hawk & handsaw
hawk & handsaw The Journal of Creative Sustainability
A publication from Unity College
Hawk & Handsaw The Journal of Creative Sustainability
Introduction 2 What is Creative Sustainability? 4
Volume 6, 2013
Fish Joan Kimball
Remnants 3 Lauren Henkin
Sustainability, Character, and Life Practice on a College Campus Mitchell Thomashow
Riot Meg Chase
Day Night Nathaniel Minton
24 25 26 27
What to do with a Daikon Radish Hal B. Klein
Hawks and Doves Unspecific Things in Specific Places We and Me Think Globally, Act Locally Jules de Balincourt
35 Juniper Robert Wrigley
Spray Jobie Cole
36 Sunset Ridge Alina O’Donnell
Remnants 8 Lauren Henkin
39 Dendromancy Zach Falcon
X-ray Mark Kelly
Missouri River Joe Wilkins
New Products The Bird Jobie Cole
Nine of Them Matthew Haughton
Dick’s Skeet Lodge Jules de Balincourt
Enjoyment of Fishes Robert Pyle
Incidental Music Mark Kelly
Horses in Winter Robert Wrigley
Event Meg Chase
Wild Fare Andrew Lawler
Ann Fisher Wirth Indra’s Net. June
Hawk & Handsaw
journal of creative sustainability
Introduction One granite ridge A tree, would be enough Or even a rock, a small creek, A bark shred in a pool. -Gary Snyder, “Piute Creek”
ioregionalism is making a comeback, and we here at Hawk & Handsaw couldn’t be happier. Coined by Allen Van Newkirk in 1975, the term bioregionalism came into popularity over thirty years ago as a way of emphasizing the importance of localism and ecological, rather than political, boundaries. The movement that developed out of this idea was one that urged its followers to go native: to encourage the cultivation of that which is distinct and indigenous within a biome. Since its inception, bioregionalism has promoted watersheds and permaculture, farmers markets and block parties. It’s an ideology that has deep roots here in America, where regional writers and thinkers like Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary Austin, and Flannery O’Connor have been plumbing the depths of local color for well over a century. That hasn’t always been a popular thing to do. In fact, as we slouched towards the new millennium, this kind of thinking fell well out of favor. Critics argued it was too provincial, too myopic in its reach to ever really do any good. The twenty-first century, they argued, would be the age of globalism: of hyperconnectivity that spans time zones and continents, of digital connections that know no physical boundaries. A mentality based on a sense of place, they contended, led to divisiveness and exclusivity. It spawned the kind of thinking that prompted people to cry not in my backyard, with no regard for anyone else’s territory. We hear these objections. But we also have to wonder: what if the Nimbies—the people crying “no” to the toxic waste dumps and turbines in their neighborhood—are onto something? What if we all dedicated ourselves not just to policing, but also to cultivating our own backyards? What if each and every town slated for a tar sands pipeline or liquefied natural gas terminal said no? What if every time someone like Ron Finley encouraged us to become neighborhood guerrilla gardeners we said yes? What if we got really, really riotous and had a beer with our neighbors on their back stoop? Couldn’t we just maybe change the world? Probably that kind of global progress is going to take more than one drink and a slab of concrete. But it’s a start. And if we take ten of those encounters and we share them with ten of our neighbors, we may very well be on the road to something revolutionary. We’ll be forging connections and taking care of our intimates, human and otherwise. We’ll be holding ourselves accountable. Best of all, this way of being is a chance for us to be truly subversive: to create our own economies and cultural mores; to buck the prevailing trends and do something other than a mind-numbing goosestep with the status quo. 2
If there’s anything that gets us excited here at Hawk & Handsaw, it’s that kind of thinking. And so in this, our sixth issue, we’re celebrating what’s great about what’s local: we’re embracing staycations and disconnecting and micro-regionality. In other words, we’re saying yes to our own backyards. That parochial sendup begins with our cover. The image there comes from a glass plate negative that was found in a shed nearby our offices in Unity, Maine. We don’t know much else about it, but the image was obviously taken at a local gathering of some gravity. We love the defiant, almost apparitional quality to the men in this organization—the way they peer from their neck of the woods in a collective gaze that is at once challenging and united. The words and images inside this issue could easily be seen as the shaggy and strange imaginings of this fraternity, transmitted through time and space and into your hands today. The yard sale items in Lauren Henkin’s photographs seem left out for decades to list and tilt and grow a skim of moss: as if our backyards had grown wild and particular. The fields and gardens of Meg Chase’s paintings evoke the farms and of our brief Maine summer, but they also achieve liftoff with heightened colors and their slide into and out of abstraction. The soot skeleton and roofing-paper drawings of Mark Kelly are made with the lightest touch, reminding us of phenomena near at hand. The beams and illuminated decorations of Jules de Balincourt’s paintings of trophy rooms and cities and gatherings offer a bit of phantasmagorical unease to remind us that there’s plenty that is still unknowable, even in a well-used space. In these, our collective visual houses, tarps flap in the wind, strange birds stare us down, and our very bones dissolve into smoke. It’s this kind of mystery within the familiar that prompts the post-apacolyptic fiction of Nathaniel Minton and the epiphany that comes from an eerily romantic ritual killing in Zach Falcon’s “Dendromancy.” There’s an ironic otherworldliness here – a reminder that a lifetime of study is never really enough to come to terms with a single place. That’s true for the quotidian as well. Consider essays like Hal Klein’s, “What to Do With a Daikon Radish” and Andrew Lawler’s “Wild Fare,” both of which show the kind of imagination (and courage) required to embrace local eating. Or Alina O’Donnell’s “Sunset Ridge,” which shows in tragic relief what’s at stake in even the most seemingly innocuous suburban landscape. And then, of course, there are those moments of brilliance we find without ever leaving home: the love poem prompted by a dark pool, the idea that the places where we work and live and learn can also be places where we flourish. That’s as revolutionary an idea as we’ve heard in a long time. And we really like the sound of it. We think you might, too. So this issue, we invite you to break open your favorite microbrew and sit with us on our metaphoric back porch. There’s a hell of a lot to see and do here. And sticking around might just be the most radical thing you’ll do all day.
Hawk & Handsaw
journal of creative sustainability
What is Creative Sustainability? From the view of ecology, I would define creative sustainability as finding new ways to allow ecosystems and environments to continue to maintain the biodiversity and ecosystem services needed to be healthy. Gretchen LeBuhn, Associate Professor of Biology at University of California Director of the Great Sunflower Project
Sift through scrap materials for new opportunities and unrealized potential. It’s possible to build items that work better, last longer, and even look cooler using garbage. When you arrive at that end, people will support it and feel proud about what they have salvaged regardless of whether they consider themselves environmentalists or not. Nick Power, Flowfold
Keeping pesticides herbicides and rodenticides out the realm of possibility and opting to be playful curious and active with our minds bodies and spirits that live in cooperation with wild creatures and where they roam Holly Twining, Maine Audubom Society
Creative sustainability begins with gaining a fresh perspective on the
Three bold praying mantises seem to eye me suspiciously from the tall grass; two lady beetles track down lunch on never-sprayed trees; a wary cedar waxwing nestles with its chicks in a balsam fir; bees galore stuff pollen sacs from goldenrod. Trying not to wreck all the parallel universes: sustainability. Jean English, Editor, The Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener
Creative sustainability requires looking outward at the resources at hand and realizing they are not yours alone; that your responsibility is to look inward for how to conjure celebration out of simplicity, rather than spiraling into the dread of implied scarcity. You will need to be as comfortable in your landscape as in your own skin, maybe more so. Peel back your life to the bones, firmly grasp the ensuing existence of grit and gratitude, and urge this way of being into a world of intuitive tradition: find contentment in community, share your stories like passing seeds to the next generation.
a massive swirl of schooling baitfish
corralled by a barracuda and watching it from below, rather than from shore. The patterns, pieces and connections are clearer, and you can draw new conclusions.
The wellspring I draw from for my creativity is nature.
Much of my work as an artist, writer, naturalist is about
personal experiences in the field. Nature is the source of
my awe and inspiration, as well as human interpretations of nature going back for millennia. I am interested in
why humans have an impulse to depict things in nature. Making things, exercising creativity, sustains me, but I would not be able to do that if I could not dip in and out of the spring for inspiration...
James Prosek, American artist, writer, and naturalist, www.troutsite.com
Margot Carpenter, Hartdale Maps
To achieve sustainability we will need to dramatically rethink the way our society is organized. Mulching, LED lights and insulated homes will never cut it. We need people who have the nerve and the vision to get behind structural, policy changes. It won’t be a worse quality life. In fact, it will probably be better, but it would also be a different way to live. People don’t like change, so we need creative people to make it happen and then help normal people understand it and embrace it. Brady Russel Eastern Pennsylvania Director at Clean Water Action
If I were a bird and flew through Hell, lived to tell about it, and found myself during the telling of my flying through Hell longing to fly through Hell again so that I would have more to tell, I would be exhibiting Creative Sustainability.
At work, creative sustainability has become a matter of survival. How does one continue to deliver on one’s work commitments, with a reduced workforce and reduced funding? The answer is to find creative ways to do the same work with what you have on hand. You look at all the skills available, even skills people may have forgotten they have or not used for a long time, and you shift them around to get the right skills on the right task at the right time. You give people opportunities to grow their skills quickly to match the demand and you give them your trust that they are up to the challenge. There is a price, of course, often paid in the human cost of more working hours or frustrated career goals, and there is a question in my mind about whether the model is truly sustainable over the long run. That’s why the creative sustainability I practice at home is so rewarding: it’s a model for the long run. It is making something beautiful where others only see junk, taking that box of old t-shirts and turning it into a cheerful rag rug to brighten your kitchen, rather than running to the box store and buying a rug made of questionable materials and destructive business practices. It is thinking about the ultimate destination of something you are about to purchase, before you purchase it, and sometimes choosing not to purchase it. It is bringing awareness to your everyday choices. Creative sustainability is hope for the future. Monica Piccinini, IBM
Holli Cederholm, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association
entire system. Like swimming beneath
As long as I am making things with my hands,
paintings, sculptures, anything—I feel sustained.
Jim Draper, artist, www.jimdraperart.com
Hawk & Handsaw
journal of creative sustainability
Listen, there was a time when I fished for sport. I’d catch a dozen perch, peeling the skin off all in one piece. I loved the mossy smell, the emery-rough scales. But I can’t catch fish, ever since Andy’s whistling line reeled in that leaping black bass, scooped into my net. It was scarred about the lips, scales missing on its flank, tournament size, gasping. Eat it later, we agreed. We kept it alive overnight. At dawn over dewy grass I stepped up to the tank. See, the bass stirred, tipped its eye at me. I carried the creature to the water’s verge, floated it on my palms, until it tipped itself into the flow.
A few days later, Harold pulled up in his aluminum boat with three rods, minnow pail, fish box, lunch. He hauled his fatigues onto our dock and up the hill, puffing a bit. From a frothy beer out bubbled his stories of pike fishing, duck shoots. He was hunting old river photos to give to the museum. Did we have any? You know, Harold often fishes off our point. I shared with him our tale of Andy’s catch–– the large, battered bass with the scratched-up mouth. Harold gazed out the window. “I know that bass. I’ve caught it, myself.”
Lauren Henkin, Remnants 3: pigment print
Meg Chase, Riot, oil on Canvas
Hawk & Handsaw
journal of creative sustainability
Sustainability Character and
Life Practice On a College Campus An excerpt from The Nine Elements of a Sustainable Campus (to be published by The MIT Press 2013) Mitchell Thomashow
“Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
n the early 1990’s, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist, presented a series of meditation workshops oriented towards the specific challenges of environmental professionals. I had the good fortune to attend one of those workshops. In my experience during the program and following twenty years, the reverberating mantra “you can’t take care of the environment if you don’t take care of the environmentalist” resided in my awareness. I used it as a way to balance the challenging demands of professional life, to serve as a way to place aspiration and accomplishment in the deeper perspective of a whole life. Much of the sustainability ethos has its origins in the virtues of simplicity, a vision of a “good life” that has Thoreauvian roots, including what Philip Cafaro describes in his book Thoreau’s Living Ethics as “health, freedom, pleasure, friendship, a rich experience, knowledge (of self, nature, and God), reverence, self-culture, and personal achievement.” Simplicity also reflects an enduring tradition in American history. In The Simple Life, David Shi, reveals the origins and practice of this sensibility. He describes how the simple life was intrinsic to the Progressive movement, including “a cluster of practices and values that have since remained associated with the concept: discriminating consumption, uncluttered living, personal contentment, aesthetic simplicity (including an emphasis on handicrafts), civic virtue, social service, and renewed contact with nature in one form or another.” On college campuses, sustainability advocates typically support such Thoreauvian values in principle, yet their work environments are exceedingly demanding. The sustainability ethos promotes “the good life” but the urgency of the “planetary challenge” coupled with the various stresses of contemporary higher education often creates pressured and tense work environments. Most campus sustainability professionals I encounter, including staffers, faculty, and managers, all the way up to the senior leadership, are challenged by a seemingly unlimited portfolio of urgent and demanding tasks and requests. They are compelled to respond for three main reasons: the perceived importance of the sustainability mission, the motivation to accomplish tangible results, and their desire to uphold standards of personal achievement. This is stimulated and reinforced by the presumed ubiquity of work, an implicit work ethic, and the assumption that individual and organizational success depends on the exemplary accomplishment of that work. It is relatively rare to find people on college campuses who proclaim that they’ve achieved a “balanced” work life. Rather people complain, proclaim, or take pride in how busy they are.
Hawk & Handsaw
journal of creative sustainability
e have a profound contradiction here. The sustainability ethos deeply values a “good life” informed by simplicity, communion with nature, and reverence. But the provision of that good life seems to obviate its realization. Of course many people find great satisfaction in sustainability work and find that the work itself is sufficient reward. And how people choose to spend their time and balance their life is an individual matter. Still, my impression, informed by hundreds of conversations with higher education sustainability professionals, is that most of these people (regardless of their place and position) experience a fundamental imbalance between the promise of the “good life” and its realization. What I wish to convey, then, is the inevitable link between sustainability, character, and life practice. Sustainability practitioners are ultimately interested in human flourishing: they serve as the campus conscience for personal health and fitness, community purpose and vitality, and ecological resilience. They are inevitably scrutinized because they are espousing ways of thinking, living, and acting. They are expected to model the very behaviors they advocate. As Emerson suggests, how they live and act is as important as what they say.
