Final Thoughts

When I first heard about this course I was sitting in a dark internet cafe in Bolivia full of grime and people shouting things I couldn’t understand. I was just… Read More

When I first heard about this course I was sitting in a dark internet cafe in Bolivia full of grime and people shouting things I couldn’t understand. I was just beginning to realize that my life back home was waiting for me to make some decisions on what classes to take and even if I was going to go back to school in the first place, so I paid a few coins and logged onto Facebook, (little did i know I left my account logged in and returned to some vulgar and hilarious statuses in spanish on my account.)  Katie had messaged me and sent me this poster to the course the day before the final deadline. When I read through the poster, squinting by the blinding light of the screen, I was in awe that this class actually existed. I immediately got my teacher recommendation in and signed up for the course… well I thought, I guess I am going back to school after this. Experiencing the depths of the landscapes in Bolivia and Peru without my phone or computer or even a camera, I thought it would be interesting to come back here and analyze the Blue Ridge mountains through a lense and try to gather up the skills to be a functional technology literate human in this society. I came into this course being an alien to technology and building websites and though I think I have a lot more to work on and understand I am so happy with how our website turned out and that I am opened up to these technology mediums for expression.

I honestly feel so connected our professors, Ken and Joe. Even though we met through a screen, throughout my college experience thus far you two are the only professors that have evoked my truth and essence. I miss those first classes where all we did was talk about literature and ideas on nature and our relationship to it, if I could get paid to do that that’s all i would do with my life. I do regret that once we started building our website and lost the structure of the class, I may have lost some of my initial passion and creative writing. I wish that I had spent more time alone in the hills of Craggy just writing with no expectations. The fact that what I was writing needed to be submitted and graded on our website choked the flow of my writing for some of the course and didn’t allow everything I felt I could experience and write about to arise.

I also want to continue this project because though Craggy is a beautiful breathtaking landscape, I don’t think it’s real and applies to the rest of the world. Hardly anyone these days gets to visit such a unique landscape away from human civilization. I wanted to develop a new nature writing voice that applies to where we are living right now. A voice that isn’t as romantic and distant, isn’t as nostalgic and full of desire. I think I began to do this, and I had no idea a voice like this could exist before taking this course so I’m definitely on my way to redefining my used up nature voice. We just couldn’t resist being able to have an excuse to go to Craggy all the time. So if I did this course again, I would pick an abandoned house in the middle of a city or a rooftop.

So what I’m most proud of as a result of this course, is the new platform I have to express my voice… It has gotten old reading good ol’ Thoreau and Emerson when a new truth is seeping out in this century. I just want to do whatever will allow me to be with the trees, I wish there was a major in being a Lorax. I have a intimate writers mind that wants to transform all pain into art that people can be touched by, and understand the world better through experience and connection. I’ve been told that doesn’t get you by in this world. So what I’m taking from this course is a new way to express my truth, and to create a way for me to be a  “nature writing scientist”.

As Whitman says:

 

“When I heard the learn’d astronomer,

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,

When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,

Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

 

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

 

An ARCGIS Cascade of Craggy Preservation Documents

Curious about ARCGIS cascade, I decided to give it a try. Surprisingly it is easy and similar to using a Prezi, a tool for presentations I’ve used in high school…. Read More

Curious about ARCGIS cascade, I decided to give it a try. Surprisingly it is easy and similar to using a Prezi, a tool for presentations I’ve used in high school. Yesterday I went to the University Special Collections office and used their scanner to scan all the archives I have found interesting and useful to our project so far. This ArcGis Cascade is my experience going through all those archives and how I found hope and passion in words from the past. I used this digital tool to combine archival documents and nature writing in hopes to express how historical passion seeped into my soul through words on paper.

Craggy Gardens is a success story. Something I don’t hear too often in my ENVS classes these days. A story of a man who was relentless in his desire to preserve this section of virgin hemlocks so he and others could find respite and recreation amongst the trees. He didn’t give up despite many letters I read through that told him it would be difficult, impossible even. In a society driven by capitalism, how could he win this land when people were going to make money off of that timber? However he used the spiritual yearning and internal craving from his community that thrives off of escaping from their busy lives in nature.

