Tag Archives: ecology

Fun/ny Interview With Me on Vegan Hedonists

RE: my new self-published novel Orange Rain:

http://veganhedonists.com/blogs/interview-vegan-author-jan-smitowicz

januscript

Read about/purchase my novel here:

http://www.amazon.com/Orange-Rain-ebook/dp/B00DEJT83Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373314364&sr=8-1&keywords=smitowicz

The Power of Place: A Discussion with Derrick Jensen

Interview conducted in early 2010; I wanted to repost this for all my new friends/followers because I think it’s good and very important.  I know his work and his talks inside and out, so I tried to ask him many questions that he doesn’t normally get.  For further information about him or his work, see the links on the right side of my home page (“Actions Speak Louder than Words” and a link to his website/discussion forums)

JAN SMITH: The theme of this interview is a sort of tagline for my book:  rewild the west, and all the rest.

DERRICK JENSEN: I think it’s a hugely important work.  About twenty years ago I decided to go up to the Northwest Territories.  There was a road there that was really just unbroken forest for 300 miles, and I’ve never seen anything like it before.  It was really beautiful, but it also broke my heart, because of course that used to be the whole continent.  We can say the same thing about North Africa, we can say the same thing about Europe, we can say that same thing about the near East, we can say the same thing about Iraq, and so on.  There’s a phrase for this, something baseline, about how every generation remembers what it was like when we were kids, and how much worse it’s gotten, but we don’t remember how it was when our parents were kids.  There was a study that came out a year or two ago that migratory songbird populations have collapsed by 80% in the last 40 years in a lot of populations; bobwhites, whippoorwills, and so on, and that’s horrifying and terrifying; until I realized that 40 years ago was 1968, which is 10 years after Silent Spring.  Which means that they’ve already gone down 80% in 40 years, after they’d already gone down by 80%, and in the 1920s they were down 80%.  You know, we hear about it over and over no matter where; the passenger pigeons darkening the skies for days at a time—but we’ve also heard that was how Florida was, and Louisiana.  I tell this in my talks:  does anybody know why there are no penguins in the northern hemisphere?  There were—they were called great auks, but who remembers the great auks?

I think this project is incredibly important in terms of helping us to remember that we are fighting over scraps, and we shouldn’t be.  We should be living in intact natural communities.

JS: Right.  And the fight we have to fight shouldn’t be about fighting over scraps.  We shouldn’t say, “Don’t clearcut this 50 acres,” but then say nothing about the clearcutting of 2000 acres tomorrow.  We should say, “We want it all.”  And it’s really not about us, we’re not selfish, saying “GIMME, GIMME, GIMME!”  It’s that we humans—all humans—need it all, the natural world has its own rights, and the nonhumans need it all.  It’s about preserving life.

Now I want to get into this idea I’m calling the power of place.  You grew up in Colorado, right, and then moved to northern Idaho?

DJ: No, I moved from Colorado to Nevada for a couple years, then to northern Idaho, then eastern Washington, then here [Crescent City, California].

JS: Okay, so I kind of want to get a sense of why you moved to the different geographical areas in your life, and why.  There’s a lot of variation there.  Eastern Washington is high desert, which is very very different from the coastal redwood rainforest of Crescent City.  So what did you like and dislike about each area, and why did you move away to the new places?

DJ: Colorado because I finished college, and also because my father lived in Colorado, and I didn’t want to face the possibility of meeting him every time I went to the grocery store.  Also there’s way too many people.  I went to northeast Nevada because my sister lived there and I was starting up a beekeeping business, and that was a place I could find some pastures on which to put the bees.  But I got sick.  I moved to north Idaho because it was one of the prettiest places I’d ever seen.  Moved to eastern Washington because I went back to school.  And then moved to northern California because there were too many people in Spokane.  And I’d committed to living around my mom.  She wanted to live where there weren’t winters, and I wanted to live where there weren’t a lot of people.  This is what we came up with.  After I moved to Idaho I found that I’m very much a forest person; I never liked the desert, and I didn’t really like Colorado.  I have some fondness for it, but I’m very much a forest person.  I feel most comfortable there.

JS: So that place holds the most power over you.

DJ: Yeah.  And I’ve heard a lot about how we resonate with the landbases where we grew up, but in my case that wasn’t true.  Where I lived in Colorado was plains; plains are okay, but as soon as I moved to Idaho and then here I immediately felt at home.  I don’t know why.  I know when I go elsewhere it’s the same.  Like when I go to the deep south, to forests there, it’s very moving for me too.  Really forests anywhere.  I go to Los Angeles or San Diego and don’t feel at home.  I know people who absolutely love the desert and feel tremendous respect and awe and feel very much at home in the desert.  I can respect that, it’s just not me personally.