In my role as “supervisor in chief,” I had to learn how to create high expectations for the college while espousing a balanced work life. During my tenure as a college president I directly confronted this issue. In my role as “supervisor in chief,” I had to learn how to create high expectations for the college while espousing a balanced work life. Unless I found the same balance in my own life I wouldn’t be taken seriously in that regard. There was a stunning parallel between how I conducted myself publicly and the tone I set for the whole campus. As I lived on campus, this was an inescapable reality. We constructed a modest LEED platinum, zero carbon presidential residence to set a public standard for sustainable living. The house functioned simultaneously as our private living quarters and an educational venue for campus sustainability. Our lives were on display. But the public nature of my life didn’t end there. As a college president, I discovered that people inevitably scrutinize everything you do and say. Like so many of my peers, I aspired to maximize the educational value of that scrutiny. I won’t say that I achieved the balance between high-level professional accomplishment and the sustainable “good life.” But I did publicly pronounce my desire to do so and attempted transparency in my successes and failures accordingly. I also emphasized the importance of a balanced life for those employees who reported directly to me, and I instructed them to do the same in their departments. As the president of a small college (in a small town), almost every work-related dissatisfaction eventually arrives on your desk. The “well-being” of your constituents is always on your mind. There is no solace in knowing that you can’t please everyone or that some people just find trouble. And the more accessible and transparent you are, the more likely it is that people will come to you with their issues. In many respects, the daily challenge of maintaining high morale at a college that espoused the sustainability ethos was the most stressful element of my job. I had to balance the psychological demands of the position, my expectations for achieving a sustainable campus, and my aspirations to live and lead “a good life.” I contend that this balance is crucial for any sustainability practitioner, although considerably magnified for a chief executive. Mileage varies according to the culture of each campus, the personal style of the practitioner, and the level of leadership responsibility intrinsic to your position. However, there are some behavioral tenants for implementing that balance in any institution. These reflect approaches I use (not always successfully) to promote “a good life” in an organization.
1 Accept that You’re a Role Model If you espouse sustainability, people will expect you to live according to your ideals. You can’t practice an energy guzzling lifestyle. It just won’t work. Similarly, if you espouse campus wellness, you should probably eat well, pursue physical fitness, and balance work and play. If you can’t do so, then how can you promote it for others? When I was the president of Unity College, I organized a noon-time bicycle ride for senior staff and invited any students and faculty to join us. I was always on my bicycle. I encouraged the Dean of Student Life to develop comprehensive wellness programs for students, staff, and faculty. We created a spirit of wellness for the entire campus, and we knew that if we took the lead in our own lives, it would have much more impact. I would take the lead in encouraging everyone on campus to alleviate stress, practice fitness and relaxation, and engage in both work and play.
2 Provide a Sense of Proportion and Scale It’s often difficult for people to distinguish between working hard and working well. Throughout my career people have questioned me as to how I’m able to take breaks during the day for exercise, or find time to pursue my many interests. The answer, I think, lies in the fact that people often misappropriate their time. I spend much of my supervisory time working with people to help them align their priorities accordingly. When you are the chief executive, you are more able to do this. The first question I ask my employees is to tell me how they spend their time, what rationale they use for making their time management decisions, and whether they feel that their work is important. Just about everyone I encounter requires such conversations. Similarly (from an institutional perspective), people often worry about the wrong things. Often, this is the reason for misappropriating time: they are working and worrying about issues that aren’t really that important. Surprisingly, providing this kind of counsel can be the key to promoting campus wellness. You can’t have a balanced working life unless you can figure out how to manage your time.
3 Emphasize Clarity and Accountability Any campus with high aspirations must create a challenging and demanding work environment. How can campus wellness coexist with such aspiration? The key to this balance is requiring clear accountability and expectations. People must know what they can and should expect from each other. The most egregious miscommunications often can be traced to a misunderstanding of who is accountable and what is expected of them. When there is lack of clarity, the stress level in an organization becomes inordinately high. Then you have to spend far too much time (see point 2 above) trying to figure out who was supposed to do what or what people meant when they said something.
4 Emphasize Politeness and Respect This is an incredibly simple way to promote a sense of campus well-being. When people treat each other with politeness and respect, they insure better communication, they are more likely to speak and listen well, and they will come to every encounter with more confidence and integrity. In contrast, an environment of intimidation, bullying, sarcasm, and condescension promotes anxiety and defensiveness. I have spent hours of supervisory time mediating such bad behavior. I have always placed a huge emphasis on creating conditions of conviviality and good interpersonal manners. However, it’s crucial that people don’t mistake conviviality for a lack of discipline or an unwillingness to set limits. Conflict is inevitable and different perspectives will always emerge. The manner in which conflicts are resolved reflects volumes about campus morale and community vitality.
Hawk & Handsaw
journal of creative sustainability
5C reate an Improvisational Flow of Creative Imagination I always try to stimulate a creative, improvisational working environment that rewards innovation and imagination. This attitude is absolutely necessary in demanding working environments. It provides an outlet for stress, encourages participation, and demonstrates open-mindedness. Sometimes there are multiple solutions to vexing problems. An improvisational flow doesn’t necessarily mitigate a stressful challenge, but it can create more stimulating and rewarding conditions for taking on the challenge. People are most fully engaged in campus life when they are using their imagination to solve challenging problems. An improvisational attitude also suggests there is a willingness to experiment and explore as a way to adapt to changing circumstances.
6 Purity is the End of Potential In the introduction to The Collected Works of Gary Snyder, poet Jim Dodge tells a wonderful story. He describes a group of students who were visiting Snyder to discuss various environmental issues. Snyder served a meal of “road-kill stew” in bowls without silverware. Observing the scene, Dodge wondered whether Snyder has gone Zen-pure. But, then, Snyder went to the kitchen to fetch dessert. He came back to the dining area and tossed Hostess Twinkies to all of the seminar participants. There’s a lesson to be learned here. For Jim Dodge, it’s that purity is the end of potential. I recount this story on numerous occasions as a reminder that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. Our important work requires comedy and lightness. Why is Thoreauvian simplicity such an enduring aspiration? For starters, it cuts against the complicated intricacies of contemporary life. In the early nineteenth century, Thoreau conceived a counter to what he considered to be the ubiquitous monotony of daily work life, especially as informed by the routines of commerce. Those routines prevented people from living a full life, mainly by distracting them from direct experience of the natural world. Thoreau’s many projects entailed deep immersion in the extraordinary mysteries and intricacies of the immediate landscape, He aspired to shed the shackles of commerce, to roam freely through the fields and forests, and to commit himself to the daily practice of observing nature. Philip Cafaro neatly encapsulates the essence of this daily practice in his book Thoreau’s Living Ethics: It is striking how often Thoreau, in discussing the good life, specifies human flourishing and excellence in relation to nature. Some of this is quite basic. The simplest messages in Walden are to get outside, use your limbs, and delight in your senses. Run, walk, swim, sweat. Taste the sweetness of the year’s first huckleberries and feel the juice dribble down your chin. It feels good to plunge into a pond first thing in the morning and WAKE UP, or to float lazily in a boat along its surface, wafted we know not where by the breeze, gazing up at the clouds…. What we need to know in order to live better lives may indeed be very simple. Nearly two hundred years have passed since Thoreau’s time. The routines of commerce, the schedules of daily life, the intervening layers of technology, and the expectations of productivity remain considerable. The fields, forests, and ponds are not nearly as accessible. Yet Thoreau’s aspirations remain vibrant and his concept of human flourishing (which also includes the pursuit of knowledge and creative expression) is absolutely relevant. How can it be justified in a time of ecological urgency? As a college president, I would often address prospective students and families. Why should they consider the environmental field as their educational foundation and a possible career? These are questions that clearly deserve answers. And they transcend college open houses or days for prospective students. In all kinds of other circumstances (with colleagues, friends, or
in public settings) I find myself explaining the virtues of an environmental career and life, or how to incorporate a sustainability ethos into one’s life practice. The essence of my appeal is twofold. I explain that environmental sustainability is the ultimate service profession. Wherever you are, however you work, you are engaged in activity that serves your neighborhood, community, and planet. Service is rewarding, engaging, and meaningful. Second, by studying sustainability and the natural world, you are gaining a deeper understanding of life processes. In so doing, you are constantly reminded of the mystery and wonder of the biosphere. As you do so, you gain an appreciation for the sanctity of life. I can think of no better way to integrate personal growth and the pursuit of a career. The justification is embedded in this appeal. Thoreau’s daily practice of observing nature was far more than a testimony to direct experience. It was a way to build appreciation for the very circumstances of his life. Rather than taking the natural world for granted, he chose to probe its intricacies. In deepening appreciation, he summoned gratitude. The good life beckons gratitude. For Thoreau, this is the very essence of human flourishing.
I explain that environmental sustainability is the ultimate service profession. Wherever you are, however you work, you are engaged in activity that serves your neighborhood, community, and planet. How can this sensibility be relevant to the 24/7 world of contemporary higher education? It’s not easy. Expressions of gratitude can be washed away in cynicism, sarcasm, anxiety, and stress. Or they may be perceived as sanctimonious. How can I express gratitude when you’ve just slashed my budget? The budget-cutting mentality, the trappings of accountability and assessment, the constant need to justify higher learning beyond sheer productivity and career building—these pressures can shatter gratitude into the scattered fragments of spare change. Where does Thoreauvian simplicity belong here? Perhaps the most vivid reminder of gratitude is to call attention to the great privilege of education itself. Just as we often feel entitled to the earth’s bounty, so do we expect that education is an entitlement. Yet the great majority of the world’s population has no access to either. These two fundamental expectations—the fruits of the earth and the gifts of higher learning—are indeed the culmination of the good life, and taking them for granted leads to their squander. Budget cutting is so threatening because it ultimately implies less access to both prospects. Let us be thankful for what we have and conserve its best use. This idea of gratitude is at the heart of Thoreauvian simplicity. It is also the very essence of the sustainability ethos because it teaches that the culmination of gratitude is reciprocation. Reciprocation implies giving back what you have received. It involves an exchange, transformation, and acknowledgment. Reciprocation is a circulation from the biosphere through human awareness and back again, passing through social networks, educational venues, creative expression, and community service. It is the very foundation of human flourishing. If reciprocation and gratitude are so essential to the good life, how can such qualities become intrinsic to the curriculum of higher education?
Hawk & Handsaw
journal of creative sustainability
night Nathaniel Minton
Three days after the grain barge disappeared, Bell’s father fired up an acetylene torch and announced he was building a submarine from a pair of depleted 500-gallon pressure tanks. He cut the rounded end from one and crawled inside while Bell, perched on a stone of no glacial significance, blind to the sun that warmed her, eyes protected from the searing arc of his welding, waited for a day when she could see the sun. Her father said, “Do you remember when we were all going to live underwater?” She didn’t remember—she was only ten and couldn’t remember a world into which she was not born, but she remembered watching the night sky and wondering how she was supposed to grow older. “The future isn’t here anymore,” he said. “Or it never was. I can’t remember which.” He hammered on the hollow cylinders. “You need to reinforce the center weld,” she told him. “No shit Sherlock,” he said. He had done the math on fluid dynamics and gas compression buoyancy and he knew how to build a submarine. “What kinda outfit do you think this is? This is the navy.” “Sir, yes, sir.” She winked behind her blindfold, but cringed at the uneven ring from his hammering. The tanks were old and corroded, and she knew that even with the blindfold on. She had lived her first five years in a blacksmith shop, waiting for the council to choose her fate, before these new parents took her home. She had not
forgotten the blacksmith, and she understood the speech of metal. “When I was a kid,” her father said, “everyone told me in the future we’d cure cancer, grow vegetables in laboratories, and have babies without wisdom teeth. We were all going to have giant brains with extra sensory perception. They told me we’d achieve an enlightened connection to every living property of the universe. I was supposed to have a robot butler.” “We don’t even own a robot.” “Well the island does, but no, no we don’t personally,” he said. “I want to go see the robot,” Bell said. “Would you take me?” He chewed his lip. He started to say something about the future—stopped, laughed, and started again. “The one thing they never tell you about the future is that changing the world is a do-it-yourselfer, like this submarine. Robots don’t do much besides what you tell them—half the time they get that wrong. It’s because they can’t change their minds, and creatures that can’t change their minds have nothing to live for.” “I could change my mind.” “Of course you could,” he said. “That’s how we know you’re not a robot.” “I say, scrap ‘em all. We don’t need ‘em,” Bell squeaked in her best pullstring toy robot voice. Her father robot-voiced back at her, “You know I’m telling the truth because I told you I’m lying.” “Robots are funny,” she said.
“No they aren’t.” He shuffled his shoulders. “Sure they do things people don’t have the stomach for but they have nothing to live for. On the other hand we have, well we have you...” “Sometimes I feel sorry.” “Don’t be sorry.” He smiled. “We’re going to change the world with a submarine.” “Who is?” She beamed. “You is,” he said. “I is, and we is. It’ll be something at least.” “Could I ride in it with you?” Bell peeped. Her father paused. He looked at the water. It was a quiet day on the harbor. “You know where we came from?” her father said. “Monkeys?” she said. “I read it in a book.” He nodded at the fog, at the harbor. “From the ocean, from a thin-necked fish who could look up and down, and excelled at evading predators. That’s the fish we came from. All the others were nobody’s ancestor.” He sighed. “Sometimes we need to do the things that don’t need doing because it gives us reason. I want you to understand this.” He wound his hands around an imaginary globe, attempting to indicate the integral interconnectedness of life. He wiped his brow. A glint of salt crystallized on his eyelashes. “We aren’t that fish anymore.” Bell turned her face away from her father; the harbor fog was solid but settling. The night would be clear for her, for
watching the harbor. The channel buoys clanged merrily, not yet frost pitched to bleak, but tuned by a hint of winter in the air. “When I grow up I want to be in the future,” she said. “You will,” he told her. He did not lie. She would be alone perhaps, but it would be the future. “And when you do—remember, you are a blessing to this world.” The low bellow of a foghorn reached down from their house. It was time to eat. They climbed up from the cove together, her father’s knees creaking on the steep rocks as Bell picked pebbles from the ground and tossed them to the bereft junipers lining their path; she never stumbled. Clamshells crunched beneath their feet, the antique detritus of gulls, the remains of a meal eaten when her parent’s son still lived at home, twice her lifetime ago before he left for the stars. Father and daughter followed the deep horn to the dining room, where her mother had set the table with canned mackerel and venison. They washed their hands at the kitchen sink and joined her for the meal. They ate in silence for as long as her mother could bear it. Then she pushed her plate aside and asked Bell how the submarine was coming along. Bell pursed her lips, tilted her head in thought, and her mother, restraining a laugh, added, “—and who do you think he thinks he is, to think he can build a sub—?” as she covered her mouth against a giggle.
