All posts filed under: landscape

Where we lay the dead.

Happy Halloween! I love the deep quiet that cemeteries have, even if there are leaves crunching and birds squabbling.  I get the feeling feeling that I’m able to barely brush against something eternal.  As a child I would often be taken on walks at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.  I suspect this gave me the idea that cemeteries are places for peace and rest, whether you are living or dead. Here are some cemetery photos I’ve taken in the past year – you may have seen them on Instagram already.  The oldest of the grave markers are from the Eliot Burying Grounds in Roxbury.  It’s usually locked behind a large wrought iron fence.  For two years I used to stand under the horse chestnut tree outside its gates to wait for the bus, and wonder what it would be like to walk inside.  Happily, on a recent walking tour in the neighborhood I got the chance.  I was told that the adjacent building was recently renovated, and when they tore …

My October: fire and quake

for the next week I’ll be in Edinburgh, Scotland, at a storytelling festival called “Once Upon a Place.”  I’ll also be thinking about this time of year, which the Celts who created Scotland’s bardic traditions called Samhain (the predecessor of Halloween).  In many folk traditions, this is the time of the year when the boundary between this world and the next is thinnest.  There will be stories about land and I can’t wait to share them with you. October has a whiff of calamity. As a child in the San Francisco Bay Area I lived through two natural disasters, and they both happened in late October. In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco on a Tuesday evening at rush hour.  I was six.  When the rumbling began, my mother gathered my sister and me under the broad wooden doorjamb in our dining room.  My sister’s little friend froze under the ceiling fan; I remember the feeling of urgency with which my mom darted out from our place of security in order to scoop …

Long review: Annette Kolodny, “In Search of First Contact”

On November 13, 1972, the Maine Sunday Telegram ran an article with the headline, “Those Famed Rune Stones, Real – Or Carved By Hippy?” Next to the headline is a photograph of a young white man in starched dress shirt and tie, a watch peeking out from his left sleeve, and a pointer in his hand. He is pointing towards a photo of a rock in the foreground, and the caption informs the reader that this Dr. Bruce Borque, the research associate for archaeology at the Maine Museum. He’s showing readers the famed Spirit Pond rune stones of Maine, which had been “discovered” a year earlier, only to have recently been ruled a fake by one of the world’s foremost rune stone experts. This was after the Maine State Museum had paid $4,500 for the stones to enter their permanent collection.The stones had certainly caused a great “hullaballoo,” with “amateur and not-so-amateur archaeologists” showing great enthusiasm for the discovery when it as made, and some believers still remaining after runic scholars determined they were fake. …

working landscapes, fantasy landscapes, cultural landscapes.

I just got back from a road trip through the Pyrenees, from the French Riviera to Barcelona.  It was a gorgeous trip, a relaxing trip, a very, very food oriented trip (like you’re surprised).  But you know what was surprising?  How industrial, how work-oriented the landscape that we traveled through was.  From Marseille and its warehouses to the industrial agriculture and viticulture of Languedoc, from large-scale salt production in the Camargue to the incredible manufacturing history and massive port of Barcelona, the places we traveled through were not exactly straight from the fairy tales.  When we passed a nuclear power plant we were reminded that France gets 75% of its energy that way, and as we passed through the Pyrenees and saw the vast fields of air turbines we marveled at their size, the sheer engineering of them, and the marvelous contrast that they made against the romantic misty landscapes and medieval villages that surrounded them.  It was so exciting to see up close the work of making a country run, the kind of thing …