So I just finished reading an article about the slow food movement for my Italian culture class and I came across this:
Se, come dice il poeta contadino Wendell Berry, “mangiare è un atto agricolo”, produrre il cibo deve essere considerato un “atto gastronomico”.
This is when Berry was talking about eating as an "agricultural act." It seems that many cultures have really embraced his views on ecological justice.
For our final teach-in Rachel and I picked poems with themes from our class this semester. Here they are:
i thank You God for most this amazing
by e.e. cummings
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
By Henry David Thoreau
I was inspired by the blind field shuttle tour that we took in class today and decided to see how far across my site I could walk by myself and with my eyes closed. I got about ten feet. Fifteen feet tops. This just goes to show how different this experience is on your own from being in a group. One thing that surprised me about my own experience was my intuition. I sensed a tree before I ran into it. It wasn’t that I saw it or felt it, but rather I could somehow just tell that it was there.
I then decided to make observations about the “Soundscape” (a phrase that Mr. Papalia used a few times on our class’s tour) of my site. The first sound that registered was the sound of rustling branches. Then church bells, distant dogs barking, and people talking. I heard the consistent rumble of a train and the flow of traffic. Car horns sounded intermittently as did the voices of students walking around campus. Visually Bryn Mawr is very sheltered from the surrounding Philadelphia area but sound-wise it certainly isn’t. Traffic is a constant, noticeable noise. The other sense that intensified when I had my eyes closed was smell. Fried food scents drifted intermittently out of the dining halls. That was really the only smell strong enough for me to smell through my cold nose.
Every experience is dependent on the way you frame it. Carmen Papalia was one of the most positive people I’ve encountered in a long time. For me, losing my eyesight is a terrifying idea. Sight is generally considered the most important sense that humans use. It is “essential” to our functioning in the world. However, Mr. Papalia showed us another way of thinking. He framed being vision impaired as not an impairment at all, but as something to value and even celebrate. And after his blind field shuttle tour of Bryn Mawr’s campus I would have to agree with him. Through the tour I was able to get to know both the campus and my classmates a lot better. I felt more connected to my surroundings out of necessity. One wrong step and I felt like I was going to fall down the slope that led into Morris Woods. But I didn’t, which I think that it was largely due to my classmates. This in itself was interesting since it was literally the blind leading the blind. None of us could see. Even our leader could not see perfectly. But as eetong and I discussed on our way out of class, this, in a way, made us feel safer. We felt that since he had had so much experience being in our situation, that he was a very trustworthy guide. Granted, I was in the middle of the line and so protected by both the people in front of me and the people behind me (both would feel uneven terrain before I did.) I was also protected by my height (any overhead branches would hit the people in front before hitting me.) I wonder how my experience would have been different if I had been in the front of the line?
It felt quiet in Ashbridge Park. It wasn’t, not really, because of the omnipresent leaf blowers and speeding motorcycles . But the sounds felt more muted, and somehow farther away than in our usual spot outside English House. I liked that our class was able to lead an entirely self-directed class. I felt like I re-learned a lesson on how to listen, and how to be still. I learned things that I forgot I knew.
I also enjoyed reading poetry while sitting outside on the sunny grass. I was especially pleased with the reactions to the poems that I had chosen. I picked Traveling Through the Dark by William Stafford (http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/traveling-through-the-dark/) because of its understated sadness. I think that the last two lines about the speaker’s only swerving were poignant, and got to the root of our relationship to nature. We can’t always relate well to it. Sometimes horrible things happen and we ignore them.
Additionally, I was happy to have found an applicable Robert Frost poem that seemed less pastoral than some of his other works.