Hawk & Handsaw
“Is the submarine funny?” Bell asked. Her mother contained herself and explained that, “humor is a matter of perspective.” Her father agreed entirely, “This isn’t my own scheme,” he said. “I’m doing this for the Town Council. Virgil Addison thought it up, I just have the know-how. It’ll make a difference though. For the future.” Bell’s mother pushed her chair back from the table. “Not yet,” her father said. “Please, I’ll stop talking and eat.” They stopped, settled once again to the table, and all continued the meal in silence. When she had finished eating, Bell brought her plate and cup to the kitchen. She washed them and set them by the sink to dry. She climbed to her room in the attic to dress for the evening. The room was a shallow space, dim and poorly insulated, saved from chilling despair only by a wooden grate that allowed a flow of warmth from the woodstove below. Convection was not all that transpired between them and, pressing her face to the floor, she waited for the listening time. Then it began. “We shouldn’t ask that of a child.” “She’s already working twenty-four hours a week,” her father said. Silence. More silence. “I’m sorry…” “No,” her mother said. Then silence, and Bell held her breath. She lifted a corner of the blindfold and through the grate she saw not only the wood stove but also a corner of the piano and the shoulder of their chaise. Later, when her mother came into view, standing with her back to the stove—a blossom of broken curls from above, Bell
journal of creative sustainability
opened her lungs to the dry heat from below. “Besides,” her mother sighed. “I never believed we’d live this long.” An hour past sunset, Bell removed her blindfold and wrapped it around her neck. She walked the shoreline, dressed in white, barefoot with night on her shoulders. A splinter wind from Newfoundland swept across the coast of Maine and bore against her, stinging her cheeks with sea and salt. She breathed the chill as her eyes adjusted to the blinding light of a quarter moon and the Milky Way, because fall had turned the islands dry and cleared the skies for brighter nights. She was ten years old and saw in the dark but not in the day—a willing sacrifice for the protection of her parents, the islanders, and the island. Each night her father bade her “good watching,” as he sent his clean-eyed daughter to watch the sea for incursive craft—ships of the cruel, the lost, the seekers and the sick—a woeful necessity of communal endurance. It had been that way since the astronauts left. Beneath her feet, slabs of glacial granite held warmth from the day and she dashed across their smooth and jagged angles, arch of foot fitting arch of stone. She passed the Odd Fellows Hall, dodging between the tarred poles beneath the wharf and pausing at the sound of voices. She crouched and crawled toward the edge of the rocks, where a tangled wall of roots and soil rose up from the granite. She peered over it, squinted her eyes against the light from an open door and listened as she caught her breath. The white clapboard hall was chipped and settled to bedrock, the concrete
foundation long since ground to something less, but the building stood. Supported in spirit by the bawls and hollers of the Vogel Island Town Council and various concerned citizens, the very men and women who waited for emptiness, for the Lege Gebeurtenis— the last of all time—were heard, their voices echoing over with rageenlightened arguments about the proper response to the missing grain barge. “It was Squab Island. I’m certain of it,” John Henry Johnson said. “Last time I was over on the mainland my brother told me he heard their harvest was short—for the fifth year since they swore off machines.” Virgil Addison took the floor. “I’m as happy as my fellow man to help out another island but this is their own fault. If they stole our grain, we should strike up the militia at once.” A clamor of heel and cane echoed from the floor. John Henry Johnson stomped his foot and hoisted a fist to seize the floor. He wiped the sweat from his brow. He said, “Lord forgive me for speaking the truth but their action was retaliatory, for—” he stopped, he lowered his voice, “for our history, for the children and what we’ve all done to one another. I’m not saying they had a right to that barge, but when our closest neighbor quits farming and turns to piracy we need to ask ourselves if we care to fight back. We’re going on fifteen generations of this and I can’t speak for the rest of you, but I’m tired of it. Just fed up. I don’t know how much longer I’ll live but it ain’t goddamn long, and if I wasn’t a man of honor and duty I’d go down to the wharf
And though she watched the constant waters, searching the channel for boats, there were never boats: there was no life, and her persistent watching of the water— or any other tonic—had yet to intervene on behalf of life’s endeavors.
right now and put myself out to sea in a burning boat.” Virgil chuffed, wiped his mouth with a handkerchief and worked his jaw, and said, “I’ll give you a discount on fuel.” Mabel Conway, an elderly woman who lost her left leg to a table saw when she was six, stood with practiced effort. Her voice trembled. She said, “John Henry Johnson, your mother taught you better. If she was alive today you’d have just about killed her.” “You better not,” John Henry Johnson said. “She wished the wish we never speak, and we loved her for her heart. Have you no shame before this council? Even you ought to know there isn’t a damn thing we can do in this world will bring anyone back to life. So you shut your mouth about that barge. It’s history now and we all know history ain’t worth a damn when the future gets up and walks out the door on you.” “You talking about your husband Mabel?” John Henry Johnson simpered. “Hear, hear!” Mr. Forester cried to order, and the gaggle complied, for a moment. Johnson laughed again and kept laughing, kept shouting, “Sit down Mabel! We all know
nothingness awaits, but we want something to happen before then.” “Hip Hip Hurrah,” the Chorus chimed. “History left us—we didn’t leave history.” Bell was among the last of the left behind, one of very few children who were born and did not die, whose existence described the attenuated points of a species long since abandoned by reproductive fitness, but she listened with little concern. The barge route was neither on her watch nor on her side of the island, and soon she would be alone. She left them there, arguing into the night, and went to her work in the trees. She dared not wish for more than she possessed, for she was blessed. She carried on her person an oilskin pouch containing one 4 ounce lead fishing weight, one shard of window glass, three galvanized screws, a fishhook, a razor, and a raccoon bone clacker—a history of her in their numbers, a comfort perhaps in matching her scars to their solids, because she was the last that was left. She wanted memories of herself, perched as she was in a basket at the crown of a dying elm. She opened the bundle and removed the glass.
Pressing the cool edges to a matching scar on her forehead, she remembered the ferry when she was seven, asleep to the sound of the waves when a man on the deck exploded. Three children died that day, and three years later she still closed her eyes against the light, removed their cries and listened to the ceaseless shatter of waves because the ocean felt alive, in motion to be sure, tended by a harmonious constituency of depth, distance, elevation, and rotation. And though she watched the constant waters, searching the channel for boats, there were never boats: there was no life, and her persistent watching of the water— or any other tonic—had yet to intervene on behalf of life’s endeavors. Keep the bathwater, they say. Throw away the baby. She had learned this: the ocean can’t die. It is greater than the life it holds—it is gravity—and while the phytoplankton, earth’s essential suppliers of oxygen, were dying in a final anoxic event of oceanic proportion, and although the vertebrates would follow by order of food chain, the ocean still harbored life at anaerobic depths where ancestors persist in opposition to progeny—thriving in a pressurized pit of volcanoes and feeding on a diet of cyanide. And humanity, in its final breaths upon earth, would know how little of the future was theirs, know how little time was left for lives of import—their last word perhaps only ‘farewell,’ to the stars, a child or both—and the certainty of peace provided by a child’s remembrance relieved the dimming of their lives. So they did not rest: Bell’s mother and father, Mabel Conway,
Hawk & Handsaw
Mr. Forester, John Henry Johnson, all twohundred-eight souls on the island would struggle to survive beyond their deaths if only for burial in a child’s mind. The child watched nine islands from her post, swaying high above the breakers. She had an excellent view of Squab Island Harbor, and she guarded the two entrances as a first watch for the Vogel Island Volunteer Navy and as witness to the undaunted terrors of a tidally significant pull—currents navigable only after years working a local boat—and the hydrodynamic exertions it inflicted on the wayward, crushing whole families, itinerants and refugees who saw their ships reduced in the maw and their visions of remembrance eulogized by the sonic clarity of a lifeless water. Bell listened: her eyes were accustomed to the dark and her ears were attuned to silence. She faced east and watched the fabric of stars on the ocean for circles of disruption, any sign of a craft, smoke signals fallen from the sky. She listened for the sound of carnivores—out to shred their own screeching bodies from starvation, their entrails ranged among distant brambles as certain last meals for mice, maggots and microbes—their meek inheritance conveyed. Bell sat still those hours, awake with the practical pain of memory, until the tree shivered her to the first pale hint of dawn, and shook when the boy from East Tarn Cove signaled his arrival. They rarely spoke when the guard was changed, but watched the whites of each other’s eyes glow in the scarce light of dawn. He was a year older than she, nearly
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to the day, and the crinkled lips below his nose were often cold as she kissed him. Still, as he smiled they shared information—the council, the submarine, the fate of their time. They met each morning—such were their plans for the next ninety years—to remember each other for a century and then, no memories at all. Her mouth still cool from his touch, she scurried home along the shoreline path, the harbor light turning with the moon as she opened the back door, climbed into bed and waited for the sheets to warm before changing. She dreamed about the dream she dreamed the day before—a new constellation on the crest of the breakers, an eternity machine grinding away in a chamber beneath the sea, each part a purpose—abandoned by her brother and the Pilobus Astronauts who slept toward tomorrow, sealed in the telmocite containers of human endeavor. Bell knew, even in her dreams, that she must not stop wishing for their return, even as she awoke to voices below and tied her blindfold to hide the day. The Selectmen had come to call while she slept—John Henry Johnson, Mabel Conway, and Vergil Addison. Her mother let them in, prepared tea and
scones and hosted their whims and wills as her father described his progress on the submarine—18 feet with a four foot passenger compartment in the center allowing each end to be used for weights and ballast. The Selectmen nodded with just approval at the backup power apparatus and smiled when he told them about the multinode navigation system. “We’re so happy you’re doing this,” Mabel said. “Yes, yes,” Mr. Addison said. “If we continue fighting we may still get history up and running. Splendid job!” “Of course the most important thing,” said John Henry Johnson, “is that you’re acting entirely in service of humanity.” “Yes of course,” Bell’s father said. “Whatever other service exists is an odd service to me.” “Indeed,” John Henry Johnson said. A murmur of agreement nestled among them, a preverbal assent to Bell’s ears as she descended from the attic to the government of her dining room. She pinched her eyes behind the blindfold, resisting the urge to look at them in daylight. The talking stopped and they turned to Bell. Mrs. Conway cooed, “Your chosen caregiver is building a submarine, yes?”
Her mouth still cool from his touch, she scurried home along the shoreline path, the harbor light turning with the moon as she opened the back door, climbed into bed and waited for the sheets to warm before changing.
“Yes, Madam,” Bell said. “It is for you,” the old woman said. Bell folded her hands behind her back, tipped her chin, and asked if this was true. “Yes,” her father said. “You will be trained to sail the craft to Squab Island,” Mr. Addison said. “Simple really, once there you will weigh anchor four cable lengths from shore. Then fire a harpoon into the forest and safely travel along the harpoon line in a small inflatable raft. Once on shore you will triangulate your position to this map and make your way unseen to the boatyard and provide us with intelligence on the location— specifically.” Addison nodded to Bell’s mother. “We are looking for our grain barge. We need to know if they stole it, with our food on it. You understand this is a grave matter of justice, and we expect your full commitment to the assignment. ” “No,” Bell said. “No will not do,” Mabel Conway spouted. “You insubordinate child.” Her parent’s chairs sounded a certain displeasure in their creaks and pauses but they did not speak: they dreaded the weight of their ancestors. “Child,” John Henry Johnson said, “without the grain on that barge we won’t live out the winter.” “I will,” Bell said. Because they would not let her die. She peeled off her blindfold and let if fall to their feet. They threatened to return her to the Smith, and Addison told her he’d kill her parents if she didn’t pilot the submarine, but she refused to change her mind—she was quite certain of her choice.