JS: So you’d feel out of place even when you went to natural areas in Spokane?

DJ: You know, Spokane is right near the edge of forests, and there were some forests right near where I lived.  It wasn’t thick forests like here; you can’t walk through these [redwood] forests, you have to go on a game trail.  In Spokane it was very open forests.

JS: After doing just a small bit of off-trail bushwacking in the forests of northern California last week, I posited that all this dark matter scientists say make up the majority of the mass in the universe might just be found somewhere in the redwood forests, they’re so dense.

DJ: Oh that’s funny.

JS: Do you think you’ll stay in northern California the rest of your life?  Do you think you’re at home and you’ll be happy staying there?

DJ: Well I’ll certainly stay the rest of my mom’s life.  I’m planning on staying here forever.  But you know, with global warming, I live at 17 feet elevation, so it could be underwater.  So I might be staying here for the rest of this forest’s life.  But we need to stop it before then.  I mean, who knows—I have no desire to leave.  But politically things are very bad and just getting worse in this country.  But I can’t see myself leaving, no, I’ll be here.

JS: You talked in one of your recent books about eco-tourism and jet-setting all over the place; you know, this week we can go to the Everglades, next week Glacier National Park, then the redwoods.  But you talked about vacationing at home in your bioregion; sticking to it, learning the intricacies of that place.  Why do you think it’s important to find a place you love and stick with it?

DJ: Well for a couple of reasons.  Actually I think where I liked writing about it best was in the zoo book [Thought to Exist in the Wild:  Awakening from the Nightmare of Zoos].  Because one of the things I say is that people go to these exotic places, or in this case, people go to zoos—one of the excuses for the existence of zoos is that we need to have a connection to wild animals.

JS: Such a joke.

DJ: And that’s true, but it’s not really a connection to wild animals if they’re in cages.  There’s another lesson to be learned there; if you want to see bears, you should live such that bears want to see you.  I think it’s a very very bad lesson to be teaching children especially:  that you can destroy a landbase but still see the bears on whose land you’re living.  So what I say there is that instead of going to a zoo, you should go outside and get to know the creatures who live in your home—even if you live in the city!  In Thought to Exist.., I thought, okay, I’m gonna go to the worst place in this entire area, the most life-unforgiving place and see what I see.  And I went to the McDonald’s parking lot.  There were some little landscaped bushes right next to highway, between Highway 101 and McDonald’s.  I sat there for about 30 seconds and I started seeing spiders, I saw sparrows hopping along the ground, I saw seagulls, I saw some bumblebees even though it’s a little cold.  Those beings are just as important and we need to get to know them.  As we’re doing this interview, it’s a little cold here and I’m starting a fire.  I’m putting some old scrap paper into the woodstove.  Just a moment ago, and I felt really bad about this because I didn’t see it before I put it in.  But there was this little tiny tiny spider that was living on this used scratch paper pile, and I accidentally burned it when I put it in the woodstove.  And my point is that even something as absolutely sterile as a box full of used scratch paper still has living beings in it.  This is not to say that, well, since they can live there, then that makes it okay that forests are destroyed.  I’m not saying that at all.  What I’m saying is that there’s life right next to us and we should get to know that.

There are a lot of problems I have with the whole eco-tourism thing; one is that it’s just the same sort of pornographic mindset that’s killing the planet; that it’s there for us to consume, whether we consume it through the timber industry or whether we consume it through our eyes.

JS: Loving it to death.

