Whenever I am forced, as I have been this last month, to sit at my desk, unrelentingly, working and reworking someone else’s written product, ad infinitum, to the exclusion of all other thought, like a convict chained to a ball, I become a tad, shall we say, snarly. A titch unfriendly. I go about my work and chores with my head downcast, teeth clenched, dreaming at night about being made human sacrifice by alien overlords. When finally, in that dream, I saw my friends running free across a heartless desert while I floated balloon-like overhead wearing a dress of barbed wire and white toile, I felt serenely happy they had been released and deeply sad I couldn’t be with them. JESUS H. ROOSEVELT CHRIST! I began reading Vietnam War novels again. I knew the Thai dish Evil Jungle Princess had been named for me personally. Last week I could have taken on the entire Vietnamese fucking army singlehandedly and won. Handsfuckingdown. Just give me the goddamned machine gun and take off the fucking safety if the thing even has one.
But today the sun is out and the project is off my desk and it has stopped raining and I can think again and speak without scowling and its warm enough to have on a short skirt and my hair is down and I am sweetness and light again. So yes, I am well. Going through revolutions of ridding myself of needless clutter, cleaning out a writing room, and preparing to shift gears.
A newly released state geologist report puts half my house in the “High Danger Zone,” meaning, I suppose, that I can spend half the night sleeping in peace and half lying awake contemplating my great investment’s current market value
• “Yes, Ma’am, the Trails are Safe, but I Can’t Guarantee the Geology”
As Trail Crew Foreman Dan Blackwell once said to a Grand Canyon hiker who stopped to inquire. After Rockville’s fatal rockfall and Washington’s fatal mudslide, one has to wonder what’s going on. The New York Times’ Timothy Egan wonders too.
• Winter Solstice 2013
A tribute to our friends Maureen Morris and Jeff Elsey killed in the Rockville rockfall
A tree’s year rings are analysed for strength, thickness and rate of growth. This data serves as basis for a generative process that outputs piano music. It is mapped to a scale which is again defined by the overall appearance of the wood (ranging from dark to light and from strong texture to light texture). The foundation for the music is certainly found in the defined ruleset of programming and hardware setup, but the data acquired from every tree interprets this ruleset very differently.
In my last blog, I posted, without much personal comment, an image and link to Photographer Marc Garanger’s stunning photographs of Algerian women taken in the 1960s. I found these images shocking, having never seen anything like them, from that time or now. I found them more surprising than seeing raw, but ubiquitous nakedness, twisted pornography, or horrific war images. What I saw in the photographs was deep anger, subversion, a keeping-of-self beyond what could be done to one’s exterior. I saw the future in the making.
In this Vimeo, Garanger speaks passionately about his 1960 portraits of Algerian women “Femme Algérienne,” shot 1960—62 during the French/Algerian War, under duress (both his and theirs), for identity cards.
Garanger, forced to make the women show their faces in public, often for the first time, turned an act of cultural imperialism into a raw depiction of beauty and sublime dignity. Garanger returned to Algeria four decades later to foster a discussion within the same communities around these photographs.
Marc Garanger received the New York Photo Festival Lifetime Achievement Award.
Directed and Edited by Sebastien Cros
Sound and Music by Johann Levasseur
Production UKOSO 2010
I can’t recall how I stumbled on these images on the web, but I’m glad I did. I find them haunting. I have been on a Vietnam War reading streak lately (more in a future post), and couldn’t help think of these women in that context.
In the Time Magazine online article about Marc Granger’s images, photo historian and poet Carole Naggar wrote:
“For France, the trauma of the Algerian War (1954-1962) was not unlike the experience of the Vietnam War for the United States. But, unlike the conflict in Vietnam, few photographic documents exist from that period in Algeria: it is as if the French responded with collective amnesia. Marc Garanger’s Algerian Womenis one of the few photographic essays dedicated to that painful period.
“In 1960, Garanger, a 25-year-old draftee who had already been photographing professionally for ten years, landed in Kabylia, in the small village of Ain Terzine, about seventy-five miles south of Algiers. Like many politically engaged young men, he had put off his departure for the army as long as possible, hoping that the war would end without him. He was soon selected as his regiment’s photographer.