She was returned to the Smith. He was a regular brute of a man, leathered by life and forged to the sinewed coil of an anvil. He hammered out plows, fishing knives, nails, he was a one-man machine shop and he branded their animals. He kept Bell in the hayloft, where she found her own bed, undisturbed for five years and clothes that no longer fit. The barn held a hundred pigs and their filth rose though the gaps in the shrunken planks below her room. But she didn’t mind. They were warm and friendly old sows and she made the best of their company for nearly two days. Then she spoke. “I think I’d like to speak,” she said to the Smith. “Don’t think,” he said. “Thoughts are husbandry child, bearing both well and weak, afore and abaft, cold and hot. The difference is a knowledge born of age, so don’t think child. Don’t, as children ought not think.” “Then I ought to speak first and think later?” “Precisely,” he said. “Am I here to stay?” “Do you want to drive the submarine?” “No, I don’t,” Bell said. “And your reason?” he asked. “I changed my mind.” “That is not a reason.” “I’m not a robot,” she said. He explained to her what a reason was and that children are not what they do. She tightened her jaw and nodded. “In that case you are here to stay.” “They will come to me,” she said. “They will want me to know them.” She was not chained or tied. She could
have come and gone if she pleased, but she did not, for the Smith could only protect her if she stayed on his property. For two weeks she lived without speech, listening to the grumble and whine of the forge, the pigs and the dying of history. She slept little in the day and if at night she woke to silence, she listened for the moment of her death—the breeze in the rafters, the smell of salt and granite, the final loneliness of her ninety years—the final dwindled frame of human history. At dawn, she shivered under a grain sack and awoke to the Smith’s voice. “Your father,” he said. He gave her coffee from the fire and a hard cake of saltcured lichen. “He was sent away.” She warmed with the coffee, sat up, pulled her knees to her chest and focused her eyes on the coals. He edged a skillet to the fire. “Tell me,” she said. He simmered dried corn in cider and bacon fat when he spoke. “Bell,” he said. “I don’t care what the astronauts told us, our decisions have consequences. Short lived, perhaps, but the toll is no different, and your father pays it now. He made the choice to send the robot instead of you in the submarine. The Squab Islanders don’t believe in machines anymore, as they are pious if not practical, and after the robot killed a cow they rightly blamed us for the invasion. The Council gave them your father.” “And my mother?” “I was not asked to speak of her.” “And of me?” He looked at his hands, once regarded as the last holdfast of a village, their bolts
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and trowels and children—but battered, wrinkled, scarred and spotted, they were no longer his hands. Not the hands he had looked on in childhood, fingers gleaming from the distant fires of rocket launches. “You.” He showed his hands to her. “You have more use than these, when you choose.” She did not ask what he meant. She did not think. When her flesh tightened with the change in seasons she spoke to the pigs in a language of mutual invention. She told them they did not belong in a pen, they did not belong in the snow. They were children of this earth and their pain was not the pain of the living but the cold rot of bone—the disease in their marrow. They squealed through the night, deafening her ears to the approaching clatter of Virgil Addison’s footsteps. He choked her by the throat. “Do you know me? My name, do you remember my name?” She grasped at his hand; she couldn’t speak. “You mustn’t scream,” he said. He relaxed his grip, allowed her to breathe. She agreed. “I’ll answer your questions, but you must never touch me again.” “No,” he snapped. He grabbed her wrist. “You must remember me.” And she did. And as she left the barn for the Smith’s shop, she banished the thought. The fog glowed about the Smith’s home, orange from the light of his forge. She knocked on the iron door and withdrew a yard from the grind of chain and gear rumbling beneath her feet. She shuddered—the mist eddying around her in self-propelled spirals of collapsing time. She breathed slower still as
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the door cracked open and tendrils of flame reddened the metal entrance, opening full before her. In the muddy light the Smith stood with his back to her, engulfed by smoke and spark, hammering the folds of a plow blade on his anvil, the steel gaining strength with each layer—flatten, fold, forge, flatten and fold—a thousand at least, or more, in threequarter time. He stopped at the flat patter of her feet on the slate floor. “Speak now,” he said. “I choose to go,” Bell whispered. His shoulders collapsed. “They were here.” “Yes,” she said. He nodded his grave chin. He asked where she would go. “To my father?” “You are blessed,” the Smith said. “You will die without the weight of voices, but you must go now.” He set his hammer on a steel bench and quenched the blade in a filthy bucket of water and slag. “Bless the pigs as you leave.” He returned again to the bellows, stoked the forge to white. “May God help you.” She blessed the pigs her sympathies and regret. They nuzzled her nose with cold snouts. She grinned and laughed, gathered up the burlap and wrapped herself against the winter. Night had come and the Smith, distant in his dreams, was cast further to sleep by the lonely and guttural cries of the sounder. He did not follow her. She was gone from him. She sequestered herself from the gusts and gales of winter—protected her body between the granite walls of a quarry tunnel. She saw everything divided among
the frozen and the living. She ate lichens from the perspiring quartz and forced herself deeper underground. Her skin was worn bare by the granite. The decaying isotopes and microbial life of the cave frayed her pain. She was cut and healed. Cut and healed. She grew each day and when darkness fell she left the cave for the brilliance of night. The stars hurt her eyes—painful even on her raw fingertips—but she refused to stop. She walked barefoot across the frozen harbor. A raw wind tore at her with crystallized shards of seawater and mercury—but she wasn’t cold. She felt only glimmers. At the gap of the northern channel she stopped before the frozen waves that divided ice from ocean. She tapped her bare toes on the smooth surface and her warmth polished it clear. She peered into it as the moonlight refracted in layers of ice, folded as steel into a dense sea of interlocking triangles. She curled her toes to the water. Bent at the knee, arms together above her head, she sprang from the ledge and dove to the frothing slush. The water stopped her. Gripped her with paralysis—digits, limbs and lungs. Her heart skipped a beat. She could not draw air, but through glint of will she compelled her arms, then legs, to paddle the convection of blood within her failing body. She breached the surface once more, sprayed ice from her nostrils and drank a gust of night. She knew the moon and the water. She followed the tides and understood the crosscurrent of the lighthouse channel and believed she saw the boy perched on her
She sequestered herself from the gusts and gales of winter—protected her body between the granite walls of a quarry tunnel. She saw everything divided among the frozen and the living.
tree, his face glowing in the moonlight, his eyes—stars from a world before. She swam north from the harbor. A hundred yards beyond the breakers the swells reached nine feet. She swam beneath them, coming up for breath in the valleys. She found her way through celestial orientation. She knew how to swim. She made four of the five miles to Squab when, by the stars, she knew she had not moved in some time. The tide had turned but more than current pulled at her. Reaching for her numb ankles, she found a tangle of fishing line, dead kelp, and the plastic refuse of all the ships the astronauts sank before they left—all the navies of the world, warheads, steel, and Styrofoam plates—drowned in the trench. The trash of it tangled to her limbs. She no longer knew how to swim. The garbage pulled at her in frightening allegiance to the gyre—pulling her under with the ribbons and spindles and tendrils of slime that bloomed and breached about her body— bright green in the first generous breath of dawn that streamed across her as she fell away, the sun giving life, not substance, to the last strain of phytoplankton that gained a slight selective advantage as their cell walls relaxed, absorbed, and organized life from
a greater menu of molecules. The water was clean and dead so they made their cells from the slurry of biomass that sank through centuries to decompose in the shadow of our death, fathom by fathom—bleak in purpose perhaps—to shield this tender creature from her life. She took water in her lungs. She spasmed and sputtered and choked. She had drowned twice before and knew she had between eight and twelve minutes before the euphoric hypoxia of neural damage. Her limbs blinked and fluttered to darkness, the organization of her cells increasingly dependent on the last scraps of energy in her closing ecology—the warmth of her core where organs ceased by priority of nerve—the appendix, the large intestine and the small, the stomach, the liver, the spleen, save the heart for last, then the brain—frontal lobe first, followed as time required by parietal, temporal and occipital. Cerebellum next, leaving only the basic bundle of our ancestors, the tight braid of the medulla oblongata, where autonomy begins and ends. She held in conservation as the dreams approached. In this isolation her skin became so
peeled and hungry that her cells welcomed all comforts from the permeable membrane of phytoplankton, devoured the chlorophyll plastids, but did not destroy them. Her immune system emulsified them with the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi apparatus instead—stirred in a new constituent for the eukaryotic soup—a whole new obligate parasite right next to her mitochondria, in stasis still, but prepared perhaps for the revolution of planets to reveal her to the light. She awoke on a sapphire bed of beached jellyfish. The morning light, magnified in scarlet radial canals of mesoglea, glowed through their living lens. Her skin was clear through to muscle and in her dreams she was not at home. She was not in the attic. She was far away and felt further—tuned to the light. She was pale and green and smooth. The touch of it unsettled her and she rubbed at her forearm, trying to redden it but failing. She closed her eyes, but the gleam of the sun, broken at the scattered treeline of Squab Island, forced them shut. With her pale green skin illuminated, Belle was a beacon to a clam digger, who pulled the fish away with his rake, folding one over the other, rolling them aside. She opened her eyes to the sun and it felt like being born. The light on her skin was a first breath of air. Her cells awoke. She was desperate and frightened, but alive. The digger cleared her shallow body and cradled her to the ground. She was their heliocentric instrument of mimetic determination, and she was silent. Yes—Like ice. The earth stopped. She bloomed.
Jules de Balincourt, Hawks and Doves, oil on panel
Jules de Balincourt, Unspecific Things in Specific Places, oil on panel
Jules de Balincourt, We and Me, oil on panel
Jules de Balincourt, Think Globally, Act Locally, oil on panel
Hawk & Handsaw
journal of creative sustainability
Hal B. Klein
What To Do With a Daikon Radish?
or a split second, I lingered in the glow of a lateSeptember Italian afternoon. Don Kretschmann, a bearded man in a tan jumpsuit, opened a heavy plastic door, and an explosion of rosemary and warmth flooded my senses. I could taste the woody herb’s pungent, resinous pine flavor simply by opening my mouth and inhaling. But the moment I stepped away from the hoop-house, the cold, snowy air made it clear that Kretschmann’s ingenuity played a cruel trick on me: it wasn’t September, and I wasn’t in Italy. It was February, and I was in the American northeast, surrounded by a snowstorm. The rosemary lived in a long, low tunnel built by Kretschmann to trap warm air and fool the plants into believing they existed in perpetual summer. If you drive forty minutes north from Pittsburgh on I-79, turn left off the highway exit into chain store suburbia, take another left into an old-growth suburban neighborhood, and then finally hang a right at near semi-rural housing, you’ll find yourself at Kretschmann Farm. Don and his wife Becky started farming their 80-plus acres in 1971, making theirs the oldest organic farm in western PA. On the day of my visit, the farm appeared inoperative: the barren fruit trees and solid layer of snow covering the rolling farmland inspired a desire for cross country skiing more than a desire for fresh-picked produce. But all was not dormant. In a chilly corner of a nineteenth-century grey barn, Kretschmann and three
of his workers busily packed crates for their bi-weekly winter CSA delivery. CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture, a concept that got its start in the United States in the mid 1980s. Basically, you partner with the farmer by purchasing a share in the upcoming season. It’s a terrific deal for the farmers; they know they have a market for what they’re growing, and therefore they have financial certainty when they plan for the year. And it’s an excellent deal for consumers, because they are guaranteed delivery of fresh, local produce. For $365, winter season subscribers receive boxes packed with a variety of fruits, vegetables, micro-greens, and anything else that can be grown or stored over the barren months. On the day of my visit, Kretschmann and his crew packed each box with a small bag of micro-greens, two pounds of potatoes, radicchio, two softball-sized beets, a club-like daikon radish, three pounds of Gold Rush apples, a small brick of feta cheese, two onions, Portobello mushrooms, a bunch of chives, a jar of honey, and some rosemary from the Wondrous Tunnel of Rosemary. I visited the farm to witness the assembly of the box destined for the home of Sherrie Flick and Rick Schweikert, friends of mine who endeavor to eat local produce year-round. Their commitment to eating locally piqued my curiosity: it was in the middle of my second winter in Pittsburgh, and while I avoided purchasing tomatoes, peaches, and other foods shipped from a long distance because they didn’t taste exceptionally delicious, I still brought
home kale, broccoli, and other good-for-you vegetables shipped from distant farms. It’s trendy these days talk about “Eating Local,” but how many have the commitment of Sherrie and Rick? And is it worth it? When I lived in Southern California the answer to this question was obvious: of course we should eat a year-round diet primarily consisting of locally grown foods. Gorging on a variety of delectable tomatoes until you’re sick of them, then eating so many other foods you forget tomatoes exist, and then spending the months of June and July anticipating their return is a marvelous cycle of seasonality; that first bite of a warm, sun-ripened August tomato is magical. Eating strawberries, then plums, then peaches, then raspberries, then apples, then persimmons and pomegranates, then citrus, and then cycling back to strawberries is a terrific way to live; just when you’ve started to lose interest in one fruit, another appears at the market. In California, the agreeable weather makes it easy to plan meals around a diverse diet of vegetables. I could always find fresh field greens in the market, and I never worried I would be faced with a shortage of other vegetables to take home. I read articles about how, as a society, we were causing ecological damage by demanding out-of-season foods shipped from all around the world, and would say to myself, “What a bunch of fools. Why would anyone ever want to eat fruit shipped from South America? Why not just eat the fruit that’s at the market?” In California the bounty of the markets never decreased; the colors simply shifted from red to blue to orange. There’s a reason the contemporary “Eat Local” movement got its start in California. It’s easy to be strident—or even flippant—about the local food movement when you have a bumper crop of avocados and Meyer lemons growing in your backyard. Bu as I stood in front of Don Kretschmann’s ingeniously constructed tunnel of rosemary, cold snow nipping at my nose, I thought, “What about Pennsylvania?” Was I wrong to so easily dismiss people as tasteless, selfish idiots if they bought a pint of blueberries in February?
It’s trendy these days talk about “Eating Local,” but how many have the commitment of Sherrie and Rick? And is it worth it? The concept of wanting to eat entirely from one’s local food system isn’t rooted in any historical reality. In “A Plea for Culinary Modernism,” historian Rachel Lauden points out that for over 2,000 years the ruling classes in China, India, and Rome spared no expense in importing spices from “the distant and mysterious Spice Islands.” Admittedly, for the majority of food history, the lion’s share of imported luxury goods went to the wealthy, but that’s just because they were the only ones who could afford it. However, by the late 1800s even those of lesser means had access to food from far-flung locales; thanks to technological innovations, canned food became widely available, and the rise of refrigeration vastly extended both the distance food could travel and the length of time it could be stored. The current “back to the land” trend isn’t novel, either; part of the population reacted in a similar way to industrialization during the early period (1880-1920) of mass long-distance food shipping. Some people felt the world was changing too quickly and that by losing touch (literally) with the land, both our bodies and brains were becoming “soft.” Historian Susan Freidberg writes that people “romanticized pioneer days and rural living more generally. They saw contemporary urban existence as both too complex and not challenging enough, and somehow cut off from real life.” Some of those who wanted to get back to the land did just that—they moved to the fertile valleys of California and started farming. Once they started farming, however, the practicalities of farming quickly wiped away any romantic, nostalgic desires. According to Freidberg, “Growers quickly adopted the latest technologies—
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journal of creative sustainability
I’ll sometimes buy a bag of salad mix because I feel like I “need” a giant salad, but do I? pesticides, commercial feeds, and fertilizers—as well as marketing techniques.” Ironically, we can thank an early wave of rebellion for creating both the expectation and technological advances to deliver the year-round produce that spurred the current wave of “back to the land” and “eat local” desire.