DJ: Well, it’s more like…I remember Linda Hogan years ago wrote about nature writers who go to Yucatan Peninsula and they end up writing about themselves.  You know, what do you know about the place?  Years ago, when I was in my twenties, I was at one point driving all over the place and I think in half a year I slept in 130 different places.  Most of the time just throwing my backpack down by the side of the road.  And I realized pretty quickly that for all I was driving around, I may as well just be sitting inside a small theater with different scenes projected onto the windshield.  Because I wasn’t getting to know any place at all.  Absolutely no knowledge obtained.  All you’d have to do is turn the car into a little theater and blow in some different scents—and it doesn’t really matter, you’re still you.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that years ago I interviewed Vine Deloria, and one of the things he talked about is how all his students at the University of Colorado, they’d go hiking over a weekend, and they thought they were connecting with nature.  But what he would say is they’re not, all they’re having is an aesthetic experience.  In order to really get to know a place, you have to live there for a really long time to start recognizing the patterns.  I’ve lived here for 10 years and I don’t know the patterns.  Recently there was a very bad year for banana slugs—they’re everywhere here—and it was a really bad year for them.  Was that a strange thing or was that a pattern?  And in this case they came back the next year.  I just noticed this last night—this year is a very good year for mushrooms.  Which is kind of odd because it’s been very dry until a couple days ago.  It also hasn’t been very cold; November is usually the coldest month here:  what does that mean?  I mean it takes a long time to start to see the patterns of who comes when.  And that’s true with human relationships too.  You can have this really amazing weekend affair that’s really passionate, and that’s one thing.  That’s also not the same as getting to know someone over a long time, it takes a long time just to know humans’ patterns.  Or to get to know a dog’s patterns, a dog’s preferences.  I live with this dog 24 hours a day and it still takes a long time for us to get to know each other.  How much more so when you have the additional complexity of all these different beings who are all just as sentient and alive as we are?  I mean the trees have just as much preferences as we do, and just as much of a subjective existence.  And to get to know them takes a long long time.  And of course that’s a good thing, that’s a fine thing.  It takes generations to really get to know a place.  I read somewhere about how some indigenous peoples, I don’t remember who, knew that martens make a major migration every six human generations or something.  How do you know that unless you’ve lived there long enough for that to have happened three or four times.  Once you’ve lived there for 18 human generations, then you might know that.

I just got a note a couple days ago; people always ask me if I will edit their work or if they can edit mine.  I always say no because I have to know someone really well before I feel comfortable with that.  If I were to edit a book of yours, what I would have to do is figure out what you want to say, and how you want to say it, and then help you to say it better.  And it takes a long time to get to know someone well enough to know what they want to say.  And to enter into those relationships.  It’s even more so if we don’t both speak English, or don’t both even speak human.  It takes a really long time to get to know another well enough to know what is in the others’ best interest.  I mean some things are pretty obvious—it’s not in a forest’s best interest to be clearcut, we can know that.  But what does a forest really want?

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The rest of this (extended) discussion can be found under both the BEST OF THE WEST header and the OTHER WRITINGS header above.  Thanks!

HERE  is a link to my review of Jensen’s book Lives Less Valuable.

HERE is a link to my review of his graphic novel As the World Burns:  50 Simple Things You Can Do To Stay in Denial

Pictorial Highlight: Humboldt! #2

Roosevelt elk mama

Forest Reflection, Gold’s Beach, Praire Creek.

Young baby elk in April 2009.

“Na-na-nana-na, you don’t have antlers!!”

There is magic even in the tiniest of organisms; this is just the fruit, the reproductive organ, of a vast underground network of mycelium…and fungi are closer genetically to animals than they are to plants. Ponder THAT one for a minute!

Joie de Rikki, Gold’s Beach.

The sun drops below the horizon, painting the sky with its light-brush from millions of miles away, and the chill ocean breeze picks up and it lifts mist from the crest of each wave, and you feel like every moment is rife with possibility, with the awe of being alive in such a beautiful place, with the responsibility to do something that learning to love such things places on you.  You feel inspired.  The night flings itself upon you.

Sitting on a beached log, of which there are countless here…

There is something ultimately primordial about the temperate redwood rainforests of northern Humboldt and of Del Norte Counties.  Not just the size of the trees, but the density, the fecundity, the lushness; it can take you 10 minutes to travel 30 feet off-trail in these forests; you step on what looks to be solid ground, and then sink waist-deep in foliage and plant matter and rotting wood!  You expect to see Brontosauri here, munching on the leaves of old-growth redwoods, whose branches don’t even begin until about 90 feet up.  The amount of LIFE here is staggering, staggering, and 96 percent of the northwest’s old-growth forests have been logged, poisoned with herbicides and fungicides and diesel fuel (so the poisons stick–for awhile, until they eventually runoff into the local watershed), turned into lifeless deserts or genetically-modified monocrop tree plantations or moonscapes; that is “PROGRESS”–desert behind, forest in front.  That is growth for the sake of growth, the ideology of the cancer cell.  That is industrial civilization, and it must be stopped before it kills everything.

Banana slug!

Redwood textures and colors. Disproving Reagan’s adage that once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all. Each is an individual.