“General Maurice Challes, head of the French army, attacked the mountain villages occupied by two million people, some of whom had joined the Algerian resistance, the FLN. To deprive the rebels of their contacts with the villagers, he decided to destroy the villages and transfer the population into regroupment villages, a euphemism for concentration camps. Soon Garanger’s commanding officer decreed that the villagers must have identity cards: ‘Naturally he asked the military photographer to make these cards,‘ Garanger recalls. ‘Either I refused and went to prison, or I accepted. I understood my luck: it was to be a witness, to make pictures of what I saw that mirrored my opposition to the war. I saw that I could use what I was forced to do, and have the pictures tell the opposite of what the authorities wanted them to tell.‘
“The women Garanger portrayed came from neighboring villages. Either Berber or Muslim, they had never before come into contact with Europeans. When Garanger arrived, there was a detachment of armed men with machine guns across their shoulders, an interpreter, and the commander. The women would be lined up, then each in turn would sit on a stool outdoors, in front of the whitewashed wall of a house. Without their veils, their disheveled hair and their protective tattoos were exposed. Their lined faces reflected the harshness of their life. The stiffness of their pose and the intensity of their gaze evoke early daguerreotypes.
“’I would come within three feet of them,” Garanger remembers. ‘They would be unveiled. In a period of ten days, I made two thousand portraits, two hundred a day. The women had no choice in the matter. Their only way of protesting was through their look.’
“‘It is this immediate look that matters,’ Garanger continues. ‘When one discharges a condenser, a spark comes out: to me, photography involves seizing just that instant of discharge. In these sessions, I felt a completely crazy emotion. It was an overwhelming experience, with lightning in each image. I held up for the world a mirror, which reflected this lightning look that the women cast at me.’
“In the Middle East, the veil is like a second skin among traditional people. It may be taken off only within the secrecy of the walls, among women or between husband and wife, but never publicly. Garanger’s portraits symbolize the collision of two civilizations, Islamic and Western, and serve as an apt metaphor for colonization. The women’s defiant look may be thought of as an ‘evil eye’ they cast to protect themselves and curse their enemies.
“Fifty years after Algeria’s independence was proclaimed, Garanger’s contested portraits have not lost their strength. When he went back to Algeria in 2004 to meet those he had photographed, he found that the pictures he had taken were often the only ones that the women ever had of themselves, and they welcomed his return: he had become the keeper of their memory.”
Garanger’s portraits were exhibited at the Musée d’Art Moderne, Algiers, April 20 – August 30, 2013
When I was a young teen in the ‘60s, I was madly in love with John Fogerty. Remember him? The power behind Credence Clearwater Revival? The one with all the hair? Watching a CCR performance on our living room TV, my mother, groaning at my swoons said, “How do you even know what he looks like?” Who cared? That long hair, and for a while, that mustache! Those tight jeans! And THAT VOICE! I loved it.
That good-looking young songwriter is now 68. A recent NPR interview mentioned Fogerty, after fifty years playing guitar, still spends hours every morning practicing. I thought, if anyone already knows how to play guitar, it’s John Fogerty! It set me to wondering if there was anything I liked doing so much I’d spend hours doing it every day when I didn’t have to!
At first, I was disheartened, thinking, I put off what I want to do until I’m caught up, have enough time, have finished my to-do list, etc. But then I enumerated what I do every day and realized I actually do the thing(s) I want to be doing. I also realized there are two things I truly need to do daily–like John Fogerty clearly needs to play guitar–and three others I want to do, and I could stop beating myself up about not getting done whatever it is I think I should be doing.
What are the thing(s) you want to/would do every day if you didn’t have to do the things you do? Tell me yours and, in the next post, I’ll tell you mine.