The Box Pickup I expected more ceremony at the box pickup. One of the prevailing ethics of the CSA system is the promise of interacting with the farmer, or at least a close representative of the farmer, and I looked forward to seeing Don or one of his workers when I picked up the box. I’d arranged to meet Sherrie on the loading dock of Anderson Dining Hall, the main eatery on the campus of Chatham University. I arrived early and didn’t see any farmers...or even any boxes. It wasn’t particularly cold for a February afternoon but I didn’t want to linger outdoors any longer than I had to. Sherrie arrived a few minutes later and opened the door to the service entrance of the dining hall. We walked though a dark hallway, and after turning a corner, found thirty-three neatly stacked boxes There was no ceremony to the box pickup; though I’m not sure why I was expecting there would be (“All rejoice! Our CSA box has arrived! Fresh local produce in mid-winter!”). As I looked at the boxes, I started to question my own decision-making: I was familiar with the names of twenty-five of the thirtythree subscribers, and now the omission of one name was beginning to stand out—mine. I’d decided to spend my money elsewhere. I didn’t want to forgo kale, broccoli, or any other leafy vegetable trucked in from California. I wanted to enjoy the citrusberry flavor of a home-juiced glass of magenta blood orange, even if someone else had to ship that orange all the way from Florida. But now I was wondering if I was selfish, or, even worse, for someone who considers himself an artist, uncreative. Had I made the right choice?
visited the local Whole Foods Market to see how a supermarket produce section would compare to the relative austerity of the CSA box. I picked Whole Foods because I felt it would be the best example of a contemporary, but industrial, model of “conscious eating.” The produce manager at every Whole Foods is given a large degree of independence in the food choices he or she makes, so it’s conceivable that a Whole Foods produce manager could decide to stock their shelves primarily with local produce, even in the winter. The contrast between the CSA box and the Whole Foods produce section was conspicuous. Muted earth tones dominated the food that Kretschmann packed into his deliveries. Whole Foods dazzled me with a yellow, orange, red, blue, and green bounty of brilliantly colored, enticing produce. The CSA box contained only twelve items, and two of those were herbs. Whole Foods eclipsed that diversity simply in the fourteen types of the apples offered (including two classified as locally grown). However, my sense of wonderment changed when I looked a little more closely at the food. Whole Foods provides information on where all their fruits and vegetables are grown, and I thought about the amount of time and energy it took to get all of this far-flung food to Pittsburgh. Do I need snow peas from Guatemala? Would a mealy tomato from Florida (one of eleven varieties for sale) elevate my plate? I asked the produce manager, Stephen Lucas, about the flavor of far-flung food, and he agreed that certain foods—like peaches and tomatoes—are stocked because customers count on seeing them. But then he added something unexpected: “Organic blueberries from Chili and Argentina, they’re in season down there. We’re able to bring them in from South America and they’re still very good when they get to here. So it’s theoretically out of season, but they’re in season now,” he said. I hesitated before I put them in my basket. But
Lucas sounded sincere in his assessment of the quality of the blueberries, so I bought a half-pint. They certainly looked appealing: plump, firm skin, and a deep-navy blue color with a natural blush of white yeast. Although the berries never reached the soaring heights of an August farmers’ market or backyard blueberry, most of them tasted sweet and earthy, with slight acidic overtones. Others, however, were all acid, and some just tasted flat. Perhaps they weren’t perfect, but they were certainly as good as any mass-market blueberries, and I was eating them in February. (Confession: a week after the first batch, I purchased them again.) Not too long after eating my second helping of not-too-shabby blueberries, I began to wonder who I was exploiting in order to indulge in a terrifically out of season (at least in Pittsburgh) fruit. Isn’t it ridiculous that a half-pint of blueberries jetted and trucked over 5,000 miles from Chile to Pittsburgh cost about the same ($3.69) as a half-pint of blueberries sold at a local farmers’ market in August? How is that possible? In Deep Economy, activist Bill McKibben writes, “The deepest problem that localfood efforts face, however, is that we’ve gotten used to paying so little for food.” Seasonality has been stripped from pricing, but in order to create such artificially low prices, we have to exploit a lot of people. Most of this exploitation happens in what’s called the Global South, sometimes referred to as the Third World. The exploitation, however, also takes place in the United States; because of heavy lobbying by the agriculture industry, farm workers are exempt from minimum wage laws. One of the solutions to this issue is to purchase food from farmers you know and trust; if you can see how they treat their workers, you’re one step ahead of the game.
Dinner at Sherrie and Rick’s To get to Sherrie and Rick’s house you have to wind up the narrow “goat path” roads of Pittsburgh’s steep South Side Slopes. The homes on the slopes are small and narrow, built by Eastern European immigrants who came to work in the steel mills and factories that once dominated the bottom of the hill. The design of the Flick/Schweikert house is a curiosity: The entire ground floor is the kitchen, and you have to walk up the stairs to get to the dining room. The kitchen has a low ceiling, wood panels, and a wood-burning stove that Rick would feed throughout the evening. I basked in the glow of its old-timey warmth, parked myself in a comfy green chair, and asked Sherrie and Rick how they were able to make it through the winter strictly on the CSA box. “It isn’t necessarily things that are growing in the winter. You’re also eating things that were already grown and you get really good at storing them. You’re canning or putting things in a cold spot in the garage,” Sherrie said. Rick added, “But it’s also just knowing that in winter you’re not going to get a lot of selection, naturally. The problem is we’re eating all this stuff grown with lots of chemicals a million miles away just because we want to have a variety that isn’t natural.” I’ll sometimes buy a bag of salad mix because I feel like I “need” a giant salad, but do I? We spoke a bit more about consumerism, and how once you realize you don’t actually need an endless parade of choices, it’s liberating to feel that you’re not just another cog in the wheel of the industrial food system. But I still wondered if relying on the CSA box and a pantry of canned tomatoes would be constricting. I asked them a crucial question: “Do you get bored?” Rick’s simply reply came quickly. “Yeah,” he said with a good-natured laugh. Sherrie seemed surprised by his answer. “Do you get bored? I don’t get bored.” “Yeah, but even in the height of the season, you know, when we have bushels of beans, and Sherrie’s bringing out every bean recipe in the world, I’m like, what are we going to do with all these beans,” said Rick, who also confessed that sometimes his solution to the beans dilemma is to stealthily pass on a few bags of beans to his friends.
Hawk & Handsaw
journal of creative sustainability
When you subscribe to a CSA, you’re making an implicit deal with the farmer that you’ll embrace the creative culinary challenge packed inside every box. As we began folding boiled beets and chives into mashed potatoes, it became clear why Sherrie doesn’t get bored with eating seasonally: she’s remarkably creative. We got our hands dirty coating the beetstuffed potatoes in flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs, and then we pan-fried the croquettes until they appeared crisp-crusted on the outside (the flour, breadcrumbs, and oil were the only non-local ingredients used in the entire meal). The question of what to do with the daikon radish presented a larger challenge. The creamcolored root, which can grow as large as a forearm, is very popular in Japan but relatively unknown in the United States. Don Kretschmann’s decision to include one in the CSA box could be looked at as a burden, or it could be seized upon as an opportunity to try something new; perhaps experimenting with non-traditional food would erase the perception that eating seasonally can feel limiting. We decided to make daikon “french fries,” seasoning the final product with thyme and rosemary. When you subscribe to a CSA, you’re making an implicit deal with the farmer that you’ll embrace the creative culinary challenge packed inside every box. Sometimes, like with the mystery of what to do with a daikon radish, it’s a matter of figuring out how to prepare an unfamiliar ingredient; the result, hopefully, is the discovery of an enticing new flavor. In other instances, the challenge is cosmetic. We’ve come to expect perfectly shaped, spotless fruits and vegetables when we go to the supermarket, and that expectation forces farmers to cast aside (or find other uses for) hundreds of tons of produce every year. A small farmer doesn’t have the financial flexibility to throw a perfectly edible piece of fruit away, and so sometimes less-than-beautiful produce is included in a CSA box. On top of that, sometimes the food that stores best isn’t the prettiest; we experienced this with the Gold Rush apples that were included in Sherrie and Rick’s delivery. Gold Rush apples are ambrosial to eat, but frightening to look at. They appear as if they’ve been
rolled in black fungus. In fact, the only reason I know how delicious they are is because Don Kretschmann offered me one when I visited his farm, and I felt rude saying “no” to him. While I was at Whole Foods, I’d asked Lucas is he could sell Gold Rush apples and he replied, “They look like they’ve been chewed up by bugs. Yeah, those could be tough.” He thought the apple’s less-than-stellar looks wouldn’t deter everyone, but, chances are, they won’t be on the shelf at Whole Foods anytime soon. In this instance, participating in Kretschmann’s CSA challenge paid off, because he’s the only farmer in the area supplying this wonderful treat of an apple. Once Sherrie, Rick, and I were done preparing our dinner, we moved to the second-floor dining room. There, we started the meal with a salad of microgreens and feta cheese; the salad provided a colorful, crisp, peppery addition to the plates that we filled with the stuffed potato croquettes and the radish “fries.” The meal was capped with an apple galette kissed with rosemary and honey. “You crave these things in the winter. You crave potatoes and root vegetables,” Sherrie said as we all leaned back and rubbed our bellies, warmed by the rich, filling meal. I reflected on my experience in California and how I craved foods, fruit especially, when they were in season. But had I experienced the same reaction in Pittsburgh? I certainly craved certain types of food during different seasons, but I thought the cravings were more about the style of cooking than specificity of the produce. In the winter I craved pot roasts, stews, and soups. I’d thought these dishes were on my mind because they were warm, but now I realize that they all contain root vegetables, dried beans, and fatty cuts of meat. Most of the dishes I craved were also enriched by some kind of canned or fermented food. Perhaps, all along, I was actually craving the food that my body felt it should be eating.
Strategies for a Delicious, Sustainable Winter
ut then I thought about the daikon radish, and how, despite our doctoring, eating it wasn’t at all satisfying. When I visited Don’s farm a week earlier, he held one of the radishes in the air and declared, “If only we could get people to eat these things.” Growing daikon radishes is a great idea for farmers: the plant’s long roots pull otherwise inaccessible nutrients up from deep in the soil; its leaves provide ground cover, preventing weeds from sprouting; and adding another plant to the crop rotation keeps hungry insects confused. As an inquisitive eater, however, the Daikon was an unsuccessful experiment. It tasted watery and a bitter. Potatoes would have been a far better vegetable to use for frying, but with potato already being utilized in another part of the meal, our quest for a plate full of delicious variety would have been compromised by making it the focus of another dish. In the end, would it have been a better idea, gustatorially speaking, to have left the (local) radish off the plate, and add (imported) broccoli to the plate? Perhaps I’m asking myself the wrong question. “All or nothing is a very dangerous way to think of anything. Most things are more complicated than that,” noted author Michael Pollan told me when he visited Pittsburgh last January. I was speaking with him about how the locavore movement is often presented as a binary choice—either you support the movement or not. Pollan emphasized that perfection wasn’t the goal, but that it was more important to be conscious of the choices that you make as a consumer. I also asked him if he had any tips for self-reliance during a Pittsburgh winter and he said, “Look at what people did historically—there is an incredible culture of preservation.” Pollan suggested that canning and fermenting foods would be a nutritious way to add food to a winter diet. “And again, it’s not going to be the whole of your diet,” he said, “but if it’s part of your diet, you’ve got the right idea.”
In This Organic Life, a book cited by many as the inspiration behind their year-round local eating, author Joan Dye Gussow writes that the key to eating locally throughout the winter is to create a detailed calendar to remind you when to plant/harvest/store garden crops. If you do that, a diverse diet can be maintained all year long. However, all but the purest of purists still make exceptions: coffee, tea, and olive oil are generally granted a “special dispensation” from the rules of locality. The northeast used to be dotted with farms of all kinds. Regions had their own local food chains that fed the people, and the current trend toward local eating is, partially, a reaction to the extreme consolidation and industrialization of our food system. Much like the “back to nature movement” of the early industrial period, we’re beginning to question whether the American expectation of demanding a massive smorgasbord of food choices from all around the world is worth it. However, Kretschmann believes that it’s a steep challenge for farmers to provide the necessary diversity of crops that consumers now expect. He says, “you can [grow things] in greenhouses, but you can’t grow very much. You can put all the heat in the world in the greenhouse, but if you don’t have sun it’s not going to grow. That’s a really limiting factor in December and January. Even the guys now with the initial euphoria of ‘oh we can grow all kinds of things in this area in the middle of winter,’ it’s sort of paring back now.” I’m augmenting my summer garden plans so that I’ll have a bumper-crop of produce to preserve for the winter. I’ve spoken with a few friends about the possibility of splitting a CSA from Kretschmann’s Farm; splitting the box will still help support the local food system, but also give me the financial and dietary flexibility to enjoy the occasional Florida orange, California kale, and, yes, a pint or two of Chilean blueberries.
Hawk & Handsaw
Juniper Through a magnifying glass I counted ninety-eight rings in a four-inch trunk. They are almost impossible to kill. This one, pinned beneath a fallen red fir, bent elegantly to the ground and rose and grew again, but someone girdled it with an ax at least a decade ago, so that last month, having worked all one day with the chain saw, saw horses, clamps, and a sharpened draw knife, I mounted it as a bannister along the steps leading down to the garden. Whoever it was who wielded that ax years ago, must have had something like this in mind, for it is, I must say, perfect: amber, -white, and gold, it is handsome there, and the chickadees have perched along it to sing, and the chipmunks have climbed its curved end to crack corn stolen from the bird feeder, and very early this morning an owl disemboweled a vole there, in the pm-dawn light, staining its upper end with rodent blood. And this afternoon, finishing it again with varnish, I notice an impossible green shoot of three tiny prickly leaves risen from its stub, and standing there, considering my options, I decide, for some reason, to let it grow.
