Smacholdt's blog

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How I feel about the Storm

I thought that this poem fit nicely with both feminism and the environment, since it’s a pretty accurate representation of Sandy, and written by Adrienne Rich.

Storm Warnings

The glass has been falling all the afternoon,


And knowing better than the instrument 


What winds are walking overhead, what zone 


Of grey unrest is moving across the land,


I leave the book upon a pillowed chair


And walk from window to closed window, watching 


Boughs strain against the sky

_________________

And think again, as often when the air


Moves inward toward a silent core of waiting,


How with a single purpose time has traveled 


By secret currents of the undiscerned


Into this polar realm. Weather abroad


And weather in the heart alike come on 


Regardless of prediction.

_______________

Between foreseeing and averting change


Lies all the mastery of elements 


Which clocks and weatherglasses cannot alter. 


Time in the hand is not control of time,


Nor shattered fragments of an instrument


A proof against the wind; the wind will rise,


We can only close the shutters.

________________

I draw the curtains as the sky goes black 


And set a match to candles sheathed in glass


Against the keyhole draught, the insistent whine


Of weather through the unsealed aperture.

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Where Have all the Flowers Gone?

I’m finding it a little hard to concentrate this morning because they MOWED my spot. Mowed it! All the wildflowers (and all plants, minus the trees) are shorn to the ground. Devastation! I’m exaggerating, but it was slightly shocking after watching the spot grow for half the semester. It must have been mown yesterday with the rest of campus. Why do grounds mow campus so often?

I usually try to incorporate the readings, or whatever we talked about in class last time in my posting, but I’m finding it a little hard to do so today. I felt frustrated through much of class yesterday both because, though I could see the connections, I felt that feminism and environmentalism were very separate. I’ve always had trouble with both ideas, maybe just because they’re so expansive. I think that “environmental justice” is a clearer descriptor than “eco-feminism.”

But back to my site sit, since I was at a loss for words today I decided to represent my experience pictorially. Above are before and after pictures of my site, and below is a previous description of my site sit after I ran it through Wordle.com, which “reformatted” it. 


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Some Miscellaneous Thoughts

This post is doubtless going to be a little scattered because I wanted to sum up some of the thoughts that I had at the end of class today. Firstly, I was thinking about the ideas of ecology and dystopia as interconnected literary genres. I read a book over the summer called The Age of Miracles (See link to the NPR review: http://www.npr.org/2012/07/02/155098886/the-age-of-miracles-considers-earths-fragility) This is a strange title for a book which is exclusively about the end of nature as we know it. The premise of the book is that our interference with the earth had affected gravity, and thus slowed the spinning of the earth, causing a myriad of problems. The genre of the novel is science fiction (as per our discussion a few weeks ago about representations of the ecological crisis.) But I also think that the book could fit into a new and emerging literary classification, ecological dystopia.

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Wildflower Area History

Taking a historically themed tour of Harritan house inspired me to focus on my site with a historical lens. I had success with the Bryn Mawr website (http://sustainability.blogs.brynmawr.edu/2012/07/09/wild-flowers/), in finding some useful information on the wildflower restoration area.

It turns out that reason for the wildflowers is simply that Ed Harman, director of grounds and facilities at Bryn Mawr, had a hard time maintaining that area due to the spring that left the area moist. Then, three years ago, one of the first trees planted on the campus (a 250 years old sycamore) died and Harman decided that he needed to improve the area. Harman was inspired to “bring back life to a historic planting.” The grounds committee planted a mix of 30 native wildflowers in the area (this was apparently inspired by the success of the Atlantic City Expressway’s median strip flower-planting program.) Facilities also planted a new sapling inside the stump of the sycamore to symbolize rebirth.

The grounds committee has been experimenting with more wildflowers on campus including behind Haffner, Ward, and around Rhoads Pond. (The same mix of wildflower seed has been planted everywhere.) This allows grounds not to have to mow on dangerous slopes, but to save money on fertilizer. Additionally, wildflowers attract pollinating insects and provide mini ecosystems for wildlife on campus.

I just have one question. How come facilities haven’t been experiencing the terrible trouble with weeds that Michael Pollen describes in his NYT editorial? 

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Narrative Ecology??

I began this post by looking up a list of genres on Wikipedia. What I was specifically looking for was one that encompassed science, but still told a story. I have a friend who is interested in the emerging field of narrative medicine, and I had hoped that I would be able to find something along the same lines pertaining to ecology. The general idea behind narrative medicine is that you treat a person as a whole, and not just a cluster of symptoms. You allow people to contextualize their ailments in terms of the schema of their lives as opposed to the often cold and impersonal jargon that is so common in medical fields. See also: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/education/edlife/03narrative.html.

