Plum Creek said it has sold only 3,000 of its Montana acres to developers in the past five years, and it expects to sell even less in the next five, the company's president, Rick Holley, wrote in a recent op-ed in the Missoulian newspaper. But critics point out that its calculations may shift with the real estate market.

A decade ago, while repairing an image as the "Darth Vader of the timber industry," as one congressman put it, the company showcased good-forestry practices on a hillside above Flathead Lake.

That parcel is now Eagle's Crest, a gated subdivision with its own airstrip and lots on offer for $100,000 an acre. Remote corners of Swan Valley are selling for $11,000 an acre, with broker inquiries arriving from Europe. By comparison, the "net present value per acre of forest" runs at most $500, said Larry Swanson, director of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana.

Bold is mine because I used to have romantic visions of grandeur about Montana, always wanting to live there, or in Wyoming wit Harrison Ford. Ah well. Full article below.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

John Dixon Hunt on Place Making, 3 Natures, Poetry, and Numinous Gardens

I'm just barely into Greater Perfections: The Practice of Garden Theory, but the title alone scares me; gardening is not perfecting, it's interpreting, something which I'm coming to realize may be Hunt's ulitmate point. This title might be tongue in cheek, because even though he's trying to map out a solid, historically-grounded garden theory of the west, he's very concerned with issues of environment and how our perceptions of the natural world have changed radically in recent centuries; or how we believe landscape can only exist by being conceived and perceived by humans. Poor Mr. Hunt, caught in a quandary--to be or not to be a landscape architect in a greening world.

In his attempt to create a core definition of landscape architecture and theory, we come across this large chunk about place-making:

"Landscape architecture is, then, an activity of exterior place-making. This activity may include buildings within its remit; it may also look to pictorial art for inspiration, but it occurs essentially in the space BETWEEN buildings / architecture and paintings / landscape. It may include elements of what conventionally we call nature—in other words, organic materials like trees, shrubs, and grass and inorganics like water and rocks. Place-making is fundamentally an art of milieu; it creates a “midst” in which we see or set ourselves, places to be lived, hence its concern to environmentalists, whose business is with our environs or surroundings. The milieu involves not only inhabitants and users but the history of the place that is made or remade, the story of the site over time. Time and process lie at the very heart of landscape architecture and therefore, as we shall see in later chapters, accommodate themselves very readily to narrative. The stories of place-making engage innumerable narrative strategies and modes, for there are, after all, many sorts of fiction.”

I like how he sees a narrative in landsacpe, designed and not designed, how its meaning is essential only because of human interaction (now, if a flower grows and no one perceives it, is it still a flower?).

Milieu is, according to Augustin Berque:
1) The production of landscape is mediation of environment. Not just objective physical surroundings, but involves inscription on the site of how individual conceives of envrionment. Not simply a place made but a place we see as having already been made or is in process of being made.
2) Landscapes are combo of place maker and place user, and it is impossible to dinstinguish between these two.” Landscape comes into being as the creative coupling of a perceiving subject and an object perceived.”

Interesting. We can only have a landscape if we think about and experience it. Really? Ok, How about comparing gardens to poetry? Oh, we just have to read THIS:

"Gardens focus the art of place-making or landscape architecture in the way that poetry can focus the art of writing. Not everyone wants to write poetry, nor do its modes of expression suit every occasion or topic (people probably don’t use verse to make up shopping lists). But the poet’s formal and creative skills, technical resources, linguistic inventions, and (especially relevant to the highly atavistic art of garden-making) uneasy relationship with the demanding traditions of his or her art—all these make poetry among the most concentrated and demanding of literary expressions; this quality of compactness, concentration, is especially conspicuous in lyric poetry, where the scale is relatively smalls. The same claim can arguably be put forward for garden art, which of all forms of open space design draws on a richly constituted repertoire of effects, motivs, and traditions.”

Hunt discusses the three natures he sees at the outset of this treatise:

1st nature: Wild, undisturbed, unseen landscape. Not likely to find this anymore, but we try by making national parks, don't you know.
2nd nature: Agriculture, suburbia, cities, Nasca line in Peru
3rd nature: Gardens

Oh, how about this slightly sarcastic take on the sublime / wilderness vacations?

"Just as a highway or airplane… physically connects them to their preferred “wilderness,” so our very ideas of that sought after “other” nature link it to the rest of our experiences. We come to terms with first nature and explain our encounters with wilderness by talking of wonder, awe, fear, or distaste. We see it as divine, the nature of the gods; or we excoriate it as hostile territory and mask it off, as in some medieval representations; or we are more ambiguous and accommodate it philosophically, for instance, by labeling it the sublime. The switch from locating the sublime not in rhetorical productions but in landscape during the 18th century may be explained as part of an effort to make acceptable without diminishing the newly available experiences of wild European scenery. Tourists in first nature could translate their wonder, awe, and fear into a shared commodity, that in its turn became part of their cultural second nature and was occasionally translated into designed landscapes.”

Damn nature as commodity. Go green, people, buy green windex and drink green beer, you self righteous consumers. In fact, get a fungal disease and look green. Turn moldy.

Finally, I especially like this bit about places being spiritual without being distorted by religion, or our tainted experiences of it--or, that gardens somehow, perhaps, provide more divine access, or are simply more divine, than anything else we've culturally constructed.

"The sense of sites as ineluctably special continues to be part of contemporary human experience. It is an instinct that does not belong exclusively to what we would call “religious” people. This may raise the question of whether such privileging of place transfigures a site into first or third nature—does it make it divine territory or something like a garden? It can presumably be either or both: if some deliberate and formal intervention is attempted (i.e., invoking forms not available on site), then it certainly aspires to landscape architecture. A garden has the status for some people today of a sacred spot. The passions aroused by a dedication to the natural environment and / or by the activity of gardening suggest to how fundamental and “religious” an experience each of these activities gives access. Much modern place-making calls up a deeper sense of the numinous than we generally care to acknowledge, and it brings to the recognition of something special in a place a far greater wealth of cultural resources than we have so far encountered in the [second nature] aboriginal pole, the Ottoman tree, or even geoglyphs and songlines."

Well, on to the other 200 pages. I bet you feel like you just read all 250 pages of this garden theory, don't you, IF you made it this far....

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My Absence Policy--A Poem

For a few years now I've been handing out the following poem to my college students and saying it pretty much sums things up--both clarifying my strict policy and injecting some creative / sarcastic humor into the classroom from the get go... so they can adjust... to me; I am, as many students would attest, a TAD sarcastic. Thinking about impending book orders, I also begin having arduous reflections about future syllabi and lesson plans--far too early in the summer, mind you--and so I get a bit snarky because of it.... I may have posted this before, and I may post it again. Deal with it.

Did I Miss Anything

Question frequently asked by
students after missing a class

Nothing. When we realized you weren't here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 per cent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I'm about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 per cent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
the hereafter
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring this good news to all people
on earth

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human existence
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been

but it was one place
And you weren't here

-- Tom Wayman, from The Astonishing Weight of the Dead