This blog post is shorter, because I spent a lot of time at the Special Collections office and creating this story map. Hope you enjoy my first attempt at ARCGIS! (it may be easier to access it through the link so you can see all the pictures up close: https://arcg.is/1XrPPP)

Winner: Craggy Gardens!!

After going back and forth between locations, we eventually landed on Craggy Gardens. The mystical land of crags (yes Ken I found out there are crags indeed.) At first I… Read More

After going back and forth between locations, we eventually landed on Craggy Gardens. The mystical land of crags (yes Ken I found out there are crags indeed.) At first I was like I have no idea what to set as deadline or really what we were intending on doing at all. But after some initial brainstorming Katie and I realized that not only do we want to enhance our connection with a landscape and discover it’s “deep map” but for this to be a way for others to understand how to connect with the roots of their landscapes. That was the main point of our mission statement.

As for the tools, other than story map and a few other basic technical tools, I am lacking in that department. So I am planning on going to the mixed media lab on campus where they help you with anything technology related, especially developing websites. So I’m excited to learn more about how I can creatively express Craggy Gardens on the computer.  I do want to show the old hand drawn maps that we found in the archive and possibly draw our own as well and utilize the postcards we also collected.

As for the who will do what section, Katie and I work best together. There are a few things we can divide up like our passions for Chestnut and Hemlock trees and who will contact which person which we added to our milestones. Going over the milestones with her was a great way to envision our project, though I was a bit overwhelmed because I have’t really thought of deadlines, it ended up easing stress because we can follow a set guideline now.

Anyways I’m so excited to go to Craggy, probably late this afternoon, and experience in person what our project is all about!!

Bent Creek Excursion

Winding down the smooth asphalt descent into the experiential wilderness, bike clipped to my trunk, I decided to go a little farther into the depth this time around. Engine grinding up… Read More

Winding down the smooth asphalt descent into the experiential wilderness, bike clipped to my trunk, I decided to go a little farther into the depth this time around. Engine grinding up the hills I have entered Bent Creek, established in 1925. This is an experiential forest encompassing 6,000 acres of the Pisgah National Forest, studying the growth of planted oaks and hardwoods.  I thought my phone and I needed some space but forgot that was my only way to take pictures so sadly you will not be able to see it.  Driving down here on a sunny weekend means cars lined up with bikes and slobbery puppies jumping out trunks and moms running after their little toddlers wobbling into the woods.

These trees here are on display like a mannequin in a clothing store. All observed, watched, but by scientific eyes. This is an experiment anyways, roots held and nurtured by man’s hand. Pulling up into the parking lot, I felt like I was showing up late to a party. Hikers and bikers clad in 2014 festival t-shirts and farm-to-feet wool socks unloading their precious cargo (puppies, babies, and bikes.) The highway drone has dulled to a faint woosh. Only heard if you listen for it, a faint engine roar reminding me I’m not allowed to forget I’m an animal of the concrete jungle.

I noticed Colorado, Utah, and New Hampshire license plates and asked the Colorado guy with a faded orange beard and gray tights under black mesh shorts what he was doing out here and he said simply “just hitting up some trails.” I realized he was looking at me expectantly, being the semi-native with a Virginia license plate, I quickly summed up the only trail I’ve loyally ridden the past year or so. Seeming satisfied with that piece of information he pedaled away. Everyone’s just trying to get a piece of life out here. Clipping into my bike I headed down a flat gravel path as well, rocks churning and gurgling beneath my wheels, hoping to discover new trails without getting too lost.

Feeling a little less like a roaming pedestrian on their day off and more like a scientific investigator, I jumped off my bike when I noticed a curious silver glint 10 feet off the path. As if strapping on my chem lab goggles I discerned the fence of metal to be purposeful, not left out here to fend for itself but could not figure out why.  I then I realized I was surrounded by about 5-10 year old oak trees, same height, same species, equal distancing. This doesn’t seem like natural primary succession, but whatever floats these rangers boats I guess.

