Devil-bush

asian rose-amerMultiflora rose: Rosa multiflora Thunbergia ex Murr, is banned in 13 US states, including my own, where it thrives at the expense of native species of many kinds.

Here (at left) it mingles with another invader–Amur honeysuckle (lonicera maackii) along the Tulpehocken Creek in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Amur honeysuckle has not yet made the “illegal plant” list. Both shrubs spread easily because they do not mind disturbed soil and they have attractive berries that birds consume, thus sowing the bushes widely.

I do not know how a plant can be illegal if the birds are our planting culprits; but I do know how hard it is to eradicate multiflora rose, which flourishes in our hedgerow among the sassafras, tulip trees, green ash, white ash, honey locust, wild cherry, walnut, oaks, and maples.

The shrubs are wickedly hard to pull out, as they are stemmy and prickly and have deep roots. We’ve hacked them out of the rocks and pulled them out by chain with our tractor and weed-whacked them and used a machete in the thickets. We have often enlisted our son in our efforts to limit their number along our property line. He refers to the rose as “devil-bush,” having been scourged by its thorns numerous times while endeavoring to cut back or pull out the shrubs. I, too, have shed my blood over its white flowers–not to mention erupted in rashes, because poison ivy frequently entwines itself around the stems of multiflora rose.

Well. They are in bloom now (end of May). And so far, the roses are winning.

~~

The USDA has a page devoted to information on multiflora rose, a “noxious plant.”

 

 

 

Landscape, personal place

I’ve been enjoying Rachel Solnit’s prose lately, most recently her book As Eve Said to the Serpent, some of which derives from art criticism but which is also the kind of multidisciplinary approach to observing the relationships between things that intrigues me. What she notices about the environment, about art that engages with or alters place/landscape, and about environmentalists themselves piques my own inquisitiveness and gets me asking questions I might not otherwise have come up with. Place, particularly the personal “environment” that shelters, inspires, or calms me, is something I consider frequently.

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[one of my happy places]

Perhaps that’s because I am by nature an introvert; perhaps it has to do with being a poet. The personal aesthetics of place–a room or a landscape–exert significant effects upon my frame of mind and mode of thinking.

Why is that?

Maybe there is an evolutionary reason for the need to find a favorite spot, a hide-away, a happy place. We may still possess that ancient urge for security, the cave or treehouse we can use to hide from predators or from the weather.

And landscape itself can be a secret place, or a sacred place. A wide expanse of openness means it is easier to observe predators prowling in the distance, giving the prey animal time to flee. Or to explore, to survey, to run embracing what is far away and only imaginable.

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Neolithic stone circle, Castlerigg, Cumbria, UK

~

C.D. Wright: “What landscape is: not a closed space, not in fact capable of closure. With each survey the corners shift. Distance is the goal; groping the means.”

Toponesia and poem

Here is a poem by Virginia Hamilton Adair that demonstrates, perhaps, the idea of “toponesia”–loss of connection with place. The speaker recalls the beloved beach in its decay and in its beauty; she also recognizes that the tide erases all–talk about amnesia!

Buckroe, After the Season, 1942

Past the fourth cloverleaf, by dwindling roads
At last we came into the unleashed wind;
The Chesapeake rose to meet us at a dead end
Beyond the carnival wheels and gingerbread.
Forsaken by summer, the wharf. The oil-green waves
Flung yellow foam and sucked at disheveled sand.
Small fish stank in the sun, and nervous droves
Of cloud hastened their shadows over bay and land.
Beyond the NO DUMPING sign in its surf of cans
And the rotting boat with nettles to the rails,
The horse dung garlanded with jeweling flies
And papers blown like a fleet of shipless sails,
We pushed into an overworld of wind and light
Where sky unfettered ran wild from earth to noon,
And the tethered heart broke loose and rose like a kite
From sands that borrowed diamonds from the sun.
We were empty and pure as shells that air-drenched hour,
Heedless as waves that swell at the shore and fall,
Pliant as sea-grass, the rapt inheritors
Of a land without memory, where tide erases all.

from Ants on the Melon. Copyright © 1996 by Virginia Hamilton Adair

Homescape poems: Solastalgia

Note–The poems below are used only as illustrations and used by virtue of the Creative Commons theory; the copyrights belong to the authors or their executors.

