Old Rocks ?

Multigenerational Geologies
Figure 1. One-Off Non Series #00 “Multigenerational Geologies.”

With a few gravelly thoughts in mind, compiled from the week that was, rather than relay those pebbles and peas, frustrations and disappointments, I’ll instead focus these few blogable words on this notion of multigenerational geologies, or old rocks. I’m not a geologist, and I’m not even all that geologically curious in any deep and sustaining way. Not a reader of geology books. Not someone who stops for long to look extra close at rocks.

I do notice rocks; they’re all around these here Blue Ridge Mountains. Like when I mow, as I did earlier this afternoon. In one spot, on the neighbors’ ten acres, where they cut wood for supplying winter heat, and where I make a couple of passes with the Gravely, today I dinged a rock, scarring its rounded protuberance with a tiny nick, but a nick big enough that I will notice next time and raise the mowing deck manually until it is high enough to clear the rock. The rock is in its right place, after all. In another spot, at the base of the fifth black walnut, mid-hollow, the deck snagged a loose rock just enough to unearth it a little bit. I felt that one and happened to be quick enough to remaneuver so the rock would stay mostly planted and the mower blade would not kiss it, sparklingly. It has always been like this around here, the surfacings of a crumbly surface, rocks old and brittle, shifting right along with the rest of the soil course that is a holler/hollow.

But this drawing, Multigenerational Geologies, is from a different location maybe 30 minutes from here, Giles County, along the well-travelled lower path to Cascades, where I hiked in late June with Is. and M. who were visiting from Michigan. At the Cascades the water course puts rock formations on a better-lit stage; they’re all around and invite notice because they express geologic timescales with exaggerated forms. What I mean is that most of the lawnmower run involves rock formations underfoot or encased in dirt. But these run-off rock formations have settled into a differently observable light; rock-earth relations thus are more private compared to these rock-water relations.

The jut appeared to me to have a face. It’s sort of like face pareidolia, but more along the lines of rockface pareidolia, or possibly even golem-sighting, a brush with a camouflaged earth elemental. Knew I had to attempt to draw it. And slowly began to understand that it would carry valences of memory, acting as a fleeting statuary confirming an understanding I carry with me and consider now and then, about how a principal function of this life, of living, is as a medium, or go-between, who ferries what was (in my particular case) by my mom, Linda, expressed in a multitude of ways (from joy to kindness to to good humoredness to principledness to resolve and so on) to my daughter, especially, who as mixed up timing would have it, missed the opportunity to know my mom. You wouldn’t get this just from looking at the drawing. And that’s okay. I’ve withheld it, as I’m sometimes prone to doing, because it sits at that extra-personal edge of things not readily on offer for public consumption, much less scrutiny. So I suppose this is a nod to those extradiscursive gifts, associations that feed into and through the piece, but then back again, a quiet, inobservable boomerang sent that comes back around, neatly looping, the source of a blend of feeling, parts proud and grateful, parts long-lost and missing, parts calmed and serene for an art practice that allows such hazes to hold.

Sweet Maple

Roothold, or When a Few of the Trees That Never Really Left, Returned; A Before/After of Lakeview Estates, Superior Twp., Mich. (faintly Shaker gift drawing-style; fuchsia baskets) #procreate #procreateart #illustration

Michigan neighbor, K., asked if I take requests for drawings, and I hadn’t before, not really, and so I said yes, sure, because even though was born under a Taurus sign I do sometimes like to do things I have never done before. Yes, sure.

The friendly request presented a set of conditions: draw our community (referring, I assumed, to the condominium complex known as Lakeview Estates, a set of approximately 130 units organized in four-unit buildings, built beginning in 1974, and occupying several acres just on the north edge of Ypsilanti, sort of between Clark and Geddes, Prospect and Harris, if you’re into Michigan’s baseline-meridian mile by mile grids). Where was I? Draw our community. Incorporate a before/after timespan. Include fuchsia. And title it with something she’d have to look up.

In 2009, I first happened up on the condo unit as a renter, referred to its owner’s adult children by an EMU colleague who knew them through their common interest in horses. The place was freed up as a rental shortly after its elderly owner died. Having moved from Syracuse, we rented for two or three years before buying a house in the next neighborhood over, same square mile as I described above.

I resumed occupancy at the condo after purchasing it in August 2014. It’s not that all of this is a dullish story as much as an account tiptoed around for uncertainty about demarcations about whose experiences constitute any story to tell and what, after all, as indefinite futures play out, do stories told bear out as consequences for ambient subjectivities–contributing without harm to an oikos, its ecology, the distributed house-logic extends neighborliness and stewardship erring always on the side of unknowns, the unforeseeable.

