“When children meet the family of someone they claim to have been… it seems to validate their memories, making them less intense. I think they see that no one is waiting for them in the past. Some of them get sad about it, but ultimately they accept it and turn their attention fully to the present.”
THE SONG MT. TAMALPAIS SINGS Lew Welch This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go. Human movements, but for a few, are Westerly. Man follows the Sun. This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go. Or follows what he thinks to be the movement of the Sun. It is hard to feel it, as a rider, on a spinning ball. This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go. Centuries and hordes of us, from every quarter of the earth, now piling up, and each wave going back to get some more. This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go. "My face is the map of the Steppes," she said, on this mountain, looking West. My blood set singing by it, to the old tunes, Irish, among these Oaks. This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go. Once again we celebrate the great Spring Tides. Beaches are strewn again with Jasper, Agate, and Jade. The Mussel-rocks stand clear. This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go. Once again we celebrate the Headland's huge, carin-studded fall into the Sea. This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go. For we have walked the jeweled beaches at the feet of the final cliffs of all Man's wanderings. This is the last place There is nowhere else to go.
Cold, Wendell Berry
How exactly good it is
to know myself
in the solitude of winter,
my body containing its own
warmth, divided from all
by the cold; and to go
separate and sure
among the trees cleanly
divided, thinking of you
perfect too in your solitude,
your life withdrawn into
your own keeping
–to be clear, poised
in perfect self-suspension
toward you, as though frozen.
And having known fully the
goodness of that, it will be
good also to melt.
“have I told you how I like to see a man submit to ecstasy with all his inhibitions free and moaning like his mother close his eyes and float from me ecstatic in his buoyancy cut loose and warm as he can be adrift in beatless wonder…”
“Good stories reach into rich pasts to sustain thick presents to keep the story going for those who come after.”
I recently, and after a good four months of slow reading, finished Donna Haraway’s amazing book Staying With the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. It was possibly the most challenging and most rewarding book I’ve ever made myself struggle through to finish. She writes in long, rolling sentences full of commas and adjectives that can be frustrating to follow. But what ideas to finally submit into your consciousness! I’m feeling distinctly sub-verbal tonight so I will copy here the blurb from Duke University Press.
“In the midst of spiraling ecological devastation, multispecies feminist theorist Donna J. Haraway offers provocative new ways to reconfigure our relations to the earth and all its inhabitants. She eschews referring to our current epoch as the Anthropocene, preferring to conceptualize it as what she calls the Chthulucene, as it more aptly and fully describes our epoch as one in which the human and nonhuman are inextricably linked in tentacular practices. The Chthulucene, Haraway explains, requires sym-poiesis, or making-with, rather than auto-poiesis, or self-making. Learning to stay with the trouble of living and dying together on a damaged earth will prove more conducive to the kind of thinking that would provide the means to building more livable futures.”
“Staying with the trouble does not require such a relationship to times called the future. In fact, staying with the trouble requires learning to be truly present, not as a vanishing pivot between awful or edenic pasts and apocalyptic or salvific futures, but as mortal critters entwined in myriad unfinished configurations of places, times, matters, meanings.” (1)
Haraway calls for us to stop thinking, as she says in the quote above, of better times past or future or to live in despair of the end of all things, but rather to be here now, together, with other humans and non-human critters both flora and fauna. She asks us to make kin with all of these kinds of beings that we share the earth with; oddkin is her word, kin that is not purely biologically or genetically based.
“Making kin as oddkin rather than, or at least in addition to, godkin and genealogical and biogenetic family troubles important matters, like to whom one is actually responsible.” (2, emphasis mine)
She references so many other writings, papers, books, albums, even video games, I could spend a couple years just exploring all the deliciously tantalizing material in the footnotes section, which is itself 60 pages long. One point made with many references is that no creature is singular unto itself. We all live in ‘tentacular’ complication and mixing with each other at all times (how many species of bacteria live in/on a human body, for example?)… therefore, how can any one being or even species truly live only for its own survival?
She says, “The critters of all my stories inhabit an n-dimensional niche space called Terrapolis… Terrapolis is n-dimensional niche space for multispecies becoming-with. Terrapolis is open, wordly, indeterminate, and polytemporal. Terrapolis is a chimera for materials, languages, histories. Terrapolis is for companion species… not ‘post-human’ but ‘com-post.’ Terrapolis is in place; Terrapolis makes for unexpected companions.” (10-11).