This is the Arco Giant, technically located in Redwood National Park; it is the 10th largest coast redwood by volume.  I see a face, complete with green hair, on the right side of the tree–see it? The bottom of this picture is about halfway up the main trunk, where it splits–redwoods are prolific in their growth of “reiterated trunks.” Basically when the top of the main trunk is damaged, it sprouts a new “trunk” that then rockets toward the sunlight. The most architecturally complex tree in the world is Illuvatar, located somewhat near this tree, with 220 (!!) reiterated trunks.

One of the most amazing books ever created (it is not just writing, but pictures and fantastically skilled drawings by the author) is Forest Giants of the Pacific Coast  by Robert Van Pelt.  Very highly recommended!

Another darling baby elk and his mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Theme: RED

Red–passion, blood, iron oxide, a lack of chlorophyll in the case of the Snow Plant, and this week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s Where’s My Backpack? blog.

Death Valley.

The magnificent ocotillo plant, this individual flowering in Joshua Tree National Park.

Stunning geology and iron oxide and sedimentary stratification in Red Rock Canyon State Park, in the northern Mojave Desert of California.

Snow Plant in Yosemite National Park; they apparently “supplement [their] nutrient intake by at least partially parasitizing the roots of pine trees by means of a shared mycorrhizal fungus.” (Info found HERE)

Seqoiadendron Giganteum individual in Sequoia National Park, with me for frame of reference. The most voluminous trees in the world.

FROM ONE: Artist Lisa Korpos

This is the first installment of a new series I’m starting, called From One:  Artist Profiles of people doing counter-cultural work, using their creative gifts–whether that be photography, drawing, painting, writing, tattooing, et. al.–to raise awareness of important social justice issues, especially ecology and the unsustainability of the dominant culture.

I first became aware of Lisa Korpos’s work at the house of my good friends Luke and Terra, whom I met in New Orleans doing post-Katrina relief work; strangely, Luke was the first person I talked to when I arrived in December of 2005 in New Orleans, and it turned out he also came from Orange County in southern California!  Not only that, we both returned independently at the same time in March of 2006!  Since then we’ve developed a profound friendship.  Anyway, there was this amazing piece of artwork hanging on their wall about deforestation called Memories of an Old Oak Tree:

This was one of the most profound pieces of art I’d ever seen; deforestation is the environmental issue that hits me hardest, as I connect with forests  probably more than any other ecosystem (read Derrick Jensen and George Draffan’s seminal Strangely Like War:  The Global Assault on Forests).  I asked Terra about it, and she told me how it was created from all recycled/reclaimed materials by her friend Lisa Korpos.  About this piece, Lisa says:

It’s meant to really put a humanizing touch on the whole problem of deforestation.  I think that oftentimes, people write off environmental problems as something sort of distant–they feel detached from them.  So I wanted to get everyone really, personally engaged by allowing them to see from the perspective of a tree, as if it were a cognizant, sentient being.  The illustrated panels are each supposed to be a foggy memory of this old oak:  From the misty landscape of the tree’s home, to the scene of the cruel logger lunging at it with a chainsaw, to the scene of the paper mill, and so forth–it all tells the tree’s story. Even the base of the artwork itself gradually shifts from branches & leaves to processed wood planks, symbolizing the tree’s transformation.  At the very bottom of the piece, on a piece of plywood, it says, poignantly, “I miss being a tree.”  It’s a final reminder to drive home the point that this was once a living organism; that we shouldn’t be so quick to forget the origins of so many things we use.

Then Terra (who has a wonderful blog, Preserving Terra, about canning and preserving fruits and vegetables–a skill whose value, especially with the impending ecological collapse, cannot possibly be over-estimated) informed me that Lisa is also a tattoo artist.  Then Terra showed me some of Lisa’s tattoo work–on her back!

Note: This tattoo is *NOT* finished–all the flowers will be colored in when it’s done, but this gives you an idea of the incredible tats Lisa produces!