In 2018 I took a job 500 miles from Ypsilanti. Navigating that transition was in the top ten of stressful adulthood navigations. It meant moving away from my then-11-year-old daughter, for one. It meant wayfinding financially such that I could keep the condo as a place to visit and stay for long periods of time in Michigan while also finding a place to live in Virginia. But it also meant sorting out an incredibly trying series of obstacles introduced by the then-president of the condominium association whose inflexibilities and malfeasances led to my being sued. Twice. The details of the cases amounted to attempts to evict where I believed I was standing up for my position that “single family dwelling” met the standards of the township so long as no more than three otherwise unrelated adults share a house/condo with continuing domestic intention (sharing meals, for example). I’m leaving out a lot of the details. There was no rental agreement; no complaints, either. And I was stepped through legal proceedings that cost about 6k to defend for a pair of lawsuits that were ultimately dismissed. It’s challenging as hell to defend yourself against a condo association when the association dues you pay each month underwrite the efforts of the board president and a legal firm whose values seemed most of all to revolve around keeping a steady stream of revenue.

In the midst of the lawsuits–letters I wrote pleading with them not to pursue things further, which they ignored after the first suit was thrown out, summons delivered with the loud, intimidating knock of a flashlight handle by a county sheriff after dark one January night, the snarl of one attorney, who, at a board meeting called me an asshole and told me to shut up–among the worst of the behaviors I witnessed had to do with the sugar maple in the front and the cedar hedge in the back of my place. The cedar hedge was left to grow, untended and unkempt, eventually reaching heights that blocked my first floor window view. The maintenance requests were accidentally missed, and I was told they would get to it next time the tree trimmers were on the grounds. For a year and a half, the hedge grew. Only when other neighbors started to complain did the hedge get taken down. Meanwhile, a 30-year-old sugar maple that stood in the front of my unit was culled. I came back from Virginia in December 2019 and found in its place a pile of sawdust. They’d never told me they were going to do it, even though the tree was clearly inside the bounds of the garden area attached to my unit. I let them know I would have appreciated advance notice; it was a tree Is. climbed on when she was younger, a tree that hosted birds and squirrels outside the kitchen window. A mature tree. A tree giving no hints of being unhealthy, no roots troubling the foundation walls. What can you do but bid it gratitude and move on? Moving on for me meant asking if there was a plan to replace it. No, no budget for that, they said. Oh, gotcha and no problem. I will pay for it. But no, not allowed was the board and management company’s response.

I suppose some of the follow-through on my part was motivated by sunken costs. It was super expensive to defend those needless, frivolous lawsuits (lawsuits that could have and should have been dealt with instead through direct communication and, if necessary, mediation) and at a time when I was scraping a bit. Money, fine. Whatever. But to fuck with trees out of vengeance or spite then to block their replanting? We’re gonna do this this way? Fine. So it is.

Several neighbors took interest in these and other questionable and combative events. Word–stories–rippled across the property. Kicked out of the pool stories. Lore of bluster, antagonism, and targeting in the most passive/aggressive ways possible. A few people thought it was time for a change. And then more than a few. And they organized. Is there a lesser status form of government than a condo association? But neighbors put their names in. We spread the word about a better, fairer platform. We gathered proxies. And in early September, we voted. The board turned over. And things changed for the better.

The walls of this brownstone have been good to me–a space of quiet, of rest, of learning the difference between loneliness and aloneness, of healing. An old furnace gives heat. An old stove gives flame to soups. Plenty of counter space for fermenteds, which is important, since my neighbor, P., brings me bags full of vegetables from Detroit gardens in late summer. Neighbors look out for the place. The meandering streets nearby are familiar. The squirrels and birds are still around, a few trees over or maybe in the park on Norfolk, a block away. I see them there when I walk. With the new board, a board voted in a couple of months ago, I now have approval to replant a tree. Gonna do that in spring, imagining its roots will find and hug near as they can the underground rootpaths forged before them by the sweet maple.

Lift

Figure 1. Lift #23. For the others in the Stay-At-Home Pandemic Bestiary, check out https://www.earthwidemoth.com/blog/gallery/.

I’ve continued to draw, albeit more slowly. More than five hours into this-here, Lift #23, something like a masked, anthropomorphized mandala subjected to the annoyances of serpentine figure. A dragonfly knows to conjure and contain fire. And so: Put more care into each line. Erase and redraw. Get it just right. Wabi sabi, too, though, so do not chase perfectionism. Zoom in. Make junctures that touch.