I was reminded reading this section of two things. The idea of “becoming-with” brings to mind Starhawk’s discussions of “power-with” as opposed to “power-over” (probably to be found in Dreaming the Dark and Truth or Dare, if you want to chase it down).
I was reading, just after finishing Haraway, the short piece “Chiapas: The Thirteenth Stele” by Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas. He references over and over the desire by the Zapatistas to build a world that can contain many worlds within it. Here he is:
“Whoever helps one or several zapatista communities is helping not just to improve a collective’s material situation, it is helping a much simpler but more demanding project: the building of a new world, one where many worlds fit.”
Haraway also references over and over the need to build a world that contains much messiness and difference within it, and not just amongst humans but an embrace of and kinmaking with the oddness and strangeness and difference of many other beings. Not to say this is a book of “we are all one” messaging. Not at all. It’s much more dirty, complicated, and earthbound than that (another quote: “eating each other properly requires meeting each other properly” pg 73). Here is Tim Morton on this topic from another excellent and difficult book, Dark Ecology:
“Ecognosis is like knowing, but more like letting be known. It is something like coexisting. It is like becoming accustomed to something strange, yet it is also becoming accustomed to strangeness that doesn’t become less strange through acclimation.”
The last section of Staying With the Trouble is a sort of sci-fi story about Children of the Compost, a group of people starting in the present and extending out five generations through a lineage (I think not genetic, but oddkin) of people named Camille. This is Haraway’s imagining of what ‘staying with the trouble’ could look like into the future.
I have been thinking incessantly about Children of the Compost, and about the zapatista idea of a world that can contain many worlds, and Morton’s concept of ecognosis, as I try to both write my own fictional world that deals with these issues and to structure my actual life to ‘stay with the trouble.’
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller
What is the difference between fighting the existing reality, and protecting your kin?
There is a lot about the book I haven’t mentioned. I will stop rambling and quoting incoherently now. Here is a video of Haraway talking at Evergreen last spring (I didn’t see it!). I am going to go watch it, and think(with) some more.
Oh also! This TED radio hour on the Anthropocene (click on photo) was interesting, and relevant to all this business above ^^^. I appreciated the first speaker’s message on changing our thoughts about what is wild, and was annoyed by the second guy who said yes humans are causing the sixth great extinction, but we are “extinction proof” and will just have to get used to living in a more managed, less wild world.
Shields & Shards & Stitches & Songs by Dan Beachy-Quick
I read this little book of poetry in 20 minutes last night, and then read and re-read it out loud to myself because the language was so rhythmic and compelling. The Shields are short 8 line pieces, eight of them, laid out on the page in the shape of a shield (I had them laid out here as they are in a book but WordPress isn’t having it). Shards are fragments of the Shields, and Stitches even smaller bits. Songs then picks back up again as new, longer pieces. I love love love what the poet did here, using the same 8 lines to create 3 different poems.
Be of ruin this rude maker.
Rubble be. Ruin be. Be not a stone.
Hellstone. Hailstone. Hellebore.
Take root in the broken and bloom.
Bloom blood into bitter lake
Or let dirt drink its fill. The bee moans
In it thin cup. Pollen and trouble.
Mark it in bronze, poet. Grab the tool. Beat it.
be be stone.
drink its moans
thin cup trouble.
You be awe. I’ll be knife.
There’s an altar by the water.
You be creature. I’ll be priest.
Slack sails wait wind. Wind waits feast.
Least blood most blessed. You be what I lack.
Ceased asking why. Ceased open eyes. You
Alter in darkness alone. My girl of gold-hair
Life. Be antlers of deer. Be your own rescue.
God Herself is us and we are S/he. Lover and Beloved. There is no difference. And that is not a platitude, but something we can only realize when the time is ripe, and then we are seeded to the core.
-Thorn Coyle (Kissing the Limitless)
she sit my tail down/pull the wishbone wide
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?
Mary Oliver, The Swan
it is no big deal/hey what else is there to do/but set your sight on something and pull your tangles through
Looking within I can see all the reasons I am the way I am and I love myself for it. This is not a test, this is love, and I love myself in this, I love the world in this, I am the world in this.
Sacred Kink, Lee Harrington
hold together, let go if you will/keep on dancing/hold together, let go if you will/see what’s left
nothing cares if you hold together, so let go if you will