Jobie Cole, spray, Mixed media
journal of creative sustainability
Sunset Ridge I
Lauren Henkin, Remnants 8: pigment print
n Sunset Ridge, the neighborhood where I grew up, there wasn’t much to do. It wasn’t within walking distance to a park, and no one I knew had a pool. “The field” was where my friends and I spent stifling summer afternoons practicing cartwheels and running through sprinklers. My house was right next to the field, which meant that all of the neighborhood kids came to my house to swing on the swing set and take breaks for popsicles. When darkness fell we’d run home with gummy fingers and gleaming foreheads to gather flashlights and jars for capturing fireflies. When I ran away from home when I was four years old, I packed a suitcase filled with plastic play food, my ballet costume, and a toothbrush, then sat in the middle of the field until my parents retrieved me. Looking back, it is hard to conceive that the same docile earth my friends and I plucked flowers from was laden with 12 inches of arsenic. My parents bought the house that abutted this field in 1990. Their first, it was a brick, single-family home, less than a year old and located in Burlington, NJ. It had been a model home, an exhibit for interested buyers. It had a sprawling backyard, large enough to accommodate a big, wooden swing set, walk-through garden, and a brick patio, and still have room for lawn parties. We were the last house of the cul-de-sac, so our property was fenced by a thicket of pine and maple trees, which, in autumn, supplied great leaf piles for jumping into. Historically, Burlington County, New Jersey, had been one of the state’s foremost agricultural counties. In 1940, Burlington County had 7,600 fruit orchards. By 1992, the year we moved in, that number had been whittled down to 745. And it wasn’t just the orchards that vanished. It seemed that each year
that passed, another row of the pine and maple trees framing my house was supplanted by cookie-cutter houses. When I looked out my bedroom window, I no longer saw thick forest, but a house that was virtually a clone of my own and a meager bulwark of trees my father planted to define our property line. These transformations didn’t just take place within the confines of our neighborhood. The orchards, farms, and parks we had passed on my bus ride to school had been trampled by a stampede of convenience stores and fast food restaurants: Wawas, Checkers, and 7-Elevens. It wasn’t long before the name “Sunset Ridge” was steeped in irony, as the housing development left so little of nature intact. My family became distraught over the devastation of our charming, pastoral community. Yet, it wasn’t this residential development that ushered the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection into our backyard in 1996. Almost two years earlier, the NJDEP launched an investigation of soil contamination in two housing developments in Burlington County as part of the lands’ sale to a new company. One of these developments was Sunset Ridge. The tests unearthed elevated levels of arsenic, lead, DDT, and DDT byproducts in 73 properties throughout Burlington Township. Both my property and the field beside it were rife with these chemicals. One contaminate found was dieldrin, an intensely toxic insecticide that was banned in 1986. The levels of dieldrin found were up to 14 times higher than the NJDEP mandated limits. By state law, the DEP was not required to inform the public, and chose not to. When the company selling the tract informed the DEP of its contamination in 1994, the two
Hawk & Handsaw
ALS is only one of the many diseases correlated to ambient exposure to pesticides and other lawn chemicals. made an informal agreement for oversight of the cleanup. Two years later, the toxic soil was excavated and stockpiled away from the properties. The neighborhood children gathered to play at this site for years, until the hazardous waste was finally relocated. The grounds of this former fruit orchard were not as innocuous as we had expected them to be. From 1920-1970, the land was indiscriminately doused in pesticides used to control insects and increase yields. It wasn’t until 1970 that these pesticides were regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. When the orchards were destroyed, these pesticides did not simply dissipate. Many of these elements, particularly lead and arsenic, persist in the environment indefinitely. Though the NJDEP replaced the soil in our yard and field with clean sod, they were years too late. In 1995, my father was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that impairs nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, eventually leading to the loss of all muscle function. The average life expectancy for an ALS patient is two to five years beyond diagnosis. Most patients are diagnosed between the ages of 55 and 65, and only five to ten percent of cases are genetic. While the remaining instances of ALS are sporadic, findings have displayed an increased propensity for ALS among athletes and veterans. Recently, Dr. Adriano Chiò, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Turin, studied 7,000 Italian male professional soccer players who played between 1970 and 2002. Among them, 18 instances of ALS were identified. This number exceeds the average for the general population by 12 times. Though this trend was formerly attributed to head injuries and intense physical exertion, more recent research suggest that it was not caused by the behaviors of these athletes, but rather the fertilizers and herbicides emanating from the turf they ran on. Other studies have displayed high prevalence of ALS disease in war veterans, especially those who
fought in the ’90-’91 Persian Gulf War, during which copious amounts of pesticides were used to control sand flies and other insects. Another tentative factor was the destruction of an Iraqi ammunition supply point, which exposed more than 32,000 soldiers to chemical nerve agents sarin and cyclosarin, both organophosphates commonly used in pesticides. These veterans suffered more than double the rate of ALS than those of similar ages in the general population
hen the news of Burlington Township’s toxicity was made public by Philadelphia news channels, reporters showed up at our door, asking if we thought my father’s illness was the result of our soil contamination. But a three minute news blip was as far as it went. Having proved nothing, the investigation tapered off. My father died in 2001 after a six-year battle with ALS. He was an aberrant case; he was neither an athlete nor veteran, had no family history of Lou Gehrig’s disease, and was diagnosed at age 30, a full 25 years younger than the average patient. ALS is only one of the many diseases correlated to ambient exposure to pesticides and other lawn chemicals. Pesticide exposure has been linked to other neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. There is also mounting evidence that it can lead to cancer and endocrine disruption. Thousands of acres of former fruit orchards and other farmland have been converted to housing. In most instances, contamination occurred decades ago, making it impossible to point a finger at the source. When the cost of clean-up was revealed, no one was fighting to foot the $250,000 bill. Neither the state, nor county, nor developer felt responsible for the exposure. To date, state law does not require builders to conduct soil tests before acquiring land for residential development. Homeowners should not have to trust the marketplace, what we need is irrefutable legislation on residential soil contamination and cleanup.
Mark Kelly, X Ray, smoke on paper
Hawk & Handsaw
journal of creative sustainability
Dendromancy Most problems begin as solutions. Kudzu started as a solution for soil erosion. DDT started as a solution for mosquitoes. Thalidomide began as a solution to morning sickness. The first-order problem seems so intractable, so insurmountable, that the gamble of fixing it disarms rational thought. Anything to scratch an itch. Only when the pencil-end snaps beneath the cast, or one’s field clots with vines, does perspective return and the second-order problem manifest. An itch is one thing; birth defects are another. I once heard of a man who survived a suicide attempt off the Golden Gate Bridge. At the moment of launch, during the weightless pause before he plummeted toward the sea, he realized in a burst of clarity that all of his problems were petty except for just having jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge. In my case, the problem was that at eighteen I felt aimless, friendless, and alone. I suffered from a longing as vague and corrosive as nostalgia. The world I lived in was blurred and indistinct. I had no words for any of it. My solution was Cassie. Cassie was a witch. And not the friendly Wiccan-earth-goddess-tattoo type who gives her children sweet-but-absurd names. Cassie was a straight-up Grimm’sfairy-tale witch. She was a strict Manichean who believed in good and evil: black and white. She had decided to play for the winning team, and so dressed in black. She and her friends came into the coffee shop in downtown Juneau where I worked, and she drank the same tea I liked: Market Spice – the Seattle kind with the flavored fob, the thin square of cardboard at the end of the teabag string. Placed on your tongue, like a wafer, the fob burned your mouth with cinnamon oil. Sometimes having only one thing in common gets you started with someone. Cassie told me I had sweet eyes. She made me a mixed tape of bleak music. I had never been picked for any team. I would have followed her anywhere. Cassie told us that the original human sin was consciousness. That God had forced the Fall with His insistence that Adam name the animals. That the serpent had nothing to do with it. “Animals live in the world like water in water,” Cassie
Cassie told us that the original human sin was consciousness. That God had forced the Fall with His insistence that Adam name the animals. said. “We do not.” We are estranged from the world we have named, and the naming is why we are lonely. Dominion is the unbearable condition, she explained, not a gift. Our task was to recover our birthright and live in the world as indivisibly as the wolf that eats the caribou or the caribou that is eaten by the wolf. “Like water in water,” she said. Only after Cassie and her friends, who had become my friends, killed Dylan Hamner, one of our friends, and ate slices of his heart by the light of a pallet bonfire, did my second-order problem become manifest. Certainly I had been there; I was the one with a car. A Buick Skylark. It could hold all seven of us. Dylan said he didn’t mind being a caribou if that’s what it took for us to become wolves. Even within our mopey circle, Dylan was notable for his despair. He had sweet eyes. We drove that night across the bridge to Douglas Island and then north to Outer Point, where an edge of the gray Pacific huffed and seethed through the pores of a black-cobbled beach. But while Cassie drowned Dylan in the sea and made him water in water, I wandered from the beach into the woods. I didn’t follow any trail; I just pushed through the thicket and into the forest. Alone in the darkness, I placed my hand on the rough bark of a looming tree and felt the adhesive grab of sap upon my palm. The name of the thing I touched, Sitka spruce, Picea sitchensis, came unbidden to my tongue. I remembered in a flood the rangy red-bearded man at the Boy Scout camp, ten years before, who taught us the name, who had each of us touch the tree in turn and repeat the name after him. Now, the words burned a furrow behind my eyes. Everything has a name: longing, murder, trees. Names have edges that cannot blur and we are obliged to say them. There is a reverb between the touching and the naming that we must weather. I felt a great vertigo and retched from the shaking of it. I think about that moment all of the time now. Not the killing. I feel bad about Dylan and the violence against his body, whether he wanted to be a caribou or not. I am sorry for the Hamners. But I think now about the spruce and its name and the intimate distance that naming enforces. Some days in the Lemon Creek Correctional Center yard, when the sun slants right against the forest on the rising flanks of Thunder Mountain beyond the flashing razorwire, I feel the furrow burn again. Always it is fleeting. Often it is not there at all. Some summers I catch the upward spiraling call of a Swainson’s thrush. And I tell the sullen fellas marking their shuffled time that it is a Swainson’s thrush they hear. That’s its name, I say.
Listen, I say. It has two voice boxes, I say. It sings two songs at once. That’s why it is so beautiful. 41
journal of creative sustainability
Missouri River In the night he considers distance, those glassy miles of highway unrolling through the hours. In the night he considers hours, dawn’s cooling coffee & fading radio news, that bad hamburger in Luverne, the long & lengthening prairie shadows. In the night he considers the slanted light of late afternoon, the way it lay in gilt striations on the river, which was wide & dark & warm. In the night he considers rivers, the concurrence of limestone seep & silty delta & the sinuous, insisting commerce between them. In the night he considers sand & red-flecked, silt, the unblemished skin of driftwood. In the night he considers skin, its nature & function, worries at the way the child has no regard for the departure of skin & sand, sand & water, the red water of her body’s opening. In the night he considers how as the dark came down she turned to him, her skin still flushed, sheen of sweat on her lips, & beside them in the tent the child—little knuckling of their own bone & flesh & coupling breath—slept. In the night he breathes & cannot sleep. In the night he breathes & cannot sleep yet does not rise because he does not wish to wake them. And so, in the night, he blinks & breathes & considers space & time & the arrant prairie dark about him, the far milk spots of stars, rain owls easing their talons around the spines of voles & sparrows, & he thinks too—his heart beginning to knock in its bone pocket, blood thrumming in his ear—of these stars & mile after grassy mile of this river, & then this river, & they were not the same river, like the particular hours of the day before the night came down, & the ordinary & immense & terrifying joy that became him in those white, glassy, gone hours. In the night, finally, he risks rolling over---susurrus of fleece & thin cotton & skin—to look with night-shot eyes at the woman, & beyond her the child, to consider again the long light of late afternoon, the way it lay on the skin of the river & her bare neck & shoulders, the child lifting to his lips two hands of sand & water.
Lauren Henkin, Remnants 12: pigment print
Jobie Cole, New products, mixed media
Jobie Cole, The bird, spray paint and ink on found wood
journal of creative sustainability
Nine of Them There mustâ€™ve been nine of them all together, each fawn ate scuppernongs off the woodpile, while the mother stood among them, steadily monitoring, never once turning her long neck.
Jules de Balincourt, Dickâ€™s Skeet Lodge, oil on panel
Hawk & Handsaw
journal of creative sustainability
Horses in Winter The Enjoyment of Fishes Robert Pyle In the Chinese airline magazine, a section on “The 80’s Generation: Will You Get Married This Year?” Only the headlines in English: “If You Are the One, All On a Blind Date;” “Marriage House: Test of Love;” “Naked Wedding: Some Do, and Some Not;” and “Leftover Ladies:You Are Not a Fish; How Do You Know What Constitutes the Enjoyment of Fishes?” Maybe it’s that golden glide over stone, the otterish mingling of self and stream; attainment of the top of the falls in spawn, anticipation of the broadcast of milt. But really, as the magazine asks, how would I know, when even the fisher poets are mystified. Oh, we know about the enjoyment of fishes, all right: but not from the fishes’ point of view; much less that of the leftover ladies of China.
Smitten so often in the winter months by the horses’ breaths blasted out and blossomed into clouds that ice-rimed the strands of their pasture fences, I can sometimes hardly contain myself when I see, even so many years past, a similar scene from the highway as I drive. Once or twice I have stopped to watch, and the horse or horses watch me back, or they walk or are blown away on the sails of their gigantic breaths, and I want to explain to them how one summer I slipped into the freezer a plastic bag of palm size watermelon rinds, and how every other day, all winter long on my morning walk, I would bring both Red and BJ a green, icy slab apiece, and they, believing another bite might be forthcoming, always stood there breathing, for several minutes, side by side at the fence, where I stood also, admiring their black nostrils from the midst of the cloud of their winter breathing made. To breathe the breath of horses was to step outside myself, though by now it is certain both of our horses are dead, whose breath would freeze on my hat, and also on my whiskers, just as it did theirs.
