Currently reading Jim Harrison’s novella,”The Ancient Minstrel” a piece mostly drawn from Harrison’s later life. In continuation of an earlier blog post I wrote accounts about artists working in multiple art forms Harrison writes specifically of this experience when he stretched beyond writing poetry:
When he started writing prose too, at first it felt like he was committing adultery, but he soon recognized that if he was working on a novel he also wrote more poems. Poetry started the workday. Pasternak told us, “Revise your souls to frenzy.”
I continue to wonder how we make the work whole. It stands together, it stands on its own. The work is what comes of us when we are a part of the world. An expression of relationship
We all get knocked off center sometimes. We work hard to maintain level. We struggle to retain some quality of pre-knowing because it feels safe. But what does that knowledge and safety add up to?
Perhaps living on the edge is a better place to be. It’s not easy. It’s not comfortable. It certainly doesn’t feel safe. The waves are bigger. But the stars are brighter. The answers lie out there with our imagination.
I imagine that for most of us the experience of flight provides a sort of suspension . Suspension of time and body.
For me, on days when I’m not preparing for a lecture upon landing, there is a suspension of responsibility. Letting go of all the work that I left on the ground. A suspension that feels like being under water when I am snorkeling at a reef.
Just me and the beauty in the world. Out in it, if only briefly. Being. Fish and shelled creatures, life floating by. Sunlight hanging in the atmosphere of clouds, the birth of day as the sun grazes across the shapes of the earth below.
All just being.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen an active alleyway. But here they are in downtown Pittsburgh. Reminding me that we all have something rough and not so tidy hiding behind the smooth, upfront apprearnces of our lives.
Here, if we are lucky, we wrestle with the unresolved. The unkept, not quite figured out aspects of our selves. I’m walking around this small block, back and forth, witnessing the clean exterior and disheveled interior at the same time. Feeling the same in myself.
How do we learn to live like the flower? Graceful from beginning to end, beautiful everyday. From opening to closing, freshness to fading, but never useless or old. I want to learn how to be this way in the world. Full of peace at all times.
After a challenging Spring, a great Remote Studio, a lot of silence in my world of blogging, I’m reemerging. This morning the summer day brings cooler temps and some rain. Giving pause to everyone’s summer productivity. Rolled bales of hay rest in their field, baby turkey chicks take a short trek along the country road that leads away from my home.
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 inthe 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.
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.
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:
Just for visual reference your sleeping bag for the backcountry should “look” more like one of these:
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…
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:
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:
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.
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….
“The things we want are transformative , and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation . Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration – how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory , about becoming someone else ?”
A Field Guide to Getting Lost
I have spent a great part of my life on the edges of the known. In design, art, home, teaching…there is a certain solitary condition to being on the edge, the boundary that separates what you think you know from what you really know. Like Solnit, whose mantra is recognizable if you read enough of her, is about letting go, disappearing in order to discover yourself in the world , while also discovering the world …I teach from a similar philosophy .
Creative thinkers have this ability to imagine possibilities . Imagining another way of being, existence . From these contrivances comes the future. But the future is long ahead , no matter how soon we wish it would materialize . No great transformation comes over night , despite the moment of the epiphany. Dreaming requires commitment to bring a vision into a reality.