Monday, October 14, 2013

Tiny Ecologies & Waves of Change (Part 4)

"Human lives and histories, on the  individual and social scales, may fairly be described as intercatastrophic, proceeding  from catastrophe to catastrophe with an illusion of stability. The  swimmer feels the framing catastrophe on the skin, in ways that the gardener and even the sailor do not. Our dynamic environment is a watery, salty, unstable, dangerous place: green, blue, and red. We need to learn to value that diversity— but most urgently, we need to learn to swim in it."
Making the Green One Red, Steve Mentz

The Tiny Ecology project is focused on intense ecological attentiveness of a particular place. Frequent visits to the site will be made between late August and early December. Critical attention will be paid to human influence and neglect, nonhuman forces (weather, sunlight, microclimates, pollution, decay, gentrification), and the surfacings of particular histories. This project arises from an engagement with the Ecologies of Conquest / Contact Ecologies seminar being taught by Prof. Jeffrey J Cohen at the G.W.U.


Down Came the Rain

Well here it is - after more than two months of little to no rain, the plot of earth that I had started examining because of its aridness finally got sustained contact with rain.

The first flirtation with this change kept many of the familiar formations: a constellation of ant-hills, a spider-web immeshed with rock, plant, and arachnid, and a carpet of plants structured to hold onto the water in deep cups.

Bodies of earth and fiber swelled as they became saturated in moisture, the clover glowed with vibrant green, and rocks glistened to reveal deep substructures and mixed minerals.

And the rain kept on coming. Like the itsy-bitsy spider, the strip is a body not readily prepared to drink in too much ecological difference so quickly, things begin to wash away. Change pushed so far enters into a new order of identity.




The Flood

The same environment (encirclement) now appeared to contain not a wet-ground ecology but a muddy-water basin. For several days, my tiny ecology became the flood. In order to experience and study it, I had to learn to get wet and swim.

Surfaces across the Strip were in a continual state of agitation and dynamism on a scale perceivable to the naked eye, or camera lens. Rain-drops and currents in the water covered the strip in a wavering skin interspersed with protruding rocks and plants able to thrust their head from earth through water and into the humid air.

Things not able to stay rooted or supported by the roots of other inhabitants (as the subsurface dirt does to the plant-fibers of the clover), began to wash away. Some floated to the surface and flowed from the environment to ecologies unseen while other tumbled in chaotic motion as the waves altered and altered again the course of its trajectory.

Several days this flood rained chaos and change on the Strip, but once the deluge slowed to a stop, a new environment emerged. Stepping into this alien terrain it felt like assessing the remains of a ship-wreck.



Chaotic Elements

With the first step, I could feel a difference in the dirt from when I walked through it days ago. I immediately sank into the mud. Looking down as I pulled my heel out of the soil, I strained to over-come the hold the Strip had on me and saw my entrance as a hole in the ground.

In a real sense, this was no longer "the earth" I knew, but more like mud, like a "water-earth." If chaos (as we know from Ovid) is where differences are so undetermined, mixed, open or closed to the point of singularity, then this dirt retains a bit of its chaos while still becoming legible.

Change has slowed down (or gone "under-ground") but is still active and full of potential in the earth. The holes my shoes created reshaped with ease and accident the very penetration through the skin the Strip that I had struggled to accomplish weeks earlier with the aid of steel tools.

This may only be a temporary state of extreme agitation, as all transitions and ecologies dynamically pass through. I will continue to observe and interact with the tiny ecology, watching for old friends (ants, spider, clover) to emerge and keeping an eye (and an ear) out for new possibilities which I cannot know in advance and may not recognize but instead have to learn to understand on its own alien terms.


Apres Moi, Le Deluge

A few leading questions as I move forward beg to be investigate: (1) what happened to the ant hills? did colony survive in an sealed-off chamber from the deluge or are they like so much of the environment, now floating down-stream? (2) Did the sub-strata change its configuration as the higher and lower churned and became confused in the chaos? (3) What, if anything, may develop in the ecology as a result of the impressions caused by my heels? (4) Will the flood have serious affects on the clover? Did it bring in or wash away any critical nutrients with the soil? (5) What about the spaces other visitors? What of the spiders, smokers and birds I catch passing through the strip? Will the mud, upturned worms, or other changes to the environment have any affect on their interest in the space? Stay tuned!

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