This made me wonder, could we solve more of our current ecological problems by taking this sort of approach to the environment. This is very closely related to what Berry and other authors we’ve read this semester have said; Recontextualize how we think about “nature” (a slippery term in itself.) This would not automatically solve any of the problems that we have created for ourselves, but just thinking in terms of different stories would give us the necessary insight to work on these problems.

I had the goal of rewriting this post: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/“traditional”-ecology-field-guide-flowers in a more narrative way. Right now it seems very straight forward and scientific, so I think I need to make it more inviting for the reader.

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The Secret Life of Plants?

This clip is from the 1979 documentary, The Secret Life of Plants, directed by Walton Green. I don’t know how I feel about this particular clip (his ideas get more crazy towards the end), but if there is any validity to it, it’s fascinating .

I’m having a hard time getting out of my brain. Call me self-centered, but I have always found that the best way for me to understand something is to apply it to my own experiences. It’s not that I’m not noticing things at my site today- I am. I’ve observed how the colors of the growth around me look duller in the rain. And how browns and oranges are starting to intermingle with greens. I notice the flock of birds that I’ve startled while walking to my spot. But today my mind keeps coming back to one idea.

We talked last class about the possibility that trees are sentient beings. And why not? What if plants can feel things? Can trees communicate? In the most basic chemical way, yes, many can. A forest of Aspen trees is completely connected by hundreds of miles of underground runners. Certain kinds of mushrooms are also one organism, connected underground. Do plants feel emotions like people do? Can they empathize? Do they desire things? I wonder if scientists will ever figure this out. This topic is captivating to me and I would love to learn more about it. 

Unethical?

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Reshaping

Original Paragraph from my Thoreauvian web paper: (Already written 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.

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“Traditional” Ecology: A Field Guide to Flowers

As I made my observations today I found myself wondering about the scientific classifications of the plants I was seeing. I decided that it would be interesting to be a little more informed about the flowers I was looking at.

Using this site as a reference (http://www.mywildflowers.com/) This is what I came up with:

Flower 1: Great Blanket Flower (Gaillardia aristata)

Other common names: Blanket Flower, Common Gaillardia

Family: Asteraceae (Sunflower)

Height: 2 to 4 ft.

Blooms: July to September

Leaf Type: smooth

Bloom Size:  2 in. (typical)

Flower Description: Individual flowers, Regular blooms, 8 parts

Notes: stems and leaves hairy; petals have 3 tips

 

Flower 2: Thin-Leaved Sunflower (Helianthus decapetalus)

Family: Asteraceae (Sunflower)

Height: 2 to 5 ft.

Blooms: August to September

Leaf Type: toothed

Bloom Size:  2 in. (typical)

Flower Description: Individual flowers, Regular blooms, 10 or more parts

 

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Rethinking Anthropocentric

The one key term that I kept coming back to when re-reading the beginning of my web-paper was “anthropocentric.” I freely admit in my first paragraph that I am the lens that I use to observe the campus on my walk. I use the words “I” and “my” fourteen times in the first paragraph alone.

In order to re-focus my thoughts, I chose three entirely new words through which to view this experience. These words are: “interaction”, “resilience”, and “community.”

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An Exercise in Poetry

I began my first observation this morning at the Conservation/Wildflower Area by simply observing what I could see right in front of me. But as the hour wore on I began to think more about two things- the rheomode that we talked about in class yesterday, and the multitude of sensory input that I was getting, just sitting on a bench by the garden. I decided to try to use the rheomode and to play with the idea of the five senses. I only realized later that by using the five senses to describe my experience I was negating a big part of the rheomode itself by being so anthropocentric. I also noticed that when I’m trying to write in the rheomode, it’s easiest for me to use passive voice. Anyway, a poem in the “rheomodist” style:

Streaming, inviting, bright morning light looks warm

Sounds of moist, chilly dew

Ugly, grating sound of traffic

Vibrant, bright colors of flowers feel beautiful

Open, inviting, exciting, the taste of the view from the platform

Cold, smoldering with damp, the sound of the air

Rough wooden bench smells of mold

Sounding warm and damp like bells- the flowers

Whooshing, swaying, verdant breeze

Tasting the sparkling light

Seeing the hulking lawnmower- an intrusion on the scene?

Flying, fluttering, turning like tops- freedom of birds

Rough and sad concrete platform

Dark, inviting, peaceful shade

Interacting with the bright morning is good for the soul 

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