Saturday, June 22, 2019

What I Did on My Summer Vacation (writing retreat) (parts and pieces)

A girl, a planet, and an apocalypse
Dillard: a million tiny apocalypses under the microscope
It’s only Feb
Beckett’s nuclear arsenal of language
Not play, I am serious
Make a treaty, break it
The earth suffers
Dominoes: one species after another, or simultaneous
Weather, and resources
Break it: the earth is where we live
Like pigs in fragile houses
Brick also crumbles
Especially brick made in contemporary capitalism: cheap ass shit
Built to sell, decay, disperse like a cloud


Slow Violence

“from Rob Nixon: “A violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all”” (qtd in Counter Desecration, Ed. Russo and Reed)

…the submerged shafts of the

Split like spun
            Glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness
            Into the crevices—
                        In and out, illuminating     (Marianne Moore, “The Fish”)

It’s true: the sea grew old here, and here… (Reginald Shepherd, “Geology of Water”)

Once the tipping point for the survival of coral reefs is passed, the deterioration of other systems may cascade more quickly and irreversibly.” (International Union for Conservation of Nature)

Geology: the science that deals with the earth's physical structure and substance, its history, and the processes that act on it. Geology also deals with the study of the history of all life that's ever lived on or is living on the earth now.

the geologic features of an area, its history

A violence of delayed effects

Dynamic grooves, burns, and / hatchet strokes

Off shore drilling rigs

When water is merely a memento. And language bubbles dispersed and saved, one molecule at a time, except for what is not saved. Steel and erosion leaving relics like fossils, but built.

Physical geology deals with the study of the physical features of the earth and the processes acting on them. This includes volcanoes, earthquakes, rocks, mountains and the oceans; just about any feature of the earth.

A record of change and accumulation: scars, scarcity, plastic sediments. An epoch wiping out all others, before humans, evolution dies at the culmination of grievances. Evidence found in the sea, rock, old world species market and resisting. Or giving in. What is or isn’t worth it. Draw lines in the sand or record layers and ponder.

Historical geology is the study of the history of the earth. Historical geologists focus on what's happened to Earth since its formation. They also study the changes in life throughout time. In historical geology, you essentially get to travel back in time to the formation of the earth and move forward through time, witnessing the changes in Earth itself and the life on it.

Shepherd’s someone who foundered is every person, never quiet got up on two legs. Humans troubling land, sea, self, others from the beginning.

Moore’s fish a symbol, metonym, literal metaphor of violence against those least able to defend, react, protect, act. But nonetheless resist, survive. As long as the oceans continue, to survive.

The deep ocean, “largest habitat for life on earth” (NPR “deep oceans…”). And now home to large concentrations of microplastics. The research boat named The Rachel Carson has a robot that can go down 3000 ft into the ocean, off the coast of CA, “in search of plastic.”

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is only one island among many, on the surface. And now there’s more underneath.

But not just in addition to, but actually more, most, and spread as micro-particles throughout the waters, from surface to great depths, like sugar crystals in a cold drink that doesn’t melt when you stir it, but float around instead, swirling. Circulating around far off the coast, plastics, from all sorts of places. Larvaceans, red crabs, lancetfish, and others eat the plastic. Humans eat fish and seafood filled with plastic. Etc.

The Anthropocene: era of humans. Evidence found in human relics. Processes of exploitation and destruction. of land, water, people.

If the Anthropocene proclaims a sudden concern with the exposures of environmental harm to white liberal communities, it does so in the wake of histories in which these harms have been knowingly exported to black and brown communities under the rubric of civilization, progress, modernization, and capitalism. The Anthropocene might seem to offer a dystopic future that laments the end of the world, but imperialism and ongoing (settler) colonialisms have been ending worlds for as long as they have been in existence. The Anthropocene as a politically infused geology and scientific/popular discourse is just now noticing the extinction it has chosen to continually overlook in the making of its modernity and freedom. (Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes… xiii)

So called civilization has always been destroying those with the least power, colonizing bodies and spaces and resources for profit.  