Mark Kelly, Incidental Music: roofing tar on paper
Meg Chase, Event, oil on Canvas
Hawk & Handsaw
journal of creative sustainability
Only later, after lunch, did I see the
snakes. They were thick as ocean-liner hawsers, ominously speckled and striped,
me who think it edgy to eat venison. There are dog farms here. Hanoi bistros Andrew Lawler
unimagined by finicky Westerners like
specialize in snake blood-and-bile cocktails. At an open-air market in a small town, women sell fly-laden water
and coiled in a tea-colored pickling
buffalo skins good for a meal, though
juice in 2-foot-high jars on the tall
exactly how to prepare them gets
counter at a roadside eatery in
lost in translation. Nearby, a
rural Vietnam. My plan for a
one knows of
woman with scissors expertly
quick bite had morphed into a
plastic table covered with a dozen
snips open little snow-white
del ic iou s d i she s, but sn a ke apparently was reserved for a
more one realizes that
silkworm cocoons, setting aside the wriggling electric-green
worms for a customer’s stir-fry
more special occasion. Wild or
is not quite
dinner. In the next row, an
tame, hooved or winged, root or
what it seems.”
energetic egg vendor proudly
mammal, land-living or water-
shows off her most expensive
loving, almost anything living
product: fertilized duck eggs
here can be pick led, boi led, steamed, or fried. The Vietnamese take Woody Allen’s famous saying about nature—“It’s like an enormous restaurant”—to lengths 52
prized for their fetal crunch.
his is not your nature of Henry David Thoreau or John Muir, a transcendental retreat or a sacred park behind a carefully protected border. This is nature as take out. The forest is home to what can’t grow or live on the farm—herbs, mushrooms, fresh-water crabs, and boar. The distinction between wild and domesticated is hard to maintain in a pot on the stove. In Vietnam, nature is a great larder against hunger as well as a medicine chest for what ails. Some things might be poisonous and others can heal, but nothing is disgusting. Order chicken, and you get, well, chicken. It comes sliced in a neat medallion with a circle of skin and bone encasing fat and gristle and, finally, almost as an afterthought, meat. And the cooked comb is there for you to pick up with your chopsticks—if you dare. Like soul food or French country cooking, Vietnamese cuisine approaches nature’s heady variety with a gusto that is both refreshing and intimidating. I grew up in a world where the sound of the can opener’s metallic saw heralded dinner. Animals were neatly corralled into three kinds: the meat on our plate, those born free in the wild, and the pets we loved. We ate only the first. Our deer-hunting neighbors, with their guns and hounds and camouflage, were faintly alarming. Even now, I like my snakes far away, my dog on the rug, and my chicken lean, boneless, and combless. In Vietnam, even chicken is not just chicken. Every village seems to have its own peculiar combination of varieties, each with its own name and history. At one meal I was served three distinctive breeds, identically prepared but quite different in texture and taste. One was honey-colored, another a metallic grey, and the third black—black bones, blood, and even its comb. All were, to my taste buds raised on predictable and bland KFC, oily and hard to chew. I found the darker the flesh the less palatable the meat. This was chicken that didn’t taste like chicken. Such distinctions are sources of deep pride. In a small settlement outside Hanoi, Nguyen Dong Chung preserves a breed called the Ho, a tall ungainly bird with dark feathers, red skin, and huge feet. Chung is slight with a shy smile. Over tea in his sitting room next to the family’s ancestor altar late one morning, he recalled that the finest pair was once presented to the king and queen at Chinese New Year’s. Villagers would make a Ho chicken dinner offering at their home altar on special occasions, then enjoy the tasty meat. They also would train the huge roosters to fight one another; cockfighting is
still the favorite spectator sport of rural South Asia. Today, the Ho is still prized. A single egg can net $3, twenty times the price of a regular hen’s ovum, and a rooster can sell for a hefty $150. A French company, Chung said casually, is considering turning the Ho into a line of broilers. Down the street, a friend has Ho fighting cocks in wicker baskets for sale. Overall it’s a profitable business that employs many of the villagers, and people come from all over the Hanoi area to place their orders. But Chung’s thin face was radiant with old-fashioned devotion, not nouveau-riche avarice, as he showed me his birds. His tone was reverent, almost grave. “My grandfather and his grandfather raised Ho. We are proud of them. We think they are very important.” Animals in this country’s shrinking wilderness, however, lack such dedicated advocates. The last wild Java rhino in Vietnam was downed in 2011, with only its horn—rumored to cure cancer—removed by hunters. The gaur, the world’s largest species of wild cattle, is numbered only in the hundreds. And the mysterious saola, also called the Asian unicorn, hangs on in small numbers in high mountains. The World Wildlife Fund ranks Vietnam first in wildlife crime, and its huge neighbor China is the world’s largest market for wild animal parts. Combine that with Vietnam’s culinary gusto and a population that has nearly tripled in a half century—one which will soon surpass 100 million—and there’s less and less time to restock the forest larder. It’s as if a family suddenly took in several teenagers who raid the fridge with impunity. Further complicating the matter is the issue of what species command attention. You won’t find, for instance, an obscure wild bird called the red jungle fowl on the extensive list of Vietnam’s endangered species. Unremarked by mammal-fixated conservationists, this creature is slowly and inexorably vanishing from its South Asian home. It’s a stealth extinction. Unmourned, the fowl is losing not only its habitat but also its very genes. And the unwitting collaborator in this quiet extermination is its very own close cousin and famous descendant, the domesticated chicken. Given the environmental problems this planet faces, kvetching about the loss of the wild chicken might seem, at best, ludicrous. There are still plenty of red jungle fowl—certainly tens of thousands—in comparison with, say, Bengal tigers. And, after all, there are more chickens on Earth than any other bird: 18.5 billion, give or take a hundred million or so. They crow the dawn in Polynesia, cluck around frosty Siberian villages, and annoy neighbors in
Hawk & Handsaw
The sun already was sliding into a gauzy western haze as we hugged the edge of the wide valley, green with ripe rice, framed by fantastically pointed and domed peaks. Brooklyn. They are everywhere. And they are survivors. After the apocalypse, the ragged remnants of the human race will find clucking hens pecking nonchalantly through the rubble. So what does it matter if its wild cousin gets the axe? There’s a sensible-shoes response: chickens are now humanity’s largest single source of protein. In the land of the hamburger, Americans today eat a third more chicken than beef. And in rapidly developing countries like Vietnam, the bird also rules the culinary roost. As people flock to cities, cheap eggs and white meat are essential staples that only grab headlines in their absence. When avian flu wiped out 22 million chickens in Mexico last summer, egg prices tripled in the capital, and angry protestors took to the streets, shaking the new government. In Iran, the price of chicken is rising out of the reach of most consumers, prompting the nation’s top police chief to recommend a ban on televising people eating chicken. He worries that such provocative images might spark dissent. Given that the chicken is arguably our most important animal companion, preserving its wild cousin seems prudent. The red jungle fowl’s particular gene bank, only dimly understood now, could prove a treasure trove for future breeders since it lacks the genetic tinkering we’ve done with the domestic version over five millennia. All that tinkering produced hundreds of chicken varieties like the Ho. But local breeds are diminishing in our global economy. Today, a half dozen of these, controlled by a smaller number of corporations, account for more than 80% of the world’s population. The possibility of mass disease sweeping through nearly identical flocks is a real and present threat, and one sure to grow in the future. Chicken corporations claim not to be worried. But keeping the wild bird in reserve would seem wise and judicious nevertheless. And, as I learned on my visit to Vietnam’s rugged northwest, it is easier said than done. On a humid late November afternoon in a small town in northwestern Vietnam, I saw my first red jungle fowl. I didn’t need binoculars. It was in the back of a drab-green Russian jeep. The flame- and sea-colored bird nearly glowed in the small wire cage. Its beady black eyes, sleek body and long black tail reminded me of a pheasant. With its red comb and wattles, however, the bird
journal of creative sustainability
would not have been out of place in the fancy-breed chicken shed of a county fair. But unlike the domesticated bird, this fowl avoids people, prefers the deep forest, and flies. I came upon the red jungle fowl while in the company of Chinese geneticist Jianlin Han, Vietnamese biologist-cum-gourmand Le Thi Thuy, and a young driver with an eclectic mix of heartfelt socialist songs and thumping disco. After a six-hour drive from Hanoi, where every one of the 3 million inhabitants plays chicken on a motorbike, we rolled into a provincial town set among the rice fields of a wide valley bracketed by strange stony mountains. In a crumbling French colonial building, we plotted our campaign. Marx and Lenin looked sternly from their frames as former enemies—Vietnamese, Chinese, and American—hunched over a map together. Our goal was to hike into promising and remote forest areas to spot and photograph the bird in the wild. The fowl is notoriously skittish, and tracking it is no simple matter. To improve our chances, the leader had already procured a male red jungle fowl that now sat in the jeep: bait for his wild brethren. We drove away as schoolchildren next door sang a song of socialist paradise. The sun already was sliding into a gauzy western haze as we hugged the edge of the wide valley, green with ripe rice, framed by fantastically pointed and domed peaks. The fields looked ancient, but are in fact carefully engineered to move water imperceptibly. The resulting product is famed across the country for its sublime flavor. At first glance, this scene seemed one of eminent sustainability. But between field and peaks, the dark thick forest that serves as prime red jungle fowl territory was pocked by ugly red gullies and marked by the pervasive light-green shade of corn plants. The slope of the fields here is breathtakingly steep: Iowa on an impossible slant. Entire mountainsides are given over to this hand-planted cultivation. The resulting corn feeds the chickens and pigs that feed the expanding appetite of the cities. Demand for chicken is steadily destroying the red jungle fowl’s habitat. Turning off the paved road, we forded a river, bumped through a pretty village of wooden houses on stilts full of children and chickens, and worked our way up a slippery track, past lumbering carts of rice and tall dignified Black Thay women in black headdresses with bright needlework, who swooped along on shiny motorbikes. One simultaneously clutched a handlebar and a dead chicken.
long the way, after a flurry of cell calls, we picked up our guide, Lo Van Huong, a stocky young Black Thay villager. He was wearing camouflage and seemed nonchalant about our odd little expedition. A few minutes later, high in the foothills, we parked in mud and walked into an unexpected paradise. Stone cliffs dotted with twisted trees loomed high above a little saucershaped valley discharging a rocky stream that made a tumble of a little waterfall. A lone farmer in a conical hat harvested rice in a sea of green amidst a meander of raised dirt paths. The scene had the cozy feel of an English meadow bordered with hedgerows or an Italian vineyard town—a beauty shaped slowly and methodically by innumerable generations of farmers. While I paused to savor the moment, Huong was already heading up the mountain at a distressingly fast clip, the cage with the jungle fowl strapped to his back. I hurried after, my foolish loafers sucking into the red goo on the path. Eventually we reached mossy scree as a thorn caught the center of my forehead. The brambles closed around my legs. The other members of our party, less invested in the hunt, turned back. Just below the mountain’s crest, we halted at a rocky stream. Mosquitoes whirred; my heart pounded. In the distance, motorbikes honked. The guide set the fowl’s cage on the ground, and we hid separately, some distance away in a thicket. But the caged bird refused to crow, the tropical night came on fast, and my urban fidgeting ensured that no sane wild creature would come within a hundred yards of our position. I felt like the bumpkin unwrapping candy in a packed theater. After a time, Huong reappeared. Too polite to roll his eyes, he instead began walking back down the mountain. I had no choice but to follow, sensing—as I did—the disdain of Abel for Cain. The caged bird was as silent as ever. Later, I spent a restless night in the world’s loudest hotel room: outside my window, every motorcycle and truck blew its horn as it sped down the empty town, and every cock then decided it must crow. As the sun rose, we—Huong, the driver, and I—were already beyond the little saucer paradise, climbing again in search of our elusive red jungle fowl. Skirting rocky outcrops near the summit, Huong put down the cage, quickly built a screen of vegetation for us to hide behind, then vanished.
The driver and I crouched down. Through an opening in the cage, I could see the trapped bird standing erect but remaining still. The mosquitoes swarmed. The driver idly texted on two cell phones. Truck horns blared from the distant road. A long half hour passed. Then the caged bird suddenly shook its feathers, raised its head, and let loose a surprisingly deep noise—a slightly more sober and serious sound than a domestic cockle doodle doo. A moment later, not far above our perch, another wild cock answered. Then another on a neighboring ridge. Peculiar, this most domesticated of sounds piercing the dense forest. But as soon as it began, our fowl slumped back into a reticence that lasted another half hour. The sun was rising fast, and our chances of actually spotting a wild bird were rapidly diminishing. Some time later, Huong reappeared without making a noise. We picked our way past boulders and clung to vines as we worked our way back down to the mud and rice fields and motorbikes. By now, seeing a red jungle fowl in the wild had lost its shine. What I really wanted was to talk with people who know the bird. Han suggested a farm an hour’s drive to the northwest. The owner greeted him with a wide grin. Han oversees a United Nations project to help South Asian farmers breed better chickens, but he’s also fascinated by the bird’s history. Since the days of Darwin’s grandfather, biologists have argued about where and when and how the chicken was domesticated. That debate remains a hot topic in the little world of specialists. For his part, Han is gathering genetic samples of the fowl to shed light on the remarkable transformation of a shy wild bird into our most critical animal protein. In the farm’s main courtyard, we drank tea and ate sweet potatoes as a 3-year-old red jungle fowl watched us warily from a cage hanging in a nearby tree. Nguyen Quir Tuan, a lean Hmong worker who has cared for such fowl for more than 40 years, said the bird came from high in the mountains, beyond the reach of humans and domesticated chickens. Opening the cage and grabbing the reluctant bird by its feet so as to avoid its razor-sharp spurs, he offered us a close-up view. “There are fewer now because the trees are being cut and they are being hunted,” he said matter of factly, looking down at the now-calm bird. Tuan then gestured to the fields beyond. Years ago, he recalled, when tigers were still prevalent, the birds inhabited even this valley.
The driver and I crouched down. Through an opening in the cage, I could see the trapped bird standing erect but remaining still. The mosquitoes swarmed.