The world’s exhaust and sparks, it’s a noxious lot right now. Just gonna leave it be that. Pandemic and high amperage outrage because George Floyd should still be alive. Ahmaud Arbery should still be alive. Breonna Taylor should still be alive. Feel that heartache. Anger and outrage. Empathize. Listen. Notice those closest who can use a hand, a place to stay, a dollar, a break. Pass forward what few dollars I can spare into the relief of others’ pain. Sit, dwell on ways of sorting through all the more there is to say, all the more there is to act upon, what it will take to forge ahead. Encourage healing. At your pace. Stay focused and patient-persistent and good.

Waiting for Chrysalis

Figure 1. Glow #22. For the others in the Stay-At-Home Pandemic Bestiary, check out https://www.earthwidemoth.com/blog/gallery/.

Age unknown. Sitting in a chair and thinking chrysalid thoughts. This, another in the bestiary, Glow #22.

Thinking, for example, about why should Sunday of Memorial Day weekend include an errand to Meijer where mask ignoring nimshits–a trio–followed the same storepath as me, only I was there to retrieve the dinnerthings Is. requested and they were there to loud-talk about which styrofoam cooler to buy. Grocery errand thinking.

Thinking about how President Trump played golf today even as Coronavirus deaths approach 100,000. I have no interest in golf. Too high brow. Too white. Too much money in the players’ pockets. Too groomed. Golf is not really the issue here, of course. Distracted thinking.

Thinking about Ph.’s taking up occupancy at this condo, about how the condo first rented from 2009-2012, then purchased in 2014, then roommated when I took up work at VT, becoming legally brambled, lawsuits and so on. Until now, such a soulful and safe place; a place of growth and healing, and more than anything a portal to Is., without which working in Virginia just would not be possible. Ypsilanti condominium thanking.

Three 10″ lavender pots emptied of their rootwerk and starter soil, set up in the sideyard where much of the afternoon was pruningspent on firebushes, thinning and thinning until the sun shined through, and meanwhile, what gratitude for neighborliness, in that P., former master gardener for City of Detroit (almost certainly feeling pity for the landscaping), brought over a bucket of starter groundcover, plants whose names, who even knows. Sprinkled fertilizer recommended by the clerk at the nursery who I trusted because she had many years and few fucks to give. Fertilizer thinking.

Thinking about grubs and nematodes and the buzzing pollinators at the canopy of the firebushes, and that tattoo from March, painful as it was, Lotus and the Four Pollinators, no butterfly, but there was a bat and hummingbird, a bee and a dragonfly. Can’t have everything thinking.

Thinking about why not have oatmeal for lunch and add a pinch of dried chocolate mint herb from late last summer, about how elevating though the chocolate mint was, it was enough. Sufficiency thinking.

Returning to imagefigure, thinking about whether pupae can feel when chrysalis formation begins or if instead the phenom just clicks into hardshell-coating, whether metamorphosis is sensed, where biochemically such senses might even report, but perhaps later on as memories never principally experienced. Prolly should’ve majored in biology thinking.

Troublemake #17

Troublemake #17

Another in a series of anothers. One more in a series of plus ones. Added to the sixteen before it, a drawing. The last? Why dither. Into the gallery, or a way of saying “art porch.” Peculiar forms cystic, yellowed diaper hooked (accidentally?), bent toe, bulbous pads where arms and legs bend, are they knees, who can say?, or are they elbows. Nice eyelashes. Nice nostril spirals. Nice lips. Nice neckfolds. Eh. Fangs and other gray teeth, patterned blemishes whose patterns because they are patterns hint at everything is as it should be, shadow cast against a brick-brushed backdrop, all at risk of meaninglessness but for the eyes fixated on what beyond the frame, but for identification, but for light, but for the quickest of knowledges synapsed and synapsing ocularly.

Procreate strokecast.

Graphicacy

For the past few weeks, “graphicacy” has insinuated itself into the part of my brain where nagging curiosity comes from (the self-nagebellum), becoming the terministic equal of an ear worm: word worm. Term worm? Lexical maggot? Whatever. And there, for weeks now, it has wriggled, dug in.

I don’t recall encountering “graphicacy” before Liz Losh mentioned it casually in her presentation to EMU’s First-year Writing Program during her visit last month. I wrote down several things from Liz’s talk, but graphicacy was there on top of my notes, large and starred. It stands to reason that graphicacy keeps company with literacy. Both are –acy words, which means they are adjectives converted to nouns and that they name or identify conditions. Presumably these, too, are nominalizations, but they by-pass verbs, which is the problem I’ve been thinking about. We have reading and writing to verb literacy, but what verbs graphicacy?

