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Reading Leopold

Louisiana Wetlands

Louisiana Wetlands at Sunset

I fell in love with the wetlands of Louisiana in part because I read Aldo Leopold, and in part because the grasses that wave against the blue sky of the Gulf remind me of the grasslands of the Great Plains of North America, which brings me back to the legacy of Aldo Leopold. I don’t use the word LOVE as a simple term, but as a description for that deep feeling we have when someone, thing, or experience moves our soul. That sense that we have when we believe we have found meaning in our world where so little existed before.

But this takes me a bit off-course, and the course I intend to take you on is the ground breaking trajectory of Aldo Leopold. Actually we will explore, his words, thoughts, and the legacy of Aldo Leopold.

As every Remote Studio begins, so will this one in the summer of 2015, with the reading of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, with Essays on Conservation from Round River. Even if you don’t realize it today, in a a few weeks you will. You will understand the great debt you owe Leopold for the places we call wilderness today, for the endangered species that are protected, for the idea that poetry can be found and experienced on the land, and then written about, and shared with all of us. That the fast paced day you spent online, driving in traffic, and answering texts, can be slowed down and valued relative to the place you find yourself: with the experience of sun, wind, scent and birdsong.

And if you wonder why we would be reading a book written by an activist (although he may not have called himself such) in 1949 , you only need to read the book to learn. The obviousness of this request will appear as you understand how necessary words written sixty-six years ago are in 2015.

Aldo Leopold’s book, the whole book, will be discussed at the end of the first week of Remote Studio, a week of hiking and making, with very little time for sitting still. To give yourself the opportunity to savor his words, thoughts, and to commit to your future, I recommend that you start reading the book before Remote Studio begins. And to take notes, and to write notes to yourself and underline passages you value in the book.Live in the book.  And perhaps someday, if you pay attention you will have a place you love, too.

From this place that Leopold provides we begin our journey with Remote Studio, and the understanding of why architects so desperately need to know the world as he saw it.

 

 

 

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Sleeping Well

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Over the years of sleeping in the backcountry I have learned what  provides for the best sleep. First, to be exhausted provides for a good night sleep, and not so much worry about the squirrel running around outside your tent in the middle of the night. Sleeping next to a creek is great, too. The running water lulls you to sleep.

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A tent appropriate to the conditions is also helpful. The conditions could be anything from waking up with 6 inches of snow on top of your tent, or balmy summer weather that only requires a fly or no tent – as long at there are NO mosquitoes.

What you sleep in plays a part- is it super cold and you need to sleep in everything you brought ? Or warm enough and you can get by with just your shorts?

But the two most important is the sleeping pad and the sleeping bag. So here are some guidelines to consider before you invest in what you hope will provide fora great night sleep.

First, do not think you are going to get away cheap on the bag. Unless you can borrow a good bag  one from someone, its gonna cost you. If the bag you are looking at looks like this, you definitely need to re-think your sleeping bag assumptions for the back country:

Backyard sleeping

Backyard Sleeping

Just for visual reference your sleeping bag for the backcountry should “look” more like one of these:

 

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These sleeping bags are lighter weight, more fitted to your body so that your body needs to generate less energy to heat the space of the bag, which keeps you warmer in the night. Sleeping bags are rated for the temperature you will be sleeping in, so think about the temperature lows in the mountains, or look them up on the web if you don’t know. You can expect 20’s, could be colder or a bit warmer. You can boost your warmth by wearing more clothes while sleeping. My bag for late spring/early summer backpacking is a 10 degree bag. It keeps me toasty in June.  To learn more about the type of sleeping bag you should be looking for take a look at the following links. And note, that when they describe the best bags they distinguish between the car camping sleeping bag and a backcountry bag. To be warm in your tents in the Rocky Mountains you will want to have a back county bag…

http://www.theactivetimes.com/best-sleeping-bags-backyard-and-backcountry-camping/

Check out these best- sleeping bag options:

http://www.theactivetimes.com/best-sleeping-bags-2013

Another reason I am warm when I sleep in the backcountry is because of the sleeping pad. The sleeping pad is not only a good cushion for sleeping on, but the type of “cushioning” provides insulation between yourself and the cold earth. Think about it this way, your body is warmer than the Earth at this time of year, so the cold ground just sucks the body warmth right out of you. Your body is jus like a building, without good insulation between you and the outside, your body warmth just escapes….

I do not recommend this type:

roll pad

If it rolls or folds, it is a solid material. They are bulky, hard to pack and less insulative.

Instead, consider one that looks like this:

pads

These hold air in them, which provides greater insulation value, flexes more with your body and is much smaller when packing. This brand show, Alps is good, but there are many others, and they come in lots of colors. If you can afford one that supports the full length of your body that is best because your feet won’t be cold in the middle of the night.

 
sleeping pads

This image gives you a good understanding of the difference in scale between a folding or rolled piece of foam and the pad that can be inflated on-site.

 

Consider warmth and comfort, not just in sleeping , but for the miles you will be hauling all the gear into the backcountry camp up into the mountains. The important point it that you will be hiking “UP” in altitude – and big difference from walking with heavy gear on flat ground….