Geology is a mode of accumulation, on the one hand, and of dispossession, on the other, depending on which side of the color line you end up on… we should all resist framing this epoch [Anthropocene]  as a “new” condition that forgets its histories of oppression and dispossession (Yusoff  3)


It’s possible that 25% of all species in the oceans rely on coral reefs for food and shelter. Coral reefs are often called the rainforests of the sea, though they are in fact even more diverse than rainforests.

Coral colonies increase in size and genetic diversity through different means of reproduction. Biodiversity is important because: resilience, survival, reciprocity, cooperation and reliance, circular and constellation qualities of an ecosystem, stability of those ecosystems. Conversely, cascading effects like falling dominos when players in the game drop out; change or disappearance of species can disrupt the stability of the whole—and what is whole, from small ecosystems to larger, ecosystems layered and overlapping, small circles inside bigger inside bigger. Disruptions affect species in their specific ecosystems and also outside. Humans are affected by disruptions that affect water, air, resources, pollination, soil, food, medicine. Diversity can also act as its own force against climate change, e.g. the more forests that are destroyed, the more bad gasses are released. The more trees and plants there are, the more carbon they can naturally capture. The more the polar ice caps melt the higher and warmer the seas. Forests and coastal ecosystems act protectively against weather, flooding, etc. Whole systems work better when their parts are intact; take out some of the parts and the systems start to go haywire.

Biodiversity in nature is literal and figurative compliment to diversity in humans: culture, identity, religion, ethnicity, race, language, food, music, art and more diversity makes societies and the globe stronger. And historically humans rely on all sorts of biodiversity in nature in a multitude of different ways that are integral to cultures, identities, religions etc.  


Colors, stripes, spots, speckles, patterns, textures, shapes, layers, geometries, mosaics, cooperation, inter-connections, symbiotic chains of strength and survival …, algae, polyps, shrimp, parasites, crabs, sea cucumbers, worms, limpets, conchs, sea stars, feather stars, basket stars, plankton, clownfish anemones, squirts, salps, mollusks, phytoplankton, sea sponges, crustaceans,  barnacles, nudibranchs, turtles, groupers, parrotfish, angelfish, butterfly fish, cardinal fish, clown fish, damselfish, gobies, white-tipped reef sharks, hammerheads, tiger sharks, surgeonfish, triggerfish, coral trout, humpheads...



In her essay about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams invites us in to the awe the wonder of being in a place still relatively untouched, wild, and nearly inaccessible.

The arctic is balancing on an immense mirror. The water table is visible. Pools of light gather: lakes, ponds, wetlands. The tundra is shimmering. One squints perpetually.

Williams’ group, led by professional Arctic guides, would travel to see the lands in question and along the way pass by the Canning River, the fluid western boundary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that determines where one can now drill and where one cannot. It will carry us to the heart of the national debate. Separating the refuge from the land already open to drilling; the protected so visibly and geographically precarious resting just on one side of the river, energy exploration and exploitation just on the other side, machinery easily visible, its literal and symbolic existence encroaching on a wilderness that has existed untouched basically since its beginning.  She writes of this place, away from industry, the space of wilderness away from everywhere else as a necessary respite, a reset, an awakening, a reminder.

ANWR includes 19.3 million acres of land. The National Petroleum-Reserve Alaska (NPR-A), which potentially available for oil and gas development, includes 23.4 million acres of land and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It was originally designated in 1923 and turned over to the Department of the Interior in 1976.

In the NPR-A lands, 1.4 million acres are currently being used to produce oil, via 200 leases mainly owned by ConocoPhilips Alaska Inc. But the BLM has recently opened up another 2.85 million acres and plans to have fully half of the 23.4 million acres open to drilling as companies become interested in buying leases. Minus the 1.4 million acres currently producing oil, the remaining 22 million acres supports two of Alaska’s large caribou herds, millions of migratory birds, globally significant densities of raptors and large concentrations of marine mammals, including beluga whales, polar bears, spotted seal and walrus among other species of wildlife (Bies). When the land was turned over to the Department of the Interior via the Naval Petroleum Reserves Act of 1976, it was made clear that the federal government was responsible to protect environmental, fish and wildlife, and historical or scenic values as well as subsistence and reliance on resources by native peoples. Of course, all of this is at the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior and any opening of the land for development is supposed to be approved by Congress. Although it seems impossible—to anyone thinking about this for more than a minute—that opening over 10 million acres to energy exploitation would not drastically harm the water, land, wildlife, and the communities of people who rely on those natural resources, it also seems clear that the feds who have made these lands available for destruction have no interest in protecting anything except their own bank accounts, and by protect I mean fill them up.