From the Hard-To-Believe File: a little over one month ago I wrote about preparing my 1960s travel trailer for evacuation in Utah’s extreme heat. In the last week, I received many National Weather Service Flash Flood Emergency Alerts via cell phone. Jarring disaster tones screeching from my pocket are new; summer flash floods are not. On July 29, 1883, Kanab residents watched a flood rip, in one afternoon, the meandering, crop-level Kanab Creek a new home: the 90-foot-deep, cliff-walled arroyo we know today. This caused, ahem, a few problems for those who ate only what they could grow. Not only was most of their year’s crop (and its field) on course for Grand Canyon, but also there would henceforth be a bit of a problem irrigating whatever was left, given the crops were now perched 90-feet above the stream. Thus ensued hundreds of years of erecting dams, digging ditches, and cursing, well, whatever was and is cursed.
This cycle of arroyo cutting and filling has been repeated every few millennia depending on rain and whether sediments are washed away or build steadily over time. Rain is most likely tied, as in the 1883 storm, to El Nino events. There was another Southwestern erosional cycle ca. 1200-1300, which may have contributed in the same way to Puebloan abandonment. And if it doesn’t stop raining soon this year, I may be moving to the DRY Tortugas.
Last week a tropical storm’s swirling clouds uncoiled overhead like a galaxy’s spiral, the only evidence of their passing successive waves of heavy rain. This was a September rain, one that lingered and turned days to jackets and umbrellas, not the usual August afternoon monsoon of suddenly refreshed hikers. A winter storm when great storms hove off the heavy, grey-waved Pacific, desert skies mirror roiling oceans, and mountain ponderosa warm desert adobes aswirl in sea-cast winds.
But today the breeze blows warm, and rain falls from monsoons bubbling off overheated southern deserts. Mr. Harris, taken by the cancer long-ago, used to say that’s where the big storms came from, the big flash floods. Not the west, from out across the Great Basin where the Pine Valley Mountains’ drain a storm’s last waters, but from the south, “Down off The Sand,” he’d say, “Down off The Sand up to Pipe Spring, following the Mail Trail over from Kanab.” He said southern storms were big because they got caught by the canyon, circled around and came in the wrong way. Angry. The biggest floods he’d seen.
When I moved to Zion Canyon in the 1980s, afternoon monsoons and summer flash floods were clockwork reliable. Every day about 3 or 4 p.m. the day’s wadded-tissue clouds, inflated by desert-heated thermals and dead-headed by the Troposphere, burst with their accumulated moisture. Monsoons and floods were common in Mr. Harris’ day too, and in the late 1800s, but not so much in the 1990s – 2000s, although this summer has certainly been wet! Whyizat?
Zion sits precisely at the monsoon’s western extent, and when that boundary shifts, summer rains never come. Our monsoon-edge location also means more of our annual precipitation arrives in winter than summer. Canyonlands and Arches, with similar elevations and rainfall, are more centered in monsoon boundary and thus receive their annual precipitation about equally between summer and winter—a small difference with great effect.
Winter’s slow rains soak more deeply into the soil, benefiting deeply rooted plants such as shrubs and trees. Summer rains flash across the soil, aiding shallow-rooted species, forbs, for instance. Thus winter rains create different plant (and thus animal) communities than summer-shifted precipitation. Further, different plant species use water at different times. That way, one species or another will survive no matter when it rains. Ingenious.
But some plants use water only during certain seasons; if rains arrive at the wrong time, these plants ignore it. That’s one reason environments can differ: the seemingly inconsequential difference of when rain falls.
Now for the kicker: scientists anticipate that global climate change will not only shift (is shifting, has shifted) the monsoon boundary, but also has/is/will affect seasonal precipitation. The U.S. Geological Survey states a switch to a drier climate, particularly reduced winter rainfall, will reduce groundwater recharge, lessen perennial stream water, increase strong winds and dust storms, weaken biological soil crusts, reduce plant cover and change species composition, remobilize sand from stable dunes, and increase forest and range fires.
What will this mean for us humans besides having to dust more often? In Zion, reduced winter rainfall will shift vegetation boundaries; different species will invade and replace the Colorado Plateau species we’ve come to know and love. Economic plants such as ponderosa pine (lumber) will survive only in the smaller acreages available at higher elevations; piñon and juniper will die off or move to higher elevations, leaving lower elevations to heat-adapted species, creosote for example. Grasslands will fill not with native grasses, but with such invasive exotics as unpalatable cheatgrass (there goes the wildlife neighborhood). The lifestyle and economy we’ve based on the present regime will change—drastically.