Luke and Terra knew that I’ve long wanted a tattoo(s), but that I’d just been released from prison, so had no money.  They contacted Lisa and funded my getting one as a sort of Get-Out-of-Prison-Free present, and three days later, the day before I left for home in northern California, it was done!  You can see pictures of my Pink Floyd “Shine On, You Crazy Diamond” tattoo, and its profound meaning to me, partly in connection to my brother David (who killed himself at my age, 27), on my post, “Tattoos and Suicide.”  One of the great things about Lisa is that she doesn’t just talk the talk (or….paint the paint? Heh.)  She is vegan, and uses vegan tattoo ink–those are just two of the things she does to promote a better world, in addition to using her art to inspire and awaken  =)

This next piece is called “PROGRESS?”  It was done on a reclaimed brown paper bag, as part of her Brown Paper Bag HeART prismacolor series:

“This one,” Lisa writes, “is about how wildlife is forced to adapt to destruction of [their] habitat and the introduction of human contaminants into environments that were once pristine. It’s all symbolized by the hermit crab abandoning [his or her] shell to live in a rusty can of [his or her] own, long-dead shrimp brethren.”

Beautiful, touching, and heartbreaking, all at once.

Canary’s Out of the Coal Mine, pastels on recycled cardboard.

“The meaning in this one is pretty self-evident. Kind of a play on the old canary-in-the-coal-mine adage.”  This one is my favorite of her ecological-themed artwork, aside from the tree sculpture.

I also wanted to hear Lisa’s take on a couple important questions; part of an artist’s job amidst this culture of occupation and death is to use it to further social justice issues.

JAN:  Was there a defining moment for you where you thought, “This culture is FUCKED.  I have to do something with my artwork to challenge the dominant culture’s myths.”  Was there a watershed moment that made you decide to do what you do?

LISA:  I don’t think there was any definitive, watershed moment, no. My sensitization to our civilization’s problems was a gradual process.  What concerns me in this world is all the hurt, injustice and oppression happening, and my art is just a natural extension of that concern. I have many, many moments when I think, “this culture is FUCKED,” but it’s a repetitive cycle of anger, and that  cynicism doesn’t lead to creativity. It’s on the upswing, when I’m feeling optimistic, that I can channel all that internalized outrage into something constructive instead.

JAN:  Some people would say art–any kind of art, including writing–is a passive act of resistance to the murder of billions of animals and destruction of the biosphere.  Symbolic resistance.  A passive act.  What would you say to that?

LISA:  All forms of activism are all equally vital, passive or not.  We need to adopt an open-minded, multifaceted approach when it comes to confronting our planet’s ecological & socio-economic problems!  Perhaps painting a picture or writing a book isn’t as bad-ass as throwing molotov cocktails at some corporate building.  So be it.  Creative endeavors (particularly ones interwoven with social commentary) should not be underestimated in their power to change minds.  Isn’t this what we need, at the end of the day?  For more people to be more conscious and caring?  I don’t think the fear-mongers and war hawks at Fox News are going to encourage anybody to be more compassionate.  I don’t think the slew of KFC advertisements on TV are going to convince anybody to contemplate the suffering of chickens in factory farms.  With a massive, corporate-owned media that’s already zombified so many people, the responsibility lies on our shoulders, alone, to bring back a little sense and rationality to the conversation.  It’s a heavy burden, but it’s ours. So, sure, maybe artmaking is a passive form of activism.  But it can change minds, and that’s always, always the first step. [emphasis added]

Incredibly, Lisa has also used her own body as a canvas for her work!  Apparently it’s a tradition among tattoo artists that the first tattoo they get is self-done.  When she was 17, Lisa tattooed her animal friend Echo on her calf:

Lisa rescued Echo while she was traveling, and they became constant companions:

She was the most incredible little friend & traveling companion a girl could ever hope for…we traveled together, from Portland all the way to the East coast, and then back home to Orange County. I managed to sneak her through Greyhound and countless subway security checks just to get her back home with me.

Outside of those few incidents when I had to hide her in my bra, I never even bothered trying to keep her confined. She never really left my side, even though I was sleeping in parks and on rooftops, and she had every opportunity to. She always understood that being close to me meant safety and warmth, so she stuck close and gave lots of kisses.

That little rat saw more of the country than a lot of humans have, and I was always so grateful for her company.

If you know me you know I’ve had rescued ratties continuously (except during prison, of course) for the last 6 years, so I can totally dig and attest to what Lisa’s saying.

Serrendipitously, Lisa and I grew up literally within half a mile–at most–from each other!!  I plan to get more tattoos from her in the future (if I’m ever not flat-broke!); she gives incredibly fair rates and, as you can see, does a wonderful job.  If you’re interested in getting some body-art done by her, she’s currently in the process of opening up a shop in Costa Mesa and if you would like to schedule a tattoo consultation or appointment for the future, you can contact her through her facebook  or e-mail, which is riot-bunny@hotmail.com.