Wandering through the baby oaks my foot slips into a modest creek.  I watch our liquid life flow in casual canorous curls through the slimy decomposing leaf bed. It is February yet I smell awakening.  The magnetic pull of hydrogen bonds glide my arms across their cool filmy surface. My limbs, feeling like branches, dance on it’s tension. Sterile skin sliding off onto the banks and eddies, my arms now crawl with microorganisms and mud. Relieved not to be hiding from my roots behind closed doors, my pores open and seep out my purest essence. This is a classic North Carolina woods, naked trees spaced out on top of a thick layer of brown leaves, churning with chipper squirrels, laced with creeks that used to carry creepy crawlers but now glint with aluminum. I sure am filled with romanticism for the natural but where would I be without it?

. Hours later I arrived back at my car, shooting out of a steep trail coincidentally right where I parked, feeling proud of my navigation skills I put my bike back on the car, feeling wild and drenched in bloody cuts and mud from “accidentally” falling into the mud.  I laugh at the beauty of it all.

The road in here abruptly lead out to blaring civilization and with that….the urge to shower.

Blue Ridge Parkway Research

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a vast and diverse landscape reaching 469 miles from northern Virginia to Western North Carolina. For me the Blue Ridge is a cocoon that I’ve… Read More

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a vast and diverse landscape reaching 469 miles from northern Virginia to Western North Carolina. For me the Blue Ridge is a cocoon that I’ve nestled in throughout my life, looking up to them for strength and adventure. But after going through archived materials in UNCA special collections office, I realized these mountains and the construction of the parkway has affected not only the wildlife but the human inhabitants in the region as well. I went through this book that detailed the experience of a family that had to sacrifice their farmland for the construction of the parkway in 1936 during the Great Depression and ultimately got paid way less than they originally bought the land for. This is information that I’m discovering through looking at these archives that never would have crossed my mind just peering up at them from my window growing up. It was built and designed to create jobs and to “protect” the natural environment but there is a lot more to it than that.

Transferring over to the story map website proved to be very difficult for me. It took me a long time to figure out how to pull together the information into an aesthetic layout for the website. I can definitely see now how digital interpretations of information adds another layer to understanding a place. Once I develop more skills with these websites (I will probably head over to the office on campus and ask for some pointers) I hope to portray all the interesting information I’ve collected better.

 

 

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Narrowing Our Options Down

Yesterday, Katie and I met with our archives on campus in the library. We began by discussing our visions for the project. We wanted a location with many trees that… Read More

Yesterday, Katie and I met with our archives on campus in the library. We began by discussing our visions for the project. We wanted a location with many trees that was at least semi-secluded from the city of Asheville. We wanted it to have historical background while allowing us to discover new aspects about it. Personally I wanted to use this site not only for this class, but as a retreat from society that I could spend time in and soak up the outdoors. Our archives mentioned many different locations some of them being the French Broad river, Sandy Mush, Blue Ridge Parkway, Bent Creek Experimental Forest and some other locations that were a bit too far away to access weekly.

Our archives provide us an overview of our options. The French Broad seemed like an accessible and highly documented location. There are many books and historical events located there such as a local protest that prevented it from being dammed. Though this site is very close to our house and has much accessible documents it did not appeal to us because we wanted to go out and discover more secluded and unknown sites in our area. We had the opposite problem with Sandy Mush. Personally I couldn’t find any information about it on the internet and have not gotten a chance to stop by our archive office again. The Blue Ridge Parkways is very close to my heart and perhaps not coincidentally my homes, running through both Asheville and Charlottesville. We found out in our meeting that it actually has its own archive here in Asheville that we are going to check out hopefully this week. Lastly, Bent Creek is a government run experiential forest that studies the effects of forest regrowth.

Out of these four options we were able to narrow it down even further to the latter; Bent Creek Experimental Forest and the Blue Ridge mountains. Bent Creek contains about 6,000 acres of Pisgah National Forest and is the oldest experimental forest east of the Mississippi. The USDA government website states this about the forest