With luck, there will be time for us to change with it—for ranchers to learn new skills, for farmers to switch to crops adapted to hotter, dryer summers. Less water might mean mass human movement away, just as it did for Anasazi and pioneer alike. The species Zion hoped to protect will be gone. It’s something managers have never confronted before: their park up and moving away. If we hope to protect a certain species, we may have to set aside lands now where we think that species might end up later. Bizarre to be sure, but also necessary if we hope to plan for the future. This is not idle speculation. Scientists who study butterflies are already predicting that with climate change, the monarch’s Mexican refuge will be too cold and wet for the species to survive the winter. Can you imagine a summer without monarchs? I don’t want to.
All these dire predictions remind me of pre–Hurricane Katrina warnings of what New Orleans would experience after being hit by a massive hurricane whipped to a frenzy by global warming: broken levees, flooded wards, stranded populations, decimated wetlands. The preceding forecast is the Southwestern version of Hurricane Katrina—a list of things that will change so slowly we won’t notice until they hit us unprepared and head-on.
A recent climate study predicts that at our current rate, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will double from preindustrial levels by 2070, triple by 2120, and quadruple by 2160. The study predicts “profound transformations; some potentially beneficial, but many disruptive. Climate zones will shift hundreds of miles north.”
It’s true that the Zion we see today is just one data point on an evolving continuum. Zion has always changed; that’s the one constant. But now, we’re the agent and we’re moving too fast. At one time a large forest covered Zion and extended to Grand Canyon’s lowest level; as ancient climate changed, sotoo did the forest. The difference was that the transition happened slowly, giving plants and animals time to adapt. But when climate change happens quickly, well, ask the dinosaurs how well that worked.
It’s easy to feel powerless against such overwhelming forces. But the real take-home message is act now. The longer we wait, the worse the consequences.
This handsome chap is Colin Dolby. He put out in his fishing boat five years ago from Leigh-on-Sea England, and was never seen again. Because his wife Jane couldn’t prove he was dead, she could neither claim a widow’s pension nor access his bank account. According to the BBC World Service, Jane and their two children, aged seven and three, had to rely on charity, friends, and the Fishermen’s Mission to pay their rent and buy food.
Eight months after Colin’s boat disappeared, Jane booked herself and the kids a July day out on a steamship that leaves from Leigh-on-Sea, at the sea’s junction with the Thames, and runs up and down the great river. And this first time Jane returned to the water, Colin washed ashore.
Jane had once loved to sing, but after Colin died, she found singing too emotional; she would dissolve in tears each time she sang. So she stopped. For four years. Until she got an idea: she’d round up a couple fishermen’s wives, make a cheap CD, sell it in the local pubs, and donate the resulting hundred pounds or so to the Mission that helped her so much. WELL.
She posted a note to a few Facebook friends, it went viral, and within 48 hours she had her choir. All the women in the choir are either related to, are themselves, or have lost fishers. It turns out there’s too large a pool of potential choir members as fishing is known as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world during peacetime: one in twenty fishers will die or be seriously injured doing their jobs. Hear the Fishwives Choir.
I have been mulling this story over the week or so since I heard it, puzzling what made it so meaningful. I certainly love the outcome, the uplifting tale of one heartbroken woman picking herself up after tragedy and her dedication to paying back what was so generously given. And I love the song–the lilting tune, Jane’s beautiful voice, the two songs’ interwoven net, the choir’s full voice, and the coming together of like-minded women in a community of spirit. But what I really think moved me was the aspect of this story that fits into a recurring theme of this blog: the power of art. Jane was totally overwhelmed and surprised when what she offered came back to her with such force. She chose to express all that had happened–the tidal wave of grief and loss, financial ruin, fear for herself and her children, terror for the future, four years of pain—in art, singing, a form she thought she would never be able to use again. And the result, almost too beautiful to bear, now bears her into the future.