Made by Hand

Sage Hen Day 1 (12/27/2018)

I made it. First few hours, already on the skis. 12/26/2018

I made it. First few hours, already on the skis. 12/26/2018

As usual there were a few bumps in the road but I eventually arrived late afternoon at Sage Hen Field Station just outside Truckee, CA. Right now, the sun is rising up over the mountains to the east. Clouds mix with the deep blue sky that reminds me so much of this place. A deep manganese blue like that reflected in Lake Tahoe.

Today I will explore. I’ll put on my skis and see where the trails take me. There are trails all around and I’m likely to run into folks but I’m essentially all alone here. Someone comes by to check on the buildings and the heat but I’ve not seen them yet, only heard them. A little snow is falling from a rogue grey cloud. We may get some weather, a flurry or a dusting, but the forecast is mostly clear for the next 7 days. Even with the clouds above, I’ve not seen this much blue sky in what feels like weeks. Back home in Washington, a grey rain coat has settled in on Puget Sound that likely won’t lift except for the regular yet all too brief bursts of sunshine, until March or April. It’s all right. Water is life.

Plans for today are slowly coming into focus. Explore during the day. Research online about the local ecology, fire history and this evening write all those letters I’ve been putting off. I am anxious, not for my work here at Sage Hen, but for other things that I packed along with me. The solitude granted by this artist residency is just what I need to tackle and complete those other things. When I leave I’ll have completed almost all that is needed. At home a mildly mad dash to assemble new images while also preparing for a new quarter….

But now I am getting way ahead of myself. It’s about time, this project, why I am here. Below is a kind of description for the project at hand, the one that will premier in Seattle this spring/summer!

The road home, for now, Sage Hen Road, Truckee CA.

The road home, for now, Sage Hen Road, Truckee CA.

forest-time

(forest-time) is new eco-feminist sci-fi that begins as a media presentation on fire ecology, past and future in the Pacific Northwest, and gradually devolves into a primal live-cinema performance about sticky entanglements across ecologies, economies and time-scales.

Based on research conducted in the western states of Washington, California, Nevada and British Columbia, Canada (forest-time) will feature human and Ai performances, video, field-recordings, soundscapes and song.

At the center of a layered performance, is an investigation into the idea of Time, how this concept or construct is rendered in a forest, a computer, in a human. How might nonlinear perspectives on time allow us to see beyond anthropocentric, existential hang ups to a less hierarchical and more equitable global society, economy and ecology? If we can see time in the trees more accurately than in a clock what is the point of all these alarms. Time is more material, less linear than we were led to believe. It’s in the sound, in the soil, the trees, the sea, the salmon, the whales, their bones, your bones. Whose time is it anyways? Or is it that time owns us or is there just no such thing? Only a multi-layered infinite now.

Trees can tell us with staggering accuracy what happened in the past by the number and quality of the rings found inside their heartwood and sapwood. It’s called dendrochronology. There’s also dendroclimatology, the study of tree rings to detect environmental patterns like drought and fire.

Now is place-based. It is “here and now” yet place is also the Past especially when we can see it in the earthy material around us. A sundial might come close to telling time but a material sense of time, like that expressed in a forest or a coastline can be more real than any digital or analog display. If you care to look, you can see the past, feel it, pick it up and hold it in your hands.

Fieldwork for this project is nomadic and takes place across time and space, tracing a road taken by many Now moving (myself included) north along the coastline to find work, affordable housing, water, clean air and a livable Future.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we don't always see the sun, so a sundial is less reliable. Trees can tell time.

Morning ski

Morning ski

Outside by 9 to begin to get the lay of the land. Clouds, snow dusting, sun. I found a fantastic site to study. There are a number of very large wood piles. The 4th one on my ski today was a sight to behold. Trees stacked horizontally in some loose order under a light blanket of snow probably 3 stories high. I need to return to really get a sense of scale. Why were they all cut? Beetles is my summation. Thinning the forest of sick and dying trees to protect the living. But this last stack still had some green in the branches.