I went to my site sit this morning. I looked at the cut vegetation and I felt one sensation, COLD. This got me thinking about whether there is any connection between our society’s dislike of the cold (think about how much they overheat the dorms in the winter) and our views towards global climate change. It seems that climate change is helping to speed up the inevitable warming of the planet (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/whatis.htm)
One main connection that I noticed between Monday’s class and my site sits are the presence of humans .We are on a college campus with a densely populated surrounding area, so we have no choice but to come in contact with other people. I’ve been thinking about are the subtle ways that humans have changed the landscape over the past few hundred years. They have build buildings, chopped down trees, planted trees, etc., and they have also influenced the spread of “invasive” species in Morris woods. This is something that I would not have even been aware of, had I not participated in the class. It’s interesting how something as seemingly “natural” as a wooded area, can actually be quite artificial, and greatly influenced by human actions. I feel similarly about the wildflower area. I think that I have the unconscious, and obviously erroneous idea that all plants that I see on campus somehow got there “naturally.” This circles back to the sticky question about what exactly “natural” means. For me, I think that “natural” signifies something that has been unaffected by human activities.
Another idea that I’ve been meditating on since Monday’s class is that of trust. The trust activity made an impression on me because not only did I feel like I really did “get to know my tree,” I was astounded at just how vulnerable I felt without my eyesight in the woods. I can’t imagine doing this trust activity in a more wild environment than Morris Woods. I think I would have been very apprehensive if I hadn’t known that people were just a few feet away.
I decided to try something different today and went to my site at 9 pm instead of 9 am. It was cold and it was dark. (Thank you time change, although it would have been dark at 9 pm, regardless.) I had some reservations about going outside when it was so dark out, but these were tempered by the fact that lamps light our entire campus when the sun goes down. This got me thinking. Why are humans so obsessed with light? I guess that there are the obvious reasons- the sun is our greatest source of light and without it we would have no warmth, no air, and no food. Plants provide us with the latter two things and they could not grow without light. But I think another reason that we are afraid of the dark is because darkness represents the unknown and we are very uncomfortable with the unknown.
This thought process brought me to a show that I remember from years ago called, Are you Afraid of the Dark. The show, as its name suggest, takes place at night, and in the woods. This just got me thinking about how much fear our society still harbors for both nature and the dark. For some reason, setting a scary show outside only adds to its fear factor.
After my cousin’s college graduation I asked her, out of curiosity, when her school was founded and by whom. She did not have the answers to these questions, let alone more specific answers about the geography of her campus, or the architecture of her school. While I can’t tell you who built all of the buildings on Bryn Mawr College’s campus, with each passing year I become more and more familiar with Bryn Mawr College as a community, as a place on a map, and as an interconnected ecosystem. The longer I attend Bryn Mawr the more adamant I become in the value of really knowing the place where I live and work. This gives me a feeling of centeredness, and a knowledge of my surroundings that is intellectually empowering. I think that to find the center of a place you have to start by exploring and learning about all of it. You must develop an ecological appreciation for it. You need to start from the center and move outwards. Moving in this way I have been able to expand my first web event (http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/turning-circles), in order to make it more expensive and representative of Bryn Mawr’s campus. I have tried to familiarize myself with information about parts of campus through the internet, my own experiences, and by taking to college staff members. Here is what I discovered.
My site looked pretty bleak today after the storm. Leaves were everywhere and the mowed section where the wildflowers were was all the color of dead grass (with the exception of one clump of black-eyed Susans that were either very resilient, or just resisted mowing. I had never explored much beyond the wildflower area, so in walking back to Erdman I made sure to notice other aspects of the landscape. I wondered how the small forest of bamboo got behind Erdman. Since it’s an “invasive species” I assume that it wasn’t planted. I also noticed the creek that flows behind Erdman. It probably waters the bamboo, and the wildflowers when they were there. I also noticed that people had planted plants in tree stumps, and interesting mark of humans in nature.
Back in the warmth of my room (it’s gotten COLD outside!) I scrolled through the Bryn Mawr Grounds page and found some interesting botanical and architectural information (Plus pictures!) It was so interesting to see how Bryn Mawr’s campus looked in the past, how it looks now, as well as blueprints for how it might look in the future.