~

I’m thinking about the nostalgic overtones of the “changed” homescape here, or the notion of solastalgia as coined by Glenn Albrecht (see earlier post). At first I planned to use a poem with overt environmental themes (as of the home that has been denuded, altered, destroyed–many good poems exist on that theme). Then I thought to look more obliquely at the idea of solastalgia as an emotional state, for home is deeply freighted with psyche.

One form of “solastalgia” is represented here, I think, in Philip Larkin’s “Home Is So Sad”:

Home Is So Sad

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turns again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.

~

Another aspect of solastalgia, in this section of Gary Snyder’s “Four Poems for Robin,” relates to the homeplace in the form of a relationship, one bound up with the excitement of youth, college, the orchard with its tall dry grasses and love’s “grave, awed intensity.” Yase village is located near Kyoto; the speaker of the poem identifies where (and when: December) he resides while reflecting on an autumn day in his past.

December at Yase

You said, that October,
In the tall dry grass by the orchard
When you chose to be free,
“Again someday, maybe ten years.”

After college I saw you
One time. You were strange.
And I was obsessed with a plan.

Now ten years and more have
Gone by: I’ve always known

where you were–

I might have gone to you
Hoping to win your love back.
You still are single.

I didn’t.
I thought I must make it alone. I
Have done that.

Only in dream, like this dawn,
Does the grave, awed intensity
Of our young love
Return to my mind, to my flesh.

We had what the others
All crave and seek for;
We left it behind at nineteen.

I feel ancient, as though I had
Lived many lives.
And may never now know
If I am a fool
Or have done what my

karma demands.
~
I’d be interested in finding out which poems you consider solastalgic. Meanwhile, I am going to browse my collection for poems that are endomophilic…

Endemophilia, toponesia, psychoterric states

Thanks to poet Annie Finch, I came across a thoughtful essay in Aeon magazine–an exercise in synthesis and interdisciplinary thinking that connects with Naess and his notion of ecosophy; and with Bachelard and others whose work I have lately been reading and thinking about. Liam Heneghan combines ecology, botany and topography with Winnie-the-Pooh and explores transience and trans-placement from several viewpoints. He looks at how so many of us are transplants, foreign “invaders,” culturally and biologically, and asks us to think about how we feel about place–home-place, in particular.

Not all of us connect with the concept of a home-dwelling anymore; but if we do so, that place is generally closely associated with childhood, observes Heneghan. He cites environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht and says:

…we do not yet have an adequate vocabulary to address our ‘psychoterric’ states — or how the state of the Earth relates to our states of mind. To balance the negative psychological state of ‘nostalgia’, a couple of years ago Albrecht proposed ‘endemophilia’ (the sense of being truly at home within one’s place and culture — or ‘homewellness’). To balance the term ‘topophilia’, a love of place, Albrecht opposes ‘solastalgia’ — the desolate feeling associated with the chronic decline of a homescape. Solastalgia names the emotions we have at the loss of species and habitats through climate change and other environmental changes. We should all expect a lot more of it.

I do know those feelings, and I feel happy to have terms for them! Yet I argue that we do have an adequate vocabulary for how the state of the Earth relates to our states of mind, and that vocabulary is artistic. I believe the finest expression of these kinds of emotional-memory sensations can be found mainly through art. My task for myself in the coming weeks is to gather a few examples of endemophilia, solastalgia, and other “psychoterric states” in poetry. I’ve already got a few in mind.

Please read Heneghan’s essay if ecopoetics or the notion of homescape appeals to you.

Enabling & stewardship

The season of seed catalogs is upon us, and I begin to fantasize about all of the vegetables and flowers I want to grow and how I will arrange my small garden area to accommodate them. I imagine having time to keep the rows cultivated and the foliage free of insect pests. Yes, I need to do some work on the fencing. And yes, some terracing might help where the garden’s taking a decidedly southeasterly dip. The asparagus patch finally played itself out, so it will need some restructuring and weeding; I’ll have an opportunity to use that area in a new way.

There’s snow on the garden now. All of this planning is purely speculative on my part. Yet–how clearly I can envision it, in my mind. One of my concerns is whether I’ll feel hale and hearty and energetic enough to get all of this work accomplished!