Thank you, Lisa–for my tattoo, for using your talents to raise awareness about ecological issues and raise people’s consciousnesses (and consciences) in general–which is all desperately needed–and for your patience and help in developing this profile.

If you’re going to get a tattoo, get it from Lisa!–not only will you be supporting a counter-cultural vegan who’s in the process of building her career, you will get vegan ink, and YOU WILL GET AN INCREDIBLE TATTOO!!  And please let her know if you do that Jan sent you =)

Explore Your Bioregion!

Today I was feeling extremely depressed; among other reasons, both situational and neuro-chemical, my third novel, Redwood Falls, was rejected by what I and many others who’ve read the book thought would be the *PERFECT* publisher for it, Ashland Creek Press (they’re actively seeking eco-literature).  My work has been rejected hundreds of times and I’ve developed pretty thick skin, but this one really stung hard.  It truly seemed like the perfect match.  I wonder if the material was too radical for them?  It’s going to take somebody with serious chutzpah to publish Redwood Falls, as it involves tree-spiking, knocking down power lines, sabotaging railroad tracks, and bombing oil refineries–a sort of modern-day Monkey Wrench Gang, but more radical (more extreme ecological problems demand more “extreme” methods of combating the problems!), and with more of a literary bent–I’m not saying my book is better than The Monkey Wrench Gang, I’m just saying the narrator Foster is a tortured writer whose mother (a painter) will do ANYTHING she can to keep him from writing, because she is terrified he will end up an addict or a suicide, like so many other writers and creative people in general.

My apologies for the tangent; it somehow felt relevant.  So I decided that I needed a little time in nature to soothe my tormented psyche.  I took my shirt off (gotta get dat Vitamin D!), leashed up Rikki, and walked the half mile to a nice spot at the nearby Sonoma creek.  It was so very peaceful and cathartic and healing.  I sat in the calm, cool water.  I threw stikkis for Rikki.  She chewed on them, and I watched her nosh at the creek side salad bar, as she is wont to do.  There was a 20-foot blackberry bush overhanging the edge of the creek at one place; I found some of the ripe ones and ate them straight off the branch.  They were exquisitely sweet and juicy and just a tad tart.  There’s nothing like picking and eating wild berries right off the plant.  Some of them I ate straight up, some I dipped in the creek to clean off–I wonder which is better?  My mom is always worried I’ll get giardia, because I make a point of at least tasting, if not drinking, all fresh water I swim in that seems reasonably clean.  Hey, I’m a mostly-healthful-eating vegan–hence I’ve got a dynamite immune system, and the creek and river and stream water hasn’t hurt me yet!  It’s probably less dangerous than drinking most municipal tap water, given the prevalence of flouride (an INDUSTRIAL BYPRODUCT of fertilizer manufacturing) and chlorine and other pollutants.

Beautiful rock I came across in the creek.

 

My favorite part, though, was when I sat on a little boulder jutting out of the creek side and stuck my feet and shins in the water.  Dozens and dozens of minnows, beautiful, graceful little fish, came up and began nibbling on my toes and feet and legs.  It tickled a little, but felt nice, too.  It had been a couple days since I showered, so they were probably munching off bits of dead skin (Your first reaction is probably, “Gross!”  But truly, it’s a beautiful thing!)  I felt very connected to my local ecosystem in that moment, with juice from the blackberries still sweet on my tongue and the sun heating my bare flesh and my legs pleasantly cool in the water.  And that is so important.  I’ve been to National Parks and felt less connected to the place than I did to this relatively meager little locale; and yet it’s close enough for me to walk to, even with my fucked up knees.  We don’t need to travel far (and soon enough, when automobile culture “crashes,” we won’t hardly be able to!)–to have a marvelous nature experience.  Get to know your local bioregion; it may be the difference between Life and Death when our umbilical cord to industrial water and food is severed by ecological collapse.

I also picked up trash–EVERY DAY is nature clean-up day when you’re an Environ-meddler!!  I ended up with three plastic grocery bags (one of which I was able to salvage to pick up Rikki’s turds with), a big plastic garbage bag, an unidentifiable chunk of clear plastic, bottle caps, an Arrowhead plastic water bottle (think about that one for a second and you might glean one of the pathologies of civilization), an aluminum beer can, and a whole fucking folding chair, buried in about two inches of mud and rocks on the creek side–who knows how long it’s been there!  And it’s still in perfect working order, I might vinegar the shit out of that bitch and bring it home for the porch!

