A Lap at Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake, Gregory, Mich.

Go to Pickerel Lake when you can. Let it be summer, if you can. Preferably mid-morning or evening but not peak midday because the tiny eyelet cove will be crowded with like 10 Ann Arbourgeoisie and noisy with chatting and water play. Sounds carry across the lake. Only accessory you need is a New Wave swim buoy, just an innocuous $30 inflatable guardian against sinking, low drag, bright and sturdy on the water’s surface. Clip it around your waist. Wade in with the slow-steadiness of a Taurus plodding motion unbroken. And then make do with a modified freestyle path around the perimeter. You’re not much of a swimmer. Left first or right first makes no difference. The shoreline is all cattails and lily pads in alternating segments. A breathing flotilla meditation and reunion with tree friends at a distance, hi again. They’re not trees you’ve climbed or otherwise dwelt with, quiet there in the surrounds, except when the wind picks up, hi to you. Stick to the perimeter but not too close. Ten yards out. The northeast bend is where lily shoots reach from beneath at irregular spacing. Careful they will surprise you. Tentacled-seeming, those stems know how to tickle or wrap a limb. The swim basic sublime, danger! plant-matter touches land lightly ganglia shock like chimes faintly stunningly dinned and sound-waving from ancestors ninety or more generations ago so lovingly decomposing, dispersed, and rooting for you. After an hour, complete the loop, regain footfalls in sand, primate again lazy towel-off, swig of water, find car to unlock and drive on the dusty way.

Until Finally a Carrier Stumbled

Especially the second paragraph:

Close to large tinajas [water pockets or pools] the trails converge like strands of a spiderweb coming to the center, and within a few miles of water, broken pieces of pottery tend to appear alongside. Mostly the pieces are plain: thick-rimmed, ochre ceramics called Colorado River buff ware. Clay vessels would have been hauled back and forth until finally a carrier stumbled. The stumbles added up in places so that over hundreds upon hundreds of years pottery became evenly scattered, in some places pieces on top of pieces. Along with the pottery a small number of shells might be found, brought from far oceans probably for adornment, wealth, or ceremony. Along one of these trails I picked up part of a shallow-water cockleshell, its delicate hinges still intact after being carried hundreds of miles from the Sea of Cortés.

I started calling these trails waterlines. Waterlines are the opposite of canals, moving people to water rather than water to people. This bestows a formidable significance on the origin itself, the tinaja, because that is where you must go. Must. It comes and goes over the year, or  over the days, while the location always remains the same. You can put your finger down and say here. Of all this land, all this dryness, all of these mountains heaped upon mountains, here. (31)

Childs, Craig. The Secret Knowledge of Water. New York: Back Bay Books, 2000.

For the talk I’m giving next month at Macomb CC, “Writing Desert Survival Kit,” I’m leafing Childs’ Secret Knowledge, struck by the shard trails, anticipating the desert metaphor (much like food deserts) as accounting for what diminishes, dehydrates, and becomes perilous in crawls across the writing barren, writing spare curriculum. Waterlines, in this extended metaphor, however, introduce a centripetal and extracurricular counterpart, desert traversals, travels that surfaces and circulate writing (also supporting it). These tinajas are comparable to the writing center, which, if you decline to provide a formidable writing curriculum (e.g., explicitly guided and supported writing experiences in every year of university education), you’d damned well better fortify your tinajas.

Method’s Con-trails

Caught a small
blip of discussion
yesterday concerned with whether or not Google Earth


the lost city of Atlantis
. Remnants of the elusive, underwater cityscape?

According to Google Maps Mania,


It’s true that many amazing discoveries have been made in Google Earth
including a pristine forest in Mozambique that is home to previously unknown
species and the remains of an Ancient Roman villa.

In this case, however, what users are seeing is an artefact of the data
collection process. Bathymetric (or sea floor terrain) data is often
collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea floor.

The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data. The fact
that there are blank spots between each of these lines is a sign of how
little we really know about the world’s oceans.

How little we know, indeed. Is this Atlantis? The conspiracy doesn’t interest me all that much.
Instead, I’m struck by the impression: the stamp left by the "systematic"
tracing, the residue of the surface-to-sea-floor method (a term others
have smartly untangled it into meta-hodos or something like ‘beyond
ways’, even ‘ways
beyond’; this etymological dig lingers with me). The deep blue grid of
"bathymetric data" elicits questions: why don’t we see these in the adjacent
areas? What was it about this boat, this collection process,
translation from sound to image, that left behind the vivid trails?