After skiing for an hour and a half my shoulders and ankle began to stiffen. I’ll return tomorrow. The next field trip today is around camp again. I’m going to see which doors are open. The kitchen looks promising. Might need a bucket for compost. Starker Leopold’s cabin is at the edge of camp. I’m going to head out there as soon as I finish my coffee.

I almost feel like I’m a refugee here. I almost didn’t make it. Now I am here and ideas are swarming. I want to know more about the invertebrates that over-winter here, my current companions. Coyote for sure, rabbits, some birds I heard singing today, and some tiny tracks, a snow mouse? Thinking I can find the lifecycle of these critters and compare. I also want to learn more about this place, this human built place. I can feel something here, a deep belief that the land, the animals and trees are vital to our own survival. This place, Sage Hen, was established by Stryker Leopold, Aldo Leopold’s son.

I just finished the Big Burn by Timothy Egan, which is about the birth of the Forestry Service and Conservation, and the impact of western expansion, speculation and capitalism on the great fire of 1910… A really great relevant book especially now as we grapple with increasingly destructive wildfires. On the last pages Egan quotes the Wilderness Act, which established, “a National Wilderness Preservation System for the permanent good of the whole people, and for other purposes… where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

Yes, that’s the moon up there. It’s waining but still pretty bright at night. Hope to catch a glimpse this evening.

Yes, that’s the moon up there. It’s waining but still pretty bright at night. Hope to catch a glimpse this evening.

Being alone here at Sage Hen right now I feel that way. Like a visitor. Yet while I appreciate the values that gave birth to the Conservation Movement, brought to political life by Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, I believe in our present ecological era it might be more prudent to think of ourselves not as visitors but as actors within a diverse and complex ecosystem, filled with innumerable players all with agency, all with rights and purpose. What role do humans wish to play? All these ideas are swirling around after less than 24 hours here. Zowey. Time to go outside and explore some more!

Today

Finishing is not my favorite part but it's finally happening.

Finishing is not my favorite part but it's finally happening.

I forgot one!!!! Can you spot it!

I forgot one!!!! Can you spot it!

Home....

Home....

Party last night. Delivery today plus talk with client. I know what she wants.... I really need the next few days off. But for now, finish the task(s) at hand.

  1. email Jeremiah
  2. read Sarah's email
  3. sand all, seal 2 more times
  4. Questions: Sliders.. fit, handle? How will racks attach to benches? How will cubbies attach to benches?
  5. Things to get: metal feet for benches, wax for sliders, stain pen for front desk, small can to transport sealer, stain, brass screws...

Possible answers to my questions: Don't bring the racks. Forget about the racks. They are out of the picture. Focus on cubbies and benches and sliders! Don't have enough brass to cover all four fronts....Hmmmm. But attaching some ash on the front to flatten maybe in order...Let's see what I have....Maybe the handle can be in the middle?

I don't like the racks. Now thinking of some screens. A lot more work but I just don't think the racks will work. Try to make a quick sketch. Can reuse some of the material. I just feel like the design is not optimal. And subject to too much stress. The screens would not have that problem as they'd be open in front completely. Look at the screens in the window. Try to reuse as much as possible. Last night I was a nihilist for Halloween. Made me realize I really do care a lot about people, places, things. What is it about the last few weeks. Feel pretty stretched thin. I bet I just need a few days of rest... soon. Now back to work.

Keep on rambling...

Finding it hard to write. I've been traveling now for 3 weeks and more. I've seen places, chatted with people, drank a lot of beer, started running again. I feel like I've not stopped moving for some time, even before I boarded that plane. Pretty soon I'll be climbing back on heading back to NY and then California, hopping back onto the freeway and starting another semester. What is this all for? Life is for living, I remind myself as often as possible. Those old expectations are meaningless in light of my new life. I don't know what will happen next. No one does really in the large sense. Certainly some things can be predicted but others remain a mystery until they evolve and emerge before us. 

