Taking a walk just now, I realized that things sometimes seem “just so.” And others, not so. A few weeks ago I saw a seal who seemed a bit sick, or perhaps just tired lay on the beach, slowly adjusting every twenty minutes, but mostly lounging under and umbering sky, falling into night, before a swarthy ocean, crashing upon rocks, its surface ripping to the north in currents like electric fields without boundaries, sworling up and up without a map. It just lay there as elegantly as an old Greek on a day couch, taking lunch, as though the only real concern of the day was an extremely abstract question about eternity. I wondered about its landscape: what is this seal’s home? How does it feel when it takes in that first breath of air, the underwater breath, and return, navigating “home?” I have always thought seals look like men trapped in some evolutionary bag, writhing and stretching in a protean ballet… a patient audience to themselves. So just now, walking, looking up at the great creaking pines, slowly gesturing in the first fall winds… I realized how placeless we are, or how so just not so things can be when we don’t cleave to a place like it were already where we’re going to die. I lived in a farm manor at one point, taking care of it and making things in its carriage house. At some point, months after living there, the doctor who owned it moved back in and I was his room mate. He suffered from depression and treated it by going fly fishing with his dog every day, and every day without fail he brought back at least one steelhead. The deal went: I could eat of this bounty if I cooked which I liked because I loved the fish and I like to cook fish. I always tore the cooked head off and stared into the inside of it, in line with the fish, looking through the back of its head, the head that took it out to sea, to somewhere near Alaska, and back, sometimes several times; and when I looked just so, I looked at an evolution-museum, the bio-mechanics behind a miracle: this creature was tuned into a magnetic geo navigation tracking system that enabled it to go to mecca once, twice, thrice…? and then get caught and serve itself up. How is it, in its environment, anything like what we have? I wondered, walking tonight, looking at the trees that natives had walked amid years ago, as well as a lot of animals who let go as well as the salmon and the seal. I looked at an art deco front doorway with thin stand off numbers, 4427, their thin lines shadows cast against stucco. What if a four fell upside down? Would it still be 4427? Or would we loose our way? A dangling upside-down symbol. Stands for everything wrong. We don’t hunt, don’t gather, don’t reap, don’t sew. Where do we go? How do we return to that sea, fulfill the story that is embedded in the back of our heads, like the fish, engineered to river-go? All I could do was return home and notice the kitchen needed a more than thorough cleaning, pull the containers away from the back-splash and scrub them, scrub the seams, scald the pots and leave squeaky clean crystal clear finishes on all glass, there’s a product for that. O, take us where we want to go, where the earth shaker plays his drums and nymphs and messengers meet to share meals …
I had originally come to Chimney Rock when I was sixteen as part of the Spokane Mountaineers. I ended up becoming somewhat addicted to climbing, doing it every day after school and every weekend, most spare moments. I did a lot of climbing with Gabe Rogel, and returned with him to North Idaho to climb Chimney a couple of days ago:
We both found it kind of unfathomable that it has been fifteen years since we first came to this place. I think in a lot of ways, despite its inherent dangers, climbing–and the camaraderie–saved my life in those years. Gabe has gone on to pursue the craft professionally and incorporated amazing photography and climbing–as well as many other outdoor activities–as a way of life. (www.rogelphoto.com) This particular climb was, for me, the first and probably only of the year… and for Gabe, almost the same. So we did not push the limits too much…
… enjoying what we’d already done, easily, years ago. It’s funny, getting older, and realizing that the world can hurt you, and that you must be careful, considerate of your own limits and abilities.
at the end of our kind of amazing one day adventure, I found I was taking something wholly different away from the experience… in comparison to what I used to get out of climbing:
listen to yourself, enjoy weakness or strength in the moments they occur, but listen to them… and listen to those you’re with.
i spent the month of june this year in brooklyn, doing some research for a new project, the Archimedes Coalition. i was interested in finding out about people who are working on sustainable practices, focused locally. i know that the latter description could be an almost aggravatingly general, green term. part of the annoyance, about much of the ‘green washing’ that takes place in the world these days, is that we don’t consider what sustainable even means in this context. for instance: a couple goes to a carpet store, shopping for carpet, and they ask the salesman, “is this carpet sustainable?” what do they mean? does it sustain itself through time? in other words, does it last forever? or do they mean, is this carpet made out of moss? ultimately what people want is an energy savings. i’m not convinced, however, that they separate rigorous energy savings from the look of energy efficiency. it might feel and look cool to drive in a prius, with a patagonia shirt recycled from the plastic rooftops of some favela. but really humans are just going to use what’s at their disposal, with the technologies that are available, and they’re going to do it until those resources are used up, or until it’s against the law to practice those activities. we look back at our parents’ parents’ generation (parents of the baby boomers) and scold them for putting the Japanese into internment camps, picking strawberries, etc. well, the day may come when our progeny scolds us for taking a plane trip and driving around in ford F150.
my own personal aggravation about being green comes about when what is proposed is either irrational or totally unrealistic. that’s sort of the context for my search… to find something new, something inventive. i am realizing now that the solutions must be beautiful. this is where the endeavor becomes artistic. what can we do that is beautiful and alternate from the status quo? i.e. atmosphere choking, environment killing?
i did some work on flexible solar membranes, alternate energy storage and lightweight architecture AND, one day walking down the street in Williamsburg, on a lunch break from my endeavor, i randomly saw a friend from college, Britta Riley. she was riding her bike along with a full size movie camera strapped to the back of it. i shouted at her. we talked. it turns out, she is building what she calls “vertical farms” or window farms, in Manhattan and Brooklyn. they are hydroponic curtain systems that hang in urban windows and allow a home occupant to grown her own food in the apartment or loft or otherwise urban dwelling, and offset the amount of groceries she has to buy at the store.
here’s Britta’s site:
i had known that she was doing some cool art programs and learning to be a hacker… so i went to visit one of her projects and helped her build it, and make it better (in terms of its construction):
and then, because i found the project so exciting, helped for about five days, building a large installation she was doing as part of an artists’ residency at eyebeam, in chelsea:
i became aware of the importance of making both a physical and an allegorical armature for a sustainable idea. these window farms captured my imagination in terms of their possible locations and sculptural/living value. they could live in restaurants permanently, and be used to grow herbs and light vegetables and be more as a display for what the restaurant is, a reminder of what’s going on when we eat… they could add art value, olfactory value, oxygen production value, etc. these farms could be in storefronts, galleries, homes, even outside, in dense urban environments where a “real” garden is not practical.
i love the form here.
i had the idea of making some of the planters out of glass, using a restaurant’s discarded wine bottles:
and making the armature out of copper and steel so that it has a permanence and artistic value that creates sculptural valor along with the idea of sustainability.