Hawk & Handsaw
It is hard, of course, to compete with drowning polar bears and hornless dead rhinos. And a bird that looks and sounds so much like its barnyard cousin must contend with familiarity breeding contempt. But now, he added, the wild places are dwindling to a few islands at high elevations. Tuan, like many Vietnamese villagers I met, is a little awed by the bird. It is smart, he said, and avoids traps. If captured, it more often than not dies, refusing to eat the rice grains that domestic chickens adore. Or it might break its neck rushing to the other side of a cage if a human enters. It is small, but tough enough to beat a much larger domesticated rooster in a fight. And it can fly. As we chatted, a flock of hybrid birds—fowl crossed with Egyptian Fayoumi—effortlessly flapped into the top of a nearby tree and settled down for the night, as fully wild ones do in the forest. At house after house in the area, we encountered a single red jungle fowl either tied to a string or living in a cage. Though the birds surely are kept for cockfighting or for sale, their owners all said they take particular delight in the sound of the fowl, which they described as fuller and richer than the domesticated kind that pecking away outside. The wild rooster’s crow seems to cast a particular spell on these practical Vietnamese farmers. Perhaps because it is illegal to hunt and trap the bird—one woman explained her husband just happened to find a red jungle fowl egg while looking for mushrooms, and brought it home to hatch—people at first were reluctant to discuss its gastronomic qualities. Finally, though, one village chief confessed: “The meat is very good—dark and juicy. There is nothing that tastes so wonderful.” He admitted he eats about 20 a year. At the small-town market, I asked the egg vendor if she carried red jungle fowl eggs. She hopped up and hovered boldly over my notebook. I gave her my pen, and she scribbled down a cell phone number. “No eggs, but call and order a fowl,” she said. I could expect to pay about $100. Whether these birds truly are wild, however, is no longer an easy question to answer. That night, I emailed two American biologists pictures of the red jungle fowl I’d encountered, including Tuan’s bird—supposedly from a remote area. The scientists, however, saw subtle signs—invisible to me—that made them suspect the fowl are all hybrids. What’s more, they said, if any such birds are calm and eating grain, their behavior may be a tip off to their mixed nature.
journal of creative sustainability
an a fowl that acts like a chicken truly still be called a red jungle fowl? There’s little doubt that in the past century, with the human population explosion, better roads, and growing demand for food, more regular contact has been established between the chicken and the red jungle fowl. And biologists have noted that a dramatic plumage once unique to the wild rooster—feathers that showed up only briefly when it moulted annually—have vanished since the 19th century. Ornithologists have long argued over exactly what traits define the wild variety. Genetics seemed poised to provide another less subjective line of evidence in 2004 when the chicken, as befitting its status, was the first domesticated animal to be sequenced. But nearly a decade later, scientists still don’t have a clear baseline to compare the red jungle fowl with its fellow subspecies. Untangling the genes associated with wild versus domesticate turns out to be far more difficult than anticipated. Wild nature and human nurture are deeply intertwined within today’s common chicken. It may prove impossible to determine if there are any truly wild red jungle fowl left. By then, they may well be extinct. It is hard, of course, to compete with drowning polar bears and hornless dead rhinos. And a bird that looks and sounds so much like its barnyard cousin must contend with familiarity breeding contempt. Chickens root around in the soil; they rush about. And while they may dream of flying, they cannot soar. They are like us: ordinary, noisy, and busy creatures tied to the ground. Humans and chickens are like the old married couple that comes to resemble one another. That may be the very reason, the non-sensible-shoes reason, to save what we can of the red jungle fowl—or at least to acknowledge its passing. Its presence reminds us that civilization is not a sudden creation, a Genesis-like gift or a free pass for domination. Civilization rests on the complicated web of relationships that we’ve built with plants and animals, the grueling negotiated work of generations with the thing we call nature. That may be why the red jungle fowl’s crow appeals so strongly to Vietnamese villagers already surrounded by chickens. It’s the wildness that we want to keep in our homes, close to our hearts: tied or caged perhaps, but a happy reminder that our dominion has its limits.
Ann Fisher Wirth
Indra’s Net. June A silvery wire of music hums in the shabby forest, pulses high in the blood, trilling, chirring, thrumming, from all the bushes and trees. Honeysuckle vines twine through the blossoming privet. As we walk at midnight my husband tells me how honeysuckle grew on the beach at Shippan in Connecticut, behind a chainlink fence that enclosed a pond scummed green with algae. Rising high and dense in the trees, it created for him a childhood kingdom. Those same years, my sister and I ate honeysuckle in Pennsylvania. Biting off the tip, sucking the sweet sap, we chewed the petals and spat out the bitten blossoms. We chased fireflies through our back yard and up the little hill, caught them in mason jars with holes poked in the lids. They blinked off and on as we fell asleep— I love night with the black-water lake of my soul.
Hawk & Handsaw
journal of creative sustainability
Jules de Balincourt was born in France and lives in Brooklyn. He received his BFA from the California Collge of the Arts, and his MFA from Hunter College. His work has been shown internationally, and his work is in many private and museum collections.
Megan Chase was born in 1975 and raised on a farm in Freedom, Maine. She studied at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture. Her work has been shown occasionally in various locales in Maine and New York City though most consistently she is self-represented by the Perimeter Gallery in Belfast, ME. Aside from her studio practice, Megan Chase is one of the owners of Chase’s Daily—a restaurant, bakery, and produce market—and co-manages Chase Farm with her father. Chase lives with her family in Belfast, Maine.
Jobie Cole, a self taught artist with no formal education, was born in 1978 in Strong, Maine. After high school, Cole lived in the Midwest and NYC before moving back to Maine. He currently lives and works in Orland, Maine, with his wife. Visit his website at: stillpoorart.com
Zach Falcon is a graduate of Columbia University, the University of Michigan Law School, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His fiction has appeared in the Sycamore Review,The Bear Deluxe Magazine, and The Journal, among others. Born and raised in Alaska, he now lives in Maine.
Ann Fisher-Wirth is the author of multiple books of poetry, including Carta Marina (Wings Press, 2009), Slide Shows (Finishing Line Press, 2009), Five Terraces (Wind Publications, 2005). Most recently, she coedited the Anthology of Contemporary American Ecopoetry with Laura-Gray Street (Trinity University Press, 2012). An Army brat as a small child, she has lived in Germany, Pennsylvania, Japan, California, Belgium, Virginia, Switzerland, and Sweden. She and her husband, Peter, now live in Oxford, MS, where Fisher-Wirth serves as professor of Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi.
Matthew Haughton was raised in eastern Kentucky, where his lineage stretches back over a century in the region. A graduate of the University of Kentucky, he works as an artist and educator in Lexington Kentucky. Most recently, he was a finalist with honorable mention in the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning’s Next Great Writer Competition. His poetry has appeared in literary issues of magazines such as Kentucky Monthly. His written work focuses on the unique quality of life, community, and nature observed in Kentucky.
Born in Washington, D.C., Lauren Henkin graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in architecture from Washington University in St. Louis and now resides in New York City. In her artist statement she writes, “My work focuses on the question, What will last? I work from the inside out, using internal narrative as the foundation in which to reinterpret space, light and form found in the external.”
Mark Kelly earned his BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art. He is a founding partner of Aarhus Gallery in Belfast, Maine, was the 2009 Earth Week Artist-in-Residence at Waterfall Arts, and was a group leader at Unity College’s Art of Sustainability Conference, 2009. His exhibitions include the 18th Annual Drawing Show (Boston Center for the Arts/Mills Gallery), the Out of Bounds Altered Book Show (Rockport, ME); Art From Intuition (Northampton Center for the Arts, Northampton, MA); The Crossing of Time and Environment: Collaborative Micro Installation (Tainan County, Taiwan); Second Lives (Waterfall Arts, Belfast, ME), and First Traces (Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockport, ME). He lives in Rockland, Maine.
Athena Kildegaard lives in prairie pothole country — that is, Morris, Minnesota — where she’s a lecturer at the University of Minnesota. A grant recepient from the Lake Region Arts Council and the Minnesota State Arts Board, Kildegaard was also a 2011 LRAC/McKnight fellow. Her books include Cloves & Honey (Nodin Press, 2012), Bodies of Light (Red Dragonfly Press, 2011), and Rare Momentum (Red Dragonfly Press, 2006).
Grandmother to seven girls, Joan Kimball began submitting poems to journals in 2003. Since then, her poems have been published in Perihelion, Iambs and Trochees, Raintown Review, Avocet, Aurorean,The Listening Eye, Thema, Spare Change News, and other places. A retired librarian, she writes book reviews for Library Media Connection. She is also a member of the poetry performing group that calls itself “X. J. Kennedy and the Light Brigade.”
Hawk & Handsaw
journal of creative sustainability
Hal B. Klein is a freelance food and drinks writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Hal writes a weekly drinks column, “On the Rocks,” for Pittsburgh City Paper, and his work has been seen in the Pittsburgh PostGazette,TABLE Magazine, The Inquisitive Eater, and Drink Me Magazine. He contributes stories on food & the environment to The Allegheny Front, which airs on Pittsburgh’s NPR news station. Hal holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from Chatham University.
Andrew Lawler is a freelance writer who has written more than a thousand articles for a dozen different magazines on topics ranging from asteroids to zebrafish and places ranging from Japan to Iran to Sudan. He is a contributing writer for Science Magazine, the world’s largest scientific weekly, and a contributing editor for Archaeology Magazine. He has written for National Geographic, Smithsonian, Discover, Columbia Journalism Review, The Sun, Orion, Astronomy, Body & Soul,Yoga International, and several European newspapers.
Nathaniel Teal Minton has worked in the film business for nearly twenty years as a screenwriter, camera operator, producer, and casting director. He has written screenplays for Paramount and Columbia and co-wrote The Plague, a 2006 film produced by horror writer Clive Barker. A graduate of Antioch University L.A. and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, his works of fiction have appeared in McSweeney’s, Torpedo, Zyzzyva, and others. He teaches Screenwriting, Writing for New Media, and Fiction at the University of Maine Farmington.
Alina O’Donnell is a junior at the University of Delaware, where she is majoring in English and Environmental Studies. Aside from contributing to the Review newspaper and Deconstruction magazine, Alina has worked as a tutor at her university’s writing center since her sophomore year. She has also been interning with Community Energy Inc., a developer and marketer of renewable energy, for the past year. When she graduates next May, Alina hopes to marry her two passions and work as an environmental reporter.
Robert Michael Pyle is a lepidopterist and writer. The founder of Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and a past Guggenheim fellow, Pyle is also the author of Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide, Sky Time in Grays River: Living for Keeps in a Forgotten Place, Chasing Monarchs: Migrating with the Butterflies of Passage, and Mariposa Road:The First Butterfly Big Year. He lives in Grays River, Washington, with his wife Thea.
Mitchell Thomashow devotes his life and work to promoting ecological awareness, sustainable living, creative learning, improvisational thinking, social networking, and organizational excellence. He is the author of Ecological Identity: Becoming a Reflective Environmentalist (MIT Press, 1995), Bringing the Biosphere Home, (MIT Press, 2001), as well as The Nine Elements of a Sustainable Campus (forthcoming from MIT Press 2013). The past president of Unity College, Thomashow now serves as Thomashow serves on the advisory board of Orion Magazine as a consultant to Second Nature.
Joe Wilkins is the author of a memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers, and two collections of poems, Notes from the Journey Westward, winner of the 17th Annual White Pine Press Prize in Poetry, and Killing the Murnion Dogs, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize and the High Plains Book Award. A 2010 National Magazine Award finalist and PEN Center USA Award finalist, he is the recipient of the Richard J. Margolis Award of Blue Mountain Center, which goes to “a promising new journalist or essayist whose work combines warmth, humor, wisdom and concern with social justice.” He lives with his wife, son, and daughter in north Iowa.
Robert Wrigley has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Idaho Commission on the Arts. His collections of poetry include Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems (2006); Lives of the Animals (2003), Reign of Snakes (1999), and In the Bank of Beautiful Sins (1995). Wrigley has also won the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize, Poetry magazine’s Frederick Bock Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s Celia B. Wagner Award, Poetry Northwest’s Theodore Roethke Award, and five Pushcart Prizes. He lives in Idaho with his wife, the writer Kim Barnes. He lives in Idaho with his wife, the writer Kim Barnes.
Hawk & Handsaw Submission Guidelines Hawk and Handsaw publishes thought-provoking written and visual art that interprets and redefines notions of sustainability. The editorial board considers unsolicited materials from 1 July through 1 September each year. Submissions sent outside this cycle may not be considered until the next reading period. Genre considerations: We accept poetry, creative nonfiction, short stories, and visual art, as well as those works that elide or question traditional genre boundaries. Writers may submit up to 30 double-spaced pages. Excerpts from longer monographs are acceptable, provided they stand alone as an independent work. If applicable, citations should appear in MLA or Chicago Manual of Style format. Visual artists may submit up to 20 images of their work for consideration. Submitting your manuscript: Manuscripts may be sent by post or by email (these must be sent as Microsoft Word or PDF documents). If you are submitting multiple pages, be sure to include a header or footer with your name and page number on every page. We prefer paperclips to staples on paper drafts. You must include a self-addressed, stamped envelope if you would like your material returned. Submitting your art: We accept images that can be clustered as part of a series or that can stand alone as individual images. The editorial staff reserves the right to decide if images will appear in color or black and white, and as cover images or within the journal. Please submit your images as camera-ready JPEG files that are readable in any computer. Images may be sent on a CD or by email. You must include a self-addressed, stamped envelope if you would like your CD returned. Deliberations: The editorial staff of Hawk and Handsaw is dedicated to producing a high-quality, thematically coherent journal. It may take, therefore, up to three months for you to receive a response regarding your submissions. Please do not contact us until that time has elapsed. We will consider simultaneous submissions; however, we ask that you notify us immediately if your work has been accepted elsewhere. Published writers and artists will receive three copies of the issue in which their work appears as remuneration. Hawk and Handsaw does not accept responsibility for loss or damage to any unsolicited manuscript or visual image. Send all correspondences to: Hawk and Handsaw Unity College 90 Quaker Hill Road Unity, ME 04988 Or: firstname.lastname@example.org
Featuring Meg Chase · Jobie Cole · Jules de Balincourt · Zach Falcon · Matthew Haughton Lauren Henkin · Mark Kelly · Joan Kimball · Nathaniel Minton · Alina O’Donnell · Robert Pyle Mitchell Thomashow · Joe Wilkins · Ann Fisher Wirth · Robert Wrigley
Published on Jul 23, 2013
Hawk & Handsaw publishes thought-provoking written and visual art that interprets and redefines notions of sustainability. The journal of cr...