Back to the forest again...

Back to the forest again...

Back into the forest with me then. If I am lost mentally it's time to get lost physically. See where I come out in the end. Is it all still because of the heart? Is that the chief agent in all this? Do I need to shut it off, subdue its constant questioning to get anything done? Or do I join it, listen to it and say yes, that's true, that did hurt you but here are some great new things to consider and take in. The past I am learning is underground. The past is behind and beyond that horizon that is untouchable. The future withholds yet yields eventually to our will, given we still have some to greet what is still invisible. The past is buried, the future is ready to be unearthed. It's always in front of you. And me.

Yea, okay, so it's been a while since I held decent studio hours. I feel like the past year, year plus I really threw myself into a mess. I stretched myself so thin that all I could do was just barely show up. That is not even touching on the true potential I can may achieve in a present state, with presence. I'm done with that, not taking the work seriously, going through the motions. It's not satisfying. It's not productive. It's not respectful to anything or anyone. Am I going to publish this, likely not... just write.

There are a lot of things I want to write about. The Deacon show for one. And the song Magnificent. I also would like to write a script for the de Young video. I am on it! I have all the time I need. Now for just a little list to get me organized, mentally. 

  1. Run ~
  2. Read
  3. Listen to mom's recording of Lichen
  4. Edit script lichen ~
  5. Record czech lichen
  6. Choose 4 german phrases to learn for tomorrow
  7. 10-11AM tripod and memory card ~ (new card missing, not delivered)
  8. Read through lichen and draw up story board
  9. Look through de Young material and start sketching ideas for a 3 - 4 minute video. (this may be postponed... yes, use this as my Djerassi application.)
  10. Remaster US
  11. Draw up story board for US
  12. Shoot some video
  13. Write, just write, ramble, and make an outline of the Deacon review
  14. Write an outline of the Magnificent (song) review
  15. Write an outline of Hana's story  So go on then. Don't be afraid. Failure is imminent. It's what's on the other side that I'm aiming for. Failure is part of the process. Fear or failure is natural. Move through it. But let's try to focus on being present today, here, now, feeling my own two feet on the earth.
  16. Pedicure! Why of course. If I'm to meet the mayor!
  17. Listen to German tape.     Oh! About the earth, I have begun reading about central eastern european art during the socialist/communist regime and I find it so inspiring. I've decided to make or remake a piece Wednesday and or Thursday it honor of those artists I am just learning about. Add to the list:
  18. Read more about central eastern european ecological art practices during the                   socialist/communist regime
  19. Write a bit or draw about Abrams. This book is really sprawling. Yet amazingly specific to my present mental and creative moment.

..to be continued no doubt. Write it all down. 

Mock ups for USF Community Garden Picnic Table

Busy Saturday with my class, Saturday, that's right! Service learning... extra fun and extra effort. But we're building some redwood and concrete picnic tables for the University of San Francisco's community garden, lead by the wonderful Oakland based gardner, writer,  Novella Carpenter. Here is what we have so far:

Helpful men at Lumber Baron in Berkeley. Good deals on redwood!

Helpful men at Lumber Baron in Berkeley. Good deals on redwood!

Stacked and resting. Enough for 2 ten foot tables!

Stacked and resting. Enough for 2 ten foot tables!

Mock-ups for concrete legs!

Mock-ups for concrete legs!

Next week we start building forms. Meanwhile, my students are working on designs for cheap, smart benches. Stay tuned! I'll turn any class into a shop class if I can. The chance to design and build for others is a gift. Purpose.

Workin' on it!

 

I am enjoying pulling together images for a show idea I'd mentioned previously. FOREIGN LANGUAGE MAGIC WORD MOTHER TONGUE is live! I'm still filling in content but it's starting to shape up. And it appears as though I'll be moving yet again. Feel like this one might be the last local move in a while. Next move will be a bigger one. I feel it in my bones.