Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eclipse Eclipsed

I've been out to my extended backyard several times this break: first alone, in the afternoon; then with Alex, at sunset; then finally tonight, at 1.  It seemed inappropriate to allow the solstice to go by unrecognized, but what got me out there was the promise of a lunar eclipse.  Of course, I knew there would be no lunar eclipse or even a single star, given the thick gray blanket of clouds keeping the Earth's warmth in and the cold of the Universe out.  I'll admit, then, that what really rousted me from at 1 this morning was my reading material: Gordon Hempton's One Square Inch of Silence.  Or rather, the memory that book returned me to of the remarkable impression of meeting the man himself, and hearing him tell much of the beginning of the book in person.

Hastily bundled and out the door, the fear of nighttime brings me to a standstill as soon as I leave the parking lot.  It'd been an unfortunate while since I'd been out this late, this alone.  This place is quite a different place with the visage and psychology of late night on the solstice.  Everything is bright, since the lens of pollution from Cass City is endlessly reflected among the clouds and the snow.  But the light is wrong, brings no comfort, carries no color. 

Getting further away from home, into the field, the first stark trees hit my peripheral vision and brittle stalks grab my ankles.  Freeze.  My heart imagines it's helping, preparing me for a tither.  I stop, and I listen: a traditional, time-tested and time-honored (there is no way to convey the nature of what TIME means in those phrases) method for sounding out danger.  And after all, this is why I am hear: to teach myself, or just allow myself to listen.  There is nothing; Seeger Street to the far West rumbles like a strong gust of wind.  The true wind is imperceptible now. 

More steps forward.  There is a new horizon in the prarie now: A and E and B and now a foot of snow and a crusty shield on top.  Every step breaks the ice, ruins the relief, and leaves my indelible mark on tonight's winter.  For the same reason, the field is now quite a lot more alive than ever it was before: my previous walks occurred before the snow and as it first fell.  Now I cannot go more than three feet without meeting a deer or what I take to be a rabbit who passed through the place recently.  The deer leave deep but very constricted holes; what I take for a rabbit, a shallow, solid stripe punctuated by small paws.  I myself leave gaping wounds in the shell, a foot long and as deep.  I am literally crashing through the place.  Far less rude is my trespass, however, than that of the snowmobile. 

A bird, to the left.  At this time of night?  Odd.  I stop to listen.  Nothing, and after a time, I resume, crashing towards the forest.  My fear is gone, but as I reach the forest and an adopted tree stand, it returns: the forest provides the antidote for the sickly glow of clouds and field.  It consumes the light, in a sense, and its visage is appropriate for such a fiend: stark, angular claws line the horizon, and towards the ground all sense disappears in a foggy haze.  I dare not enter at night (the undergrowth is unmanageable, and the ground is speckled with puddles I could easily end up in).  The bird again - and now some hooligans, enjoying . . . a pond?  Perhaps not.  I climb the tree stand, sweep off the snow and acknowledge the ice, and begin to listen for that bird. . . I hear something, turn swiftly to the left, and hear it - shit.  The "bird" is a high-pitched whistle something in my head does very faintly every time I turn it swiftly to the left.  I do so several times to confirm the hypothesis.

Then I do hear a bird - a brusque call from an owl in the forest.  To whom is that owl communicating, and what does it wish to say?  Listening to the land seems to be much like listening to music, though I have of course much more experience deciphering the latter.  In both, however, the message and the medium are both in foreign tongues - what you hear in natural silence and in a piece of music are both intuitively meaningful, but the language of their meanings remains inscrutable even once you've deciphered the language of their symbology.  In both cases, the languages are quite real, despite what little credit for existence they have been given by arrogant people.  It is particularly incredible that we are now realizing (or returning to know) the extent to which acoustic communication is crucial in ecosystems, not only among species but between them. 

I sit on my hands to keep the ice on the treestand from melting through to my ass.  This works, but my hands are cold.  I hear nothing after not waiting long enough to hear it, and head home.  I follow a snowmobile trail to the corn field that, unbeknownst to me, has always ran from the forest all the way back to my house, perhaps 1500 ft.  I find the high edge of a furrow and balance-beam my way home. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fake Freshman Studies Curricula

Hey everyone,

Now that we're finally done with real Freshman Studies, I thought it would be an interesting idea to see what some of us might do if we were given the chance to design Freshman Studies curricula ourselves.  The works you pick should be things that aren't already on the Freshman Studies list, they should be as diverse as the official list, but not necessarily in the same way.  You should pick things not just because you like them or would want to share them with students, but because they'd actually teach students something widely applicable.  The "message" or "teaching" students are supposed to get from your work should be suitably non-traditional.  You should definitely flaunt the guidelines any legitimate institution would impose, and you should by all means include joke entries.  You are encouraged to give your reasoning for including the works you did, but don't feel obliged to.  These things are generally obvious anyway; unless people are unfamiliar with the works (and hopefully we are - if not, you'ren't being creative and esoteric enough!).

