wilderness : self-willed flora, fauna & minera in the community of Earth
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The Ka'aha Trail in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park starts at the Hilina Pali Overlook, crosses a grassland to arrive at the Pepiao Cabin, and then traverses six miles of black lava to the Ka'aha Shelter. This backcountry loop then ascends a series of shadeless switchbacks back to the top. On my backpack to Ka'aha Shelter with my husband, his cousin, and my aging parents, I was reading Terry Tempest Williams's The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks. As I learned later from an Indigenous NPS ranger, I was also walking among naupaka kahakai flowers,ʻōhiʻa lehua trees, acacia koa trees, and layers of ancestral stories.
The best maps help us understand our world in fresh ways.The Brazilian map curator who runs @fanmaps combines images, lines, ideas, and place names to reveal global political issues ("Worldwide Infant Mortality"), environmental crises ("Antartica Without Ice"), whimsical noticings ("Does Your State Google Chess or Poker More?"), and fascinating insights ("The Entirety of Continental South America Lies East of Michigan").
Mapping threatened sea turtles. Classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, hawksbill turtles of Hawai’i suffer from habitat loss for nesting because of invasive species, pollution, and coastal development. They’re also hunted for their shells. Those marbled carapaces become materials for expensive jewelry. Worse, humans hunt the turtles for their eggs, thought to be aphrodisiacs.
Map of a journey to Ka'aha Shelter and back, including the day-long zig-zag through black lava rock with nothing but little cairns to show the way. You walk toward what you think is a marker only to find it is just a rock pile. The trail follows the coastline, pocked by lava tubes large and small. Lava absorbs heat and there’s no shade. But there's something otherworldly about walking on this brand new land created by pure volcanic power. When you reach the shelter, the sunrises and sunsets, the flowing glowing cliffs, and the tortoise-shell waves seem worth the extreme challenges of the trail.
Inspired by @fanmaps, I charted my deteriorating mental state as I crossed the lava fields in severe heat with dwindling water supplies.
Monthly celebration of makers who are teaching / re-teaching us how to connect with the natural world and with one another.
Writer Ann Fisher-Wirth
Ann Fisher-Wirth's sixth book of poems is The Bones of Winter Birds; her fifth, Mississippi, is a poetry/photography collaboration with Maude Schuyler Clay. With Laura-Gray Street, Ann coedited The Ecopoetry Anthology. A senior fellow of the Black Earth Institute, Ann has had senior Fulbrights to Switzerland and Sweden, and residencies at Djerassi, The Mesa Refuge, and others. She teaches at the University of Mississippi, where she also directs the Environmental Studies program--and she teaches yoga in Oxford, MS.
Melissa Hilliard Potter is a feminist interdisciplinary artist, writer, and curator whose work has been exhibited in venues internationally. Her awards include three Fulbright Scholar grants for her work in the Balkans. Her hand papermaking project with Maggie Puckett, An Illuminated Feminist Seed Bank publication, now lives in an art collection in the Global Seed Vault mountain in Svalbard, Norway.
Pele, goddess of the volcano, came with her brothers and sisters seeking a home in Hawaiʻi-nei. She tried island after island but always, as she dug her fire pits, she heard the voice of the sea. At last she dug a great pit high up on Kīlauea, far above the ocean.
from Hawaiʻi Island Legends: Pīkoi, Pele and Others
Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s Dub: Finding Ceremony, organized into 30 ceremonies or sections, centers on the voice of Sylvia Wynter, the Jamaican novelist, dramatist, critic, philosopher, and essayist. Gumbs in her brilliant way asks us to disrupt our founding mythologies. She tells stories of survival, shipwreck, enslavement and colonization across species by homing in on the idea of “relations”: her own father and ancestors as well as oceanic creatures and elements, including sea turtles. In one section titled “instructions,” Gumbs writes: “tell them about the shells. tell them about the giant turtle shells. tell them about the sour we made in shells when we needed armor. tell them why we needed armor and what we did before the harm. tell them about flint, magic, coral, god, and fire.”
One of the featured artists in witness~wilderness, Stephanie Heit, runs a somatic writing and art space called Turtle Disco. Her classes are wonderfully rich spaces to co-create with the more-than-human world using body, pen, and other art-making tools. Check it out here!
This month’s creative prompt is inspired by Turtle Disco and the turtle instructions in Dub:
1. Make a list of qualities/memories about a resonant experience, either an individual or a collective experience.
2. Imagine yourself into a turtle body, the shell—or armor—and the soft, vulnerable part. Move beyond imagination and let your body feel into turtleness for a few minutes, whether that means curling into a ball with your head poked out, lying flat on the floor with a blanket protecting your torso, or some other configuration.
3. Using the list from your resonant experience and the bodily memory of turtleness, make a list of instructions. Employ repetition as Gumbs does if it serves you.
My mother remembers the hawksbill turtle numbers had decreased so drastically because of an invasive species. Thick brush, she recalls, though she doesn't know the species name or where it came from. All she knows is the turtles wouldn't bury their eggs on Halapē Beach with the land under invasion. But with the help of volunteers like her, my father, and twenty others, the Indigenous Hawai'ians, who happened to be National Park Service employees, cleared the brush and made a safe turtle space, at least for a while.
My parents wanted to show my husband and me Halapē Beach. The turtles would not be nesting, they said, so we could hike in responsibly. My mother told of a place so beautiful it promised to be life-changing. She described it not so much with words but with her hands and a tone full of gratitude, elongating her vowels and widening her eyes as she spoke.