Doing all that made me think that, when you get right down to it, a big part of environmentalism is cleaning up the SHIT–literal and figurative–left behind by the assholes who came before us.  Whether that shit is actual shit, or nuclear waste, or pollution in the air/water/soil, that’s what it comes down to.  (If you want to learn more about what industrial humans leave behind, I highly recommend What We Leave Behind  by Jensen and McBay, and Garbage Land  by Elizabeth Royte.)

But this is the absolutely essential part, so PAY ATTENTION!:  It is not enough to merely clean up the shit left behind by humans.  Because we can never get it all!  What we have to do is ***STOP THE SHIT FROM BEING MANUFACTURED IN THE FIRST PLACE.***  In other words, if we want life on Earth to continue with any kind of diversity, we MUST hinder the smooth functioning of industrial syphilization, with the ultimate goal of dismantling it wholesale.  That’s it.  That’s the only way we’re going to stop the current Mass Extinction of plants and animals underway, caused by industrial civilization.

Rikki, NOT pleased at the prospect of a post-creek bath.

Extinction Explosion

It’s long past time to use our lives as a monkeywrench in the gears of civilization.  This is calamitous.  WAKE UP!!  www.DeepGreenResistance.org/dew

From the Earth First! Newswire blog:

Extinction Explosion.

Pictorial Highlight: Mono Basin #2

I was only planning on doing a single Mono Pictorial, but a couple weeks ago I finagled myself a tremendous opportunity:  David Carle (whom I quote in the first Mono Pictorial), agreed to meet with me for an interview!  We emailed back and forth about it a couple years ago before I got locked up, but it never panned out because of my legal troubles.  But he remembered me, and agreed to meet with me on my way down to Southern California–the next day!!  So I had to haul ass and leave a day early, drive through Yosemite–and barely stop at all in that cathedral of wonders, because I was running late–to meet with him on time.  He even let me crash at his place, which was wonderfully kind and compassionate (I would’ve otherwise had to try to sleep in the trunk and back seat of my tiny Corolla, which would’ve been liquid hell on my knees and back).  AND he gave me free copies of his two novels!  I plan to review Spotting Scope, his newest, hopefully for print publication.

Anyway, I got some gorgeous pictures and information to go along with it, as Mr. Carle was with me most of the time.  Hope you enjoy!  (Terrific interview and Spotting Scope review to come in due time)

This tufa is at least half a mile away; notice the peregrine falcon nest on the leftmost rise, with baby atop! The ridges in the background are a couple of the Mono Craters.

Sunset, tufa, and almost-full moon!

I think this is a Ptarmigan, in the Grouse family; this individual I spotted in Rock Creek Canyon.

The Mono Lake Committee, of which I am a former and future member, does TREMENDOUS work.  I have three of their bumper stickers (which they give away for free at their Center in Lee Vining, right across from Mono) on my car.  Here is a link to their information about Mono Lake/Basin birds.  It is a great organization that does a huge amount for the imperiled Mono Lake.

Phalaropes on the northern shore of Mono. Many thousands of them (both Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalaropes) stop off at Mono on their annual migration…

“Of all the birds that come to Mono Lake, the Wilson’s Phalarope stands out as the hardiest traveler.  These small shorebirds, not much larger than a fist, arrive at Mono Lake in mid-summer after breeding in the northern U.S. and southern Canada.  At Mono Lake they molt their feathers and double their weight after several weeks. By the middle of September they have mysteriously disappeared. Leaving in stages during the cover of darkness, they depart for a journey that takes them all the way to South America. The fact that these birds fly over 3,000 non-stop miles to South America is amazing enough, but what is truly astonishing is how fast these little birds reach their destination–an unbelievable 3 days!”   [emphasis added]

-From the Mono Lake Committee

South shore tufa and, in the background, one of the main islands in Mono, called Paoha–itself a volcano! It therefore has tons of geothermal activity, including hot springs–I dream of one day canoeing the 3-4 miles out there and spending the night on Paoha.

Blazing Star wildflower near south shore. David Carle said he’d never seen such a large “grove” of these flowers in the vacinity, dozens of bunches of them. What a special time for me to happen to be in Mono!

Doing the “Mono Float.” The water is so dense with salt and other minerals that it holds you up with no effort on your part. An amazing feeling like no other.

This shows some of the strangeness of the lakeshore.