Ah, my garden-consciousness brings me to the mind-body problem, though perhaps in a more physical way than philosophers encounter it. My conscious mind imagines the garden that does not yet exist. Is that garden real or an illusion? What makes it possible for me to conjure it so vividly? Is it merely memory of past experience? If so, why does my imagination invent a slightly different garden–this year’s ideal? My animal self takes action, physical action (phenomenological action) in order to bring about fruition to feed the physical body that loves the taste of vine-ripe tomatoes and fresh beans and tender lettuces. Do my actions cause the plants to grow? No. I’m more of a steward or a guide. I help them get a better-than-average start.

This sort of thinking brings me around to a (2011?) post by biologist Stuart Kauffman, on the NPR philosophy blog.

Kauffman says:

We think we live in a web of cause and effect. We do. We also live in a web of enabling opportunities that may or may not be seized, and the living world, biosphere up, unfolds in a different way, creating ever new possibilities of becoming.

But these possibilities often can’t be stated ahead of time. No one foresaw Facebook when Alan Turing did his work in the first half of the 20th century. Nor can we foresee all the possibilities of the evolution of life.

Life is not a well-formulated, complex optimization problem to be solved. We do not know all the variables that may become relevant.

Science is my life, and it is wonderful. But science will not ultimately know everything.

In the world of modernity, our values have become badly deformed. Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” has replaced “integrity, generosity, and courage” as our First World cultural ideal. Modernity does not serve our humanity well, although it does offer enhanced standards of living. We are reduced — to price tags, cogs in an economic system making often useless products in the name of forever GDP growth on a finite planet. The bankers corrupt themselves and our government. Our government does not yet realize that its better job is to enable, not command, to “garden,” to coach, to enable the creativity of its peoples, here and around the globe.

Yes, that’s it. I engage with my environment partly by enabling things to grow or flourish. The term enabling has garnered some negative connotation in recent years due to its use in psychology: we are warned not to enable alcoholics, manipulative people, or those who need to learn some grit and self-motivation. The idea of enabling is, however, essentially positive: to help, to nurture. In fact, I think I prefer to think of myself as one who enables the earth rather than as a steward–though both concepts suggest that we human beings must engage willfully with the world.

We have work to do here on earth. And I am well aware that I do not know, with my garden, “all the variables that may become relevant.” (Past complex variables have included drought, hail, flooding, and beetles.) My small part this year includes serving the land I temporarily inhabit as well as serving myself and my family our favorite foods.

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My favorite sources for seed include: Seeds of Change, Territorial Seed Co., Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, and–while less on the organic spectrum, the British firm of Thompson & Morgan for its amazing variety of herbs, vegetables, fruits, ornamentals and grasses from heirloom to the latest hybrids. For American gardeners interested in some truly historical strains, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello offers quite a selection.

(Photo: a previous year’s garden in May)

Not a dry spell

October arrived in a remarkably ordinary way, considering how inconsistent the weather in my valley has been during the past year. There were a few clear days of brilliant sky, some heavy breezes with leaves beginning to drift into the lawn, a couple of glorious autumn days–mild and crisp–followed by a spate of rain and humid air (and toadstools and mushrooms cropping up everywhere), a further yellowing and reddening of foliage, and then, chilly rain.

This is “normal” weather for our area in early- to mid-October. Although the heavy skies and damp chill are not always welcomed by residents, including me, the gardener in me feels relieved. We need the rain and the coming dormancy. The birds relish the late, large insects that frequent gutters and fields, ponds and puddles, providing proteins for a trip south or for winter ahead. Seeds need the watering-in and the cooling-down. Trees need reminders to store their nutrients deep inside when the cold air really sets in.

And pretty soon, I will have bulbs to plant. I want the soil to be moist enough to dig up and the ground temperature cool enough to keep the daffodils still and quiet for several months.

Some years, I write prolifically in autumn; it’s as though the change in season effects a kind of transition within me, and creativity abounds. Other years, not so much. I do notice that when I spend a good deal of time out in the garden, I write more. This fall has not been that kind of season. I have been busy with writing tasks that do not exercise the philosophical or metaphysical side of myself–though I have been writing, most of the work has been reviews, proposals, pedagogy.  I will be posting links to the reviews and essays on the sidebar to the right, adding to the list…

Should fortune–and the Muse–smile upon me, there may be a few new links to poems, as well, in the coming weeks. In November, I’ll be giving a few readings locally. In January, I’ll be teaching Introduction to Poetry again, and I’m eager to try new texts for my students.

Perhaps the post-equinox period will have a creative harvest after all.