 

 


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The arrival of Artemis

Artemis, protector of the wild

Artemis, protector of the wild

 

How you understand the World has a lot to do with your personal mythology. A fact I didn’t think of specifically until I met Sambo Mockbee. He had many lessons to teach, more than just the necessity of architecture. One of these lessons was how his active imagination passed through his personal narrative, his own mythology that resulted in how he lived his life. Sambo, if you spoke to him much, would let you know, life all came down to the mother goddess.

From his vivid mythology I began to recognize my own. And I also recognized the importance and empowerment of living my mythology. From living our mythology our Truth comes alive. A few years after this recognition I came upon the need to mark the earth, to leave a name, a call to being. This call was the need to create notification for the non-profit I was founding. It did not take me long to determine it’s name: Artemis Institute. 

Depending which era you rely on for the classical gods and goddesses, Artemis has a different role in the World. I choose the ancient and original responsibility she was given. Artemis, while she has expansive responsibilities, is the protector of the wilderness. She is not the Roman’s Diana, the protector of the Hunt, or those who are hunting. Artemis is deep in the woods, soft in the moss, hanging in the leaves, blue in the sky, watching for all the living creatures…remembering for us what today we forget and ignore: the need for the wild, the need to retain our own wildness. She is a protector, she is the magic that lies in our ancient memories of life before roads, buildings, and timekeeping. If we choose to honor and protect the wild, the wildness and the wild in ourselves – we are living the myth of Artemis. We are making real the magic of an idea of how to be in the world.


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Dreaming of Utah

Utah, South of Moab

Utah, land of dreams

I have been dreaming of Utah these past nights. Not those kind of dreams you have when you are wishing you could go somewhere. Not the melancholy type. But the kind of dreams that are had from experience, when your subconscious is so full of an experience that it pours out of you after you have had it. The dreaming is rich of the landscape. They are not full of saga or people, or any far-fetched narrative. They are full of the place, the feelings, textures, smells, and colors. Every night after I close my eyes I relive the place. The overwhelming beauty.

I have never had such realistic and vivid dreams before of a real place, portrayed in a true and actual dynamic. I am wondering what this means for my psyche. Have I found my spirit home? Or was the experience simply overpowering that my subconscious is relishing the intensity of the memories?

Utah. I await the next adventure.

 

rain falls on Utah, the mist of magic

rain falls on Utah, the mist of magic


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Desert Land next Stop

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I have been in many places across this landscape of Utah, visited it’s canyons, rivers, plateaus and rock formations. But never for as long as I will when leading Quest. So today I begin the great “count down” for departure. In planning the trip I referred to the Utah Gazeteer, map book extraordinaire. But the scale of the plateau of southeastern Utah is immense and leaves me with only a fragmented sense of this expanse of landscape. I wanted a map that would guide me across this place that I could look at whole. I chose a map to order sight unseen, yet thinking it would reveal the mystery as a whole . Today as I review the readings the program participants and I will read encamped on some mystical spot of sandstone I unfold the map. Ha! The map covers the southern edge of the area in question. But the northern portion if the area I am interested to study is not to be found . Looking back to the map guide selection , you know the little overlapping boxes that denote which map covers what area, I realize the map I want does not exist! Maps ring the area in question , but not the place. And that is the magic of the upcoming journey. Seeing, feeling, touching, smelling for ourselves that power of a landscape we do not know from reading a map or previous experience. Soon the days will be of this journey, dust trailing behind us as we get to know the mystery.


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Remote Studio: Basic Philosophy of the Program

Willow Wall

Before you arrive, I want to give you a little bit of context on this studio. I assume everyone has reviewed Remote Studio on the Artemis Institute web site. If not, you should. You will be better prepared to learn and discuss the more you understand the program. Read some of my essays on the website if you have the time. In brief, the Remote Studio and its format are developed out of ideas for teaching design from previous experiences and my PhD research. The program is an alternative to the abstract-rationalistic and scientific organization of teaching that pervades university programs. The course sequence will be orchestrated through hands-on, first person experiences from which each of you will gain unique and personal knowledge. One of the primary focuses is to help students re-engage with the rest of the world and the intuitive intellect. It is my belief that a good way to proceed is to provide students with inspiring and unknown environments, where their expectations have not been specified with “what to expect” lectures, and pragmatic projects. I also believe that the best way to understand your ideas is not through mock or “virtual” projects, but through hands-on immediate projects that are the intentional result of your imagination and reflections. We will discuss these ideas at length during the semester.

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With these interests in mind I ask you to understand and accept that the studio may not always run smoothly, not only due to the nature of this type of educational model, but because of the context of real life: clients, weather, materials, people, etc. Certain dates will be scheduled such as the trips, but the itinerary for the trips will not be completely delineated. Sometimes the weather does not cooperate and we change the dates of hikes. The small individual project schedule (called vessels) and reading will be fairly well determined, but are always subject to change if we decide they just are not serving us best, or discussions need to be shifted to accommodate clients or weather. If you are some one who requires notification of a complete plan this studio process may put you on edge. From this experience it is possible you will learn something new about yourself. It is important that studio members communicate well with one another, this means good communication with me and anyone assisting you from the Artemis Institute. If we have good communication we will learn the most from one another.

 

If you are reading about Remote Studio for the first time learn more at : artemisinstitute.org