Robert Sarmast
elaborated on the image’s trail-grid, noting:

The lines you’re referring to are known as "ship-path artifacts" in the
underwater mapping world. They merely show the path of the ship itself as it
zig-zagged over a predetermined grid. Sonar devices cannot see directly
underneath themselves. The lines you see are the number of turns that the
ship had to make for the sonar to be able to collect data for the entire
grid. I’ve checked with my associate who is a world-renowned geophysicist
and he confirmed that it is artifact. Sorry, no Atlantis.

More provocations here: the grid’s unevenness, its predetermination, the
inability of the sonar devices to see (erm…hear) directly below. And
yet, a telling illustration of method alongside method: seems to me a subtle
allegory in the adjacency of ocean floor imagery with lines and without.
Presumably, the surrounding ground was measured similarly. Why no lines?

United Lakes of Atlantica

Over the weekend Strange Maps
posted an

inverted map of the world
. The imaginary map was designed by Vlad Gerasimov who made it as
desktop wallpaper available at

Aside from the Grand Inversion, the map symbols would suggest
that the climate, landforms, coastlines, flora, and fauna are more or less in
tact. In that case, I suppose I’d be most at home just north and east of Bermuda City. Or somewhere within a canoe ride of the Great Islands.

Water, Precious Water

D. and I drove over to the

Inner Harbor
where Onondaga Creek joins Onondaga Lake for the Water, Precious
concert this afternoon. One of D.’s students had a role in the
festivities and a parent was putting the whole thing on, organizing it, as far
as I know. We stayed for just an hour; the temps in the mid-fifties were
surprisingly brisk for an afternoon in early June. We returned, teeth
chattering, back to the car. But I did get photos of the puppet
procession. So as not to suffer further despair of Onondaga Lake’s
, the get-together aims to build awareness, focus resources, and
rally environmental cleanup.

Water, Precious Water Puppets

Add’l photos

Drink Up

For some time now, I’ve had a casual interest in water policy. 
Huh?  Right, I know, I know.  Where’d that come from?  

I’m thinking about that very question this morning–where’d that come from.
It started with something I read in my MA program–probably Silko–about the
desert Southwest, battles over subdivisions in places where land is cheap and
water is invaluable (really valuable, that is).  Folks in the
Southwestern U.S., as I think of them, have been jockeying for aquifers since
the Hoover Dam "stabilized" the Colorado River in 1935. Seems to me Silko
mentions the art of fountain placement–of decorating the gates to new
subdivisions with trickling or bubbling statuettes–as a kind of deeply
persuasive appeal: you’ll be fine on this parcel of land; there’s water

This morning’s water news comes from an article in the New
–one of the feedlines I set up a looong time ago (in July),
back when I had leisure time for reading stuff on the web, blogging–called
"Asian farmers sucking the continent dry."  It’s an interesting
report on the water crisis in Asia, the stakes for China and India,
particularly.  Carrying forward from the Stockholm
Water Summit
are moderate (and none-too-Doomsday, I say) concerns about the
inevitability of water crises resulting from drilling, tapping, pumping, 
irrigating, and self-regulated use.  The article cites details about urgent
zones or "hot spots," such as Gujarat, "where water tables are dropping by 6 metres or more each year, according to Rajiv Gupta, a state water official." 
It also suggests–to no surprise–the problem of shifting governmental stances
on large-scale resource management initiatives such as the River
Project in India.

The last Indian government proposed a massive $200 billion River Interlinking Project designed to redistribute water around the country. But the new government elected earlier this year has gone cool on the idea. In any case, the water supplied would probably come too late.

Much of this wraps together my casual interest, old conversations about
alternative energies, matters such as the role of petro-fired water pumps in
deep-reaching wells (vital for keeping Kansas uniformly arable, for example),
and dry places, diasporic exile (as in give ’em that hunk of
).  It also reverberates with some of the things I’ve been hearing
this week about SU’s program in cultural geography, projects such as mapping
hunger in Onondaga County (and surrounds?), for one.