I just mailed a contribution to an organization which immerses their community’s children in learning about river basins and watersheds. I endorsed the check “in memory of the children of Sandy Hook Elementary.”
As countless naturalists and writers, from Richard Louv, to Rachel Carson, to John Burroughs and many Adirondack teachers have shown us, children who are led and encouraged to be themselves and to explore in the outdoors, with adults who participate in that exploration without dominating it, gain significantly in awareness, confidence and self-worth. We are born to love the world, including the more than human world, and our ready inclination to explore that world, and to find answers to our place within that world is intrinsically human. » Continue Reading.
Last month I considered how a condition of inter-subjectivity might be responsible for whether and how our surroundings influence who we are and what we create. Picking up where I left off, this morning I’m turning over the question of how the lived-world draw us forth and how it is drawn into our creative process. It seems to me that the world infuses us with its own being and we, who are being given the world, interpret and draw out its edge through our own lifework before we deliver it back into community as self-expression. A tripartite process of what is given, literally what is submitted, what is received in the exchange that is soon re-visioned, re-imagined and given backas an offering.
Recently I was asked to present a talk about the life and careers of Paul Schaefer, the 20th century Adirondack conservation coalition leader. The location for my talk was Niskayuna, where beginning in the late 1920s into the early 1980s Paul built and restored hundreds of homes, including his own, out of natural, recycled materials – stone, slate and timbers from old buildings then facing the wrecking ball. The host for the lecture was the Niskayuna Town Historian, fitting because Paul was also intensely interested by American history.
A healthy collection of American Heritage can be found on the shelves of his Adirondack cabin. During my talk I mentioned that Paul and his siblings, growing up after 1910, were constantly outside, and among their outdoor pursuits were days exploring for arrowheads and other implements of the Mohawk, a member of the Great League of the Haudenosaunee. I then described the outlines of Paul’s remarkably successful career defending and extending the wilderness of the Adirondacks, from its wild rivers, to its highest peaks and the wildlife rich valleys threatened from inundation by large dams. Some of this history is found in Paul’s first book, Defending the Wilderness (1989, Syracuse University Press). » Continue Reading.
Greetings, readers. My regular Dispatch will air as usual on Saturday, but I have been moved to write a guest column by a matter I consider to be of great importance.
I have been following the debate on the AdirondackAlmanack, NCPR’s web site and various commenters on both sites over the question of whether political reporters do their job these days and specifically whether the media should cover the Green Party and their presidential candidate Jill Stein.
Pardon me for saying so, but this debate exhibits two characteristics that all too often define our contemporary political discourse. One is an appalling lack of understanding of the American political system. The other is the dull, lowbrow, American celebration of winners and size: “Bigger is better…” …”Winning is the only thing…”, etc. Heaven help us. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Almanack has recently been enlivened by a series substantive of conversations around land use in the Adirondacks. I invite anyone interested in continuing those conversations to participate in the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Interdisciplinary Scholarship in Land Use and Ethics 2ndAnnual Symposium May 17–19, 2013 at the Newcomb campus. On its best day, philosophy succeeds in sending “the conversation off in new directions.”
Over the past few months I’ve been considering what it means to be subjects in and subject to place. I’ve wondered if this condition of inter-subjectivity is responsible for whether and how our surroundings influence who we are and what we create.
On the one hand, influence is explicit when we make representative art as in landscape painting or poetry and prose whose subject is Emerson’s lake water whipped » Continue Reading.
My mind is full of questions and my heart follows, seeking in its own way. Fortunately, the consolation of philosophy lies in the convergence of heart and mind deep within this process of inquiry born of struggle. Coffee in hand to fortify me in the process and with a July mountain morning on the rise, my gaze wandered in the direction of a painting that my mother made many years ago.
Despite being obscured by the turned angle of his body and the quietly bent head, the subject of the painting would likely be known to anyone familiar enough to be in my home to see it. The figure’s posture gives him away, more than the distinctive curve of the Lake Colden helipad, more than the maps jutting out of a pack lying at his feet and more than the wooden axe handle gripped and made small in his hand. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay by Ian Werkheiser, a PhD student in the Department of Philosophy at Michigan State University whose primary research interests are in the environment, communities, social justice, and epistemology. Werkheiser attended the recent symposium in Newcomb on Land Use and Ethics organized by Adirondack philosopher and regular Adirondack Almanack contributor Marianne Patinelli-Dubay. » Continue Reading.
I wouldn’t call myself a “morning person” but I do like the way the day has a kind of endless feel when I get up with the sun. This time of year the world around this little house is alive with the spring song of rushing brook water, birds, and that subtle sound of bloom rubbing against bloom that is quieted in winter. So, I follow my cat’s lead and stretch into the day in response to the sounds of the outside waking up. Click on NCPR, draw a dark roast, pour some granola, gather pen and paper, settle into a soft chair and begin.
It was on such a morning recently when a report came over NCPR that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had declared privacy was passé. “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.” » Continue Reading.