Don’t stand between the reservations and the
corporate banks They send in federal tanks
It isn’t nice but it’s reality
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
Deep in the Earth
Cover me with pretty lies
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Huh.
They got these energy companies
who want the land
and they’ve got churches by the dozen want to
guide our hands and sign our
Mother Earth over to pollution, war and greed
Get rich… get rich quick.
(Buffy Sainte-Marie, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”)


In 2017, Lisa Murkowski, Alaskan US Senator, slipped a provision into the tax bill to open 1.6 million acres of coastal areas in ANWR to drilling. Of course she did, Alaskans pay no sales or income tax and in a good year get like $1000 each from oil profits. The state relies on the oil industry. And shutting that down and making residents pay taxes might result in some backlash. Just over a million acres doesn’t sound like much; the Refuge is 19.3 million acres big. But allowing oil and gas exploitation of the coast would damage the habitats and resources of many species living there. Also, it may not produce much more oil than is already estimated in the existing Petroleum-Reserve lands, or at least it is unclear—estimates of production, profit, longevity vary. 


Not everyone can go to the arctic, or would survive there, or would have the same kind of experience. But nature, the natural world in ways that might be described as what is not “man-made” is in us and we are in it wherever we are. Our lives are a constellation of human-constructed and variations of “natural”: from cultivated trees and plants in city parks, to natural (food) and artificial (plastics, etc) waste / trash piled in landfills and dumped into oceans, to historical and continuing categorization and exploitation of real humans and their bodies—the way the practice of taxonomy was invented to categorize other species and then also applied to humans, for example, among other examples—to natural spaces and species contained and controlled by colonialism, capitalism, stealing, exploiting resources, political power.


In the face of material, technological, political, economic, one might ask: what is the standing of beauty? How do we engage? Nature is culture is social is economic is where we live.

            as artificial reef is

sunk next to dying corals
on the sea floor     such housing

Something is off

re: the water     the heat
is out of control     the land toxic.

Building up more junk on more
junk     doesn’t pay the bills & get the lights back on 

(Ed Roberson, from “Beauty’s Standing”)

Building up more junk on more junk. How Roberson ties coral reefs and urban citizenship. Exploitation of people and resources equals private-public partnerships where basic rights like heat and water become privileged commodities; if you can’t pay then you don’t deserve it. The coral reefs housing millions of species of plants and animals, the oceans as resource and sustenance for the rest of the earth, for people around the globe, especially for the global poor tied most closely to the land and water for survival. Pollution of land and water, spreading of toxins, is killing us all: from the most remote areas of ocean to those most historically, socially, economically forgotten in human inner-cities, to everyone else who will, in time, feel the effects.


Although you sit in a room that is gray,
Except for the silver
Of the straw-paper,
And pick
At your pale white gown;
Or lift one of the green beads
Of your necklace,
To let it fall;
Or gaze at your green fan
Printed with the red branches of a red willow;

Speckled with color, energetic dashes in contrast to the title and tone, as if through misdirection we find our way back, Wallace Stevens, “Gray Room” teaches us how to relate each feeling encountered. Green beads, red branches of the willow, a furiously beating heart.

Or, with one finger,
Move the leaf in the bowl--
The leaf that has fallen from the branches of the forsythia
Beside you...
What is all this?
I know how furiously your heart is beating.  

A lesson in attention. Instead of shredded fingernails, pain behind the temples, blemished skin, an inability to process emotion.

Describe a specific important location, create color out of thin air, imagine the hybridity of the world, locate intention, uncover beauty, movement, circulation, recovery.

A serendipitous love affair or inclination. No one is an island.