My list:
Essays 1-3 of Pragmatism, by William James - James provides the most helpful and basic values for philosophical discourse out there.  Should be good fodder for discussion itself, as well.
Select poems by Billy Collins - Accessible poetry about interesting things.

Deloused in the Comatorium, by the Mars Volta - Very talented musicians who create really innovative art by combining many traditions and idioms.  Deals with serious metaphysical and social issues in a very creative and genuine way.

Collapse, by Jared Diamond - Shows with vivid, clear, scientific metaphor the way humanity is about to kill itself.  Vital knowledge for everyone to possess, when they will soon be putting themselves in positions of power and influence in society.

Flatland, by Edwin A. Abbott - Introduces multi-dimensionality to students who (unless they've had decent educations like most of my fellow Lawrentians did) have never experienced it before.  It's also extremely well-written and a hell of a lot of fun.

Amelie - Beautiful and very creative exploration of important themes in social relationships and personal life. 

The City of Dreaming Books, by Walter Moers - Exemplary playfulness with language and with a whole slew of creative ideas - maybe not the most traditional ideas for "academic discourse."  Also the most fun, and very well written.

Select stories by Donald Barthelme - Very droll, funny post-modern fiction, in the style of Borges and Kafka.

Bata Ketu, by Michael Spiro et al - Combines a variety of world music traditions to make a very catchy and poppy album without sacrificing authenticity.

Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez - Gives the most beautiful sense of the vastness and complexity of the world.  This is a vital attitude for college students and everyone else to have. 

I've tried to only pick things that are models of aesthetic style (primarily in writing), present obvious, important "messages," and are a LOT of fun.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

“The bear's melancholy wandering, for example, is underscored in a Polar Eskimo story about a bear who falls in love ith a young married woman. He cautions her never to tell her husband of their meetings because her husband will surely try to kill him. But she takes pity on her husband's failures in hunting bears and tells him where her lover lives. Far away, the bear hears her whispering to her husband in the night, and he leaves his home before the husband arrives. He goes straight to the woman's snow house. He raises his paws to smash it in—and then he lowers his paws to his side. Feeling betrayed, overcome with grief, he sets off on a long and solitary journey.

To the European mind the story is poignant. For the Eskimo it is charged with danger. For the bear to go off preoccupied with such a subject means it will not be paying attention to where it is going, that it may fall through bad ice or miss signs that will lead it to an aglu and sustenance.”

Barry Lopez, Chapter 3, Tornarssuk, p. 114, “Arctic Dreams”

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Quick summery/first draft for a piece called 'Regrets'

In a relationship there is a beginning. It maybe simple and forgettable, but it is there and it doesn't matter. Their hair might have been long, short, or beautiful and in the end that too shall fade. Their face and the way they say hello will be boiled down into a feeling. Which will spread every time you recall the first kiss and the walk through the woods. this feeling will not be the sum of the relationship. It will not be the spark felt when they first made you laugh and it will not be the torn heart you can't get over. This feeling will be the taint of regrets spreading unstoppable.

That time that you made icecream will now only be though of in terms of what you did wrong and what you should have done. Everything will seem clear. You will know that you both made mistakes, but you will only suffer for the mistakes you made.

This burden will build with each new smile from your current love and will bind your tongue. One day someone will come along who decides that they can fix you. They will fail. There will be no moment where the past fades leaving only the present. Their love which will be based on your recovery will collapse leaving only the control freak within. And as they leave seemingly taking all that you had left, you will break.

The burden of your life will drown you. You may commit suicide, but probably not. You care too much about the world. As you sit broken and crying in the bottom of your shower you will be reborn. This will be though a realization that your don't give a fuck and that life is too great to waste.

You will be alone for longer than you previously thought possible.

Those memories of being held and cooking together will be there, but now your life will be focused on the present, this moment. You will see the colors of the trees like never before. And the smell of the earth as you work your garden will almost overwhelm you. It is then that you will walk into their life and they into your's.

Individuals playing the part. You will not do everthing together and more than likely will not truly love eachother for a long time. But it will not be until this point, this moment, that you can truly say you have no regrets.