Balancing individual and community priorities with land use is the focus of a symposium of interdisciplinary scholarship in land use and ethics to held by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s (ESF) Northern Forest Institute. The event will be held June 1-3 at Huntington Wildlife Forest at ESF’s Newcomb campus and all are welcome.
The symposium will highlight research from across professions and disciplines on topics related to balancing individual and community priorities with respect to land use, and the associated expectations for human and ecosystem stewardship and social and environmental ethics. » Continue Reading.
We understand who we are and we imagine who we want to become by telling stories through the interrelated mediums of art, prose, music and spirituality. The shapes that these narratives take are influenced by the places where they, and we, are rooted. Influence is a subtle and often implicit force. It is the stuff beyond mere representation, or the explicit reference to particular geographies (this mountain or that stream). Influence is ephemeral and as the poet Rilke wrote, it falls on me like moonlight on a window seat. » Continue Reading.
My friend and I walked down a trail at the end of the afternoon, mindful that this day soon would slip from the present into memory. We had spent the last several hours on the side of a hill looking more often out at the Adirondacks in the distance, than at the near landscape where we whiled away.
In retrospect this was fitting since most of our recollections, all of our shared stories at least, had settled years ago between the rise of those mountains and the fall of their valleys. And here we were, older and perhaps better though surely in other ways lesser, versions of ourselves. » Continue Reading.
With no TV or internet to distract me, I spend a lot of time thinking. Just thinking. One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is how crippled I used to be by my depression. I also think a lot about the sea change in my own personality and life since I sought out treatment. My therapist in Jacksonville was good, she was no Freud or anything like that, but I didn’t really need someone to tell me that all my problems were somehow related to sex. A cigar is just a cigar. I needed someone to unload my problems on. During our first session, she asked what I wanted out of the therapy. I told her I wanted to say what was making me angry (always a strong byproduct of my depression) and that I needed an independent person to tell me when I was right to be upset and when I was being a baby. I can’t begin to describe the weight that was lifted as I gained some perspective on my feelings.
I heard an interview with a famous person the other day, and she said that her depression was never gone, but it felt like a train that was coming, and all you could do was hop on and hope that you survived the ride. I couldn’t agree more. It’s not that I don’t get depressed anymore or that a couple years of therapy was a magic pill. But the lows are a lot more shallow and the train is easier to hold on to.
I’ve always found solace in nature, which is why I’ve basically spent my life outdoors. The sounds, smells, and colors of the woods are very soothing, and I can honestly say that I have never been depressed during a hike or camping trip. Going through therapy and addressing my issues led me to the conclusion that if I was happiest outside, then I needed to spend as much time in nature as I could. Hence my leaving Florida to come back to the Adirondacks.
It’s my way of making my lifestyle my therapy. The other major thing I learned in therapy was that I was really exceedingly normal. I am open to discussing my problems because I think that many people suffer day to day from mental demons or whatever you want to call it, and I hope that others can buck the stigma of needing to talk to a therapist. It took me about five sessions to realize that I had nothing to be ashamed of. But as I sat in the waiting room twice a week, I saw dozens of people come in and immediately put their eyes to the ground out of shame. I noticed it because I was one of them for a while. And how silly, to be ashamed of seeing a therapist when you know for an absolute fact that I am also there to see a therapist.
As I sit here writing this, the snow is falling again, and there’s about an inch on the ground. It started raining around four this morning, and changed to snow sometime after I fell back to sleep. The new porch roof did well in the rain, and the new floor makes the porch feel much, much larger. It’s a gray and dreary day, cold, windy and wet. And I couldn’t be happier. Justin Levine is living off the grid in a cabin in the Adirondacks with his dog Pico and blogging at Middle of the Trail.
North Country Public Radio‘s Ellen Rocco recently posted a discussion item on their station’s blog pointing to a Slate.com story by David Sirota that “makes the case that we are on the verge of having journalism-free news and media industries.” Sirota writes that “the real crisis presented by journalism-free news media is the now-imminent potential for a total information vacuum devoid of any authentic journalism outlet. If that happens, we will be deprived of an ability to make informed, preemptive decisions about our world.” To be fair, he lays much of the blame on the corporate news media.
Regular readers probably already know I’m a believer in the idea that journalists are mostly people who get between what actually happened or what someone actually said, and the person who wasn’t there to see or hear it. One problem is reporters pretend to be unbiased observers, which anyone who has studied psychology, sociology, anthropology or history knows is nonsense. » Continue Reading.
In The Mindful Carnivore (Pegasus Books, 2012), Tovar Cerulli traces the evolution of his dietary philosophy from veganism to hunting. As a boy, Cerulli spent his summers fishing for trout and hunting bullfrogs. While still in high school, he began to experiment with vegetarianism. By the age of twenty he was a vegan. A decade later, in the face of declining health, he returned to omnivory and within a few years found himself heading into the woods, rifle in hand.
Through his personal quest, Cerulli bridges these disparate worldviews and questions moral certainties. Are fishing and hunting barbaric, murderous anachronisms? Or can they be respectful ways for humans to connect with nature (and their food)? How harmless is vegetarianism? Can hunters and vegetarians be motivated by similar values and instincts? » Continue Reading.