See the black band in the middle-bottom of the picture?  Those are a few thousand of the literally TRILLIONS of alkali flies at Mono, specially adapted to survive, in a symbiotic relationship with the brine shrimp, with Mono’s unique chemistry.  According to Carle, scientists recently determined that Mono Lake is, in terms of sheer biomass produced, the most biologically productive lake in the WORLD.

“Sand Tufa” near the south shore. You have to know a little bit about these amazing structures to heighten your appreciation…

The underground springs bubbling up minerals contribute to forming these hard, hollow tubes that form the sand tufa.

Sand Tufa “grove” and the mighty Sierra Nevadas in the background!

Rock Creek Canyon.

Until next time, hope you enjoyed this week’s Pictorial Highlight of the Mono Basin, one of my most beloved bioregions of this incredible part of the our amazing Earth.

Pictorial Highlight: Mono Basin

The Mono Basin, whose grandeur includes but is most definitely not limited to the famous Mono Lake, is one of my absolute favorite places.  It has so many stunning features.  Hopefully I capture and convey some of them to you, Dear Reader, with these pictures.

The “suds” seen on the bottom of this picture are from the incredible alkalinity of the lake; it’s like swishing around saltwater and baking soda!

The magnificent tufa formations are comprised mainly of calcium carbonate, formed when underground springs bubble up with minerals, coalescing and hardening and growing over thousands of years.  Mono Lake is one of the most unique lakes in the world; it was birthed from nearby geologic activity over 1,000,000 years ago!  David Carle is one of the foremost authorities (and writers) on Mono Lake and California ecology in general, and one of my inspirations for The Rewild West, my narrative nonfiction book for which I’m slowly gathering experience and research and material, of which this blog is a part.  Here’s a terrific piece Carle wrote about the tufa.  As he says therein, “Sure, a picture is worth a thousand words, but the real thing is always worth a thousand pictures….words strain to do [the tufa formations] justice.”

In the background is the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park, the eastern Sierra Nevadas.

Atop Panum Crater, with the lake in the background. Mono is rimmed by numerous craters; the last eruption was about 600 years ago.

I love the phenomenal little trees growing out of the incredibly harsh, unforgiving landscape of a rocky crater!

The formation on the left is, appropriately, called Obsidian Dome…

…and here’s what the beautiful rocks look like up close. They are literally made of cooled-off MAGMA! The time scale on which nature operates is so humbling and fascinating. During the time it took for this piece of rock to form from a hot spewing volcano, civilizations have been built and fallen, empires have risen and collapsed; before wind and snow and rain erodes it much more, the current global empire of industrial civilization will crumble and collapse. Oh how I yearn for it to begin in earnest…

Rikki enjoying herself near a 30-foot tufa formation.

Given the propensity of geothermal activity in the Basin, that means lots of hot springs!! This one was scalding (as you can see), so we stayed away–but nearby in the river there bubbled up some nice warm water in which to get naked =)

This shows Negit Island (which also supposedly has lots of geothermal activity going on), one of the two main islands within Mono Lake; this photo and the next were taken from the mountain pass about 1,000 feet above the lake.

Arrow-leaved balsom root flowers and mountains directly west of Mono Lake.

Thank you for viewing!  Nothing compares to the real thing though…hope you enjoyed this week’s Pictorial Highlight ❤

Let Loose–A Pictorial

Sometimes you just gotta go out in nature and have some fun!!  This is gonna be a pictorial blog of some recent fun times and beautiful things in the San Francisco Bay Area   🙂

These are about the size of a roma tomato 🙂

There’s nothing like Rikki on the beach to demonstrate freedom and joie de vivre.

On the path to Kehoe Beach at Point Reyes in Marin County.

Yellow Lupine (in background) on the way to Kehoe.

VEGAN POWER!!

Rikki just LOVES them stikkis!

She wants me to throw the stick, but she doesn’t want to let go!  So you see my trick (notice the 15-foot marks behind her):  I drag her toward the water, until she finally lets go because she doesn’t want to go in the water on my terms  😀

Somtimes you just HAVE to get wet…even if the water is FREEEEEZING!!

Baby tule elk with momma(s)–they made the most ADORABLE squeaking sounds!!

Gorgeous swimming spot on the lower Eel River.

You just gotta get nekkid in the water whenever possible! I call this, “Accidentally-Strategically Placed Arm.”

You can build the fence, but you can’t stop the flowers from growing. Life finds a way.

This is the “Woodpecker Tree.”

Wild turkeys near where I live.