I had to do a little bit of cursory sifting and searching for graphicacy, to start. It seems like the term was initiated in a mixed and sprawling range across math education (learning to plot points and interpret graphs), geography (facility with maps), and graphic design (technical-aesthetic savvy). Late last month, it surfaced in the context of a conversation about multimodal composition and the graphic rhetoric we have adopted at EMU, Understanding Rhetoric. This is the main reason it took hold for me: graphicacy seemed to gather an array of practices related both to understanding and making visuals. It sweeps into one pile an assortment of visual communications–graphs, maps, word clouds, comics, painting, photography, typography, data visualization–much in the same way visual rhetoric does. And yet, with graphicacy as with visual rhetoric, it feels like we are still missing a sufficiently encompassing verb to capture the array of practices.

At our Advanced WAC Institute on campus late last April (or was it by then early May?), I worked with a team of colleagues on a new (for us) configuration. With colleagues from Communications and Education, we put together an institute keyed on five complementary practices: writing, reading, critical (or I would say “rhetorical”) listening, speaking, and visualizing. The fifth term, visualizing, was mine to introduce to institute attendees, and it was the most difficult to identify with a verb that was adequate to account for the frame, which amounted to concept mapping, drawing/sketching as heuristic for arrangement, and creating occasions for students to work at the intersection of textual and overtly visual and designerly composition.

Because we called it “visualizing,” we began the sessions needing to backtrack and contextualize. With visualizing, we weren’t talking about conjuring brainbound images or about an indwelt priming of the mind’s eye to work on problems or particular ways of seeing. These were among the associations attendees made with visualizing. And this seemed reasonable. Visualizing wasn’t quite the right verb. But what is the right verb? What is the general verb comparable to writing, reading, listening, and speaking that relates not only to seeing but to creating visuals, especially in consideration of vector illustration programs and shape-based concept mapping software that bears only faint relation to drawing?

Graphicacy stirs this question yet again but does not quite answer it. But I hope not to call it “visualizing” ifwhen we convene the institute again next time.

Living Portrait

I suppose The Johnny Cash Project is as close as I will come to a Grammy nomination. Seems the crowdsourced sketch-video put to Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave” has been nominated for Best Short Form Music Video at the 53rd annual Grammy event coming up in February. In case you haven’t heard of it, here’s a bit of background on The Johnny Cash Project, including a recent version of the piecemeal video.

As far as I can tell, the video is continuously redrawn, with new frames entering into circulation and with old frames dropping in rank as participants assign a five-star rating to existing frames. Many months ago I spent a whopping thirteen-plus minutes sketching frame #1271. Whether or not it was my finest (or even a remarkable) artistic moment may take many more years to determine. My efforts have been rewarded with an average rating of two out of five stars (.400 is kicking butt in baseball and in drawing, right?). Anyway, ratings are not what is important here (ignoring momentarily that the Grammys are a contest).

Grammy win or no, the Cash Project has a pedagogical double that I remember each time it turns up again in this or that RSS stream–the class-drawn music video pieced together from snippets of lyrics and whatever drawings they motivate, all spliced flip-book-style into an on the fly music video. The rawness of DIY; the investment of “I did that.” D. has done this a couple of times with first and second graders who illustrated “What A Wonderful World.” Before the Cash Project, I hadn’t given too much earnest thought to a corresponding compositional project worth pursuing in the classes I typically teach. The Cash Project is a far more mature (i.e., serious-seeming) digital monument, and, that being the case, it has pushed me to reconsider possibilities for small-crowdsourced projects, maybe by adapting something like this and incorporating Google Docs-Drawing (with placeholder images and layers).  I like the way these music video projects link (implicitly collaborative) crowdsourcing and gestalt; the summative experience is more forceful than, say, reading a wiki entry, although, ideally, their logics could be linked–with one used to illuminate the other. Maybe.

Undoubtedly, I’ll be too tired to stay up and watch the Grammys. And that’s if I even remember when it is on TV. But I’m hopeful that The Cash Project gets its due. Here’s a glimpse of the competition.

Eyebrows

iBrowse

Eyebrows: Is.’s latest facial-anatomical fixation. Fine if you sketch a stick person, but the omission of brows concerns her greatly. “Add them,” she says. As for her own marker board sketches, eyebrows began appearing on every single one early last week.

Maybe I Need One of These

In case I do need one of them (for research and related work-tasks), if I went ahead and picked one up now, got up to snap with how it works, then I would be fully prepared when the time comes that I actually have to use it. Maybe?

wacom.jpg

As you can see, there are the great challenges involved when predicting the future (while frittering away a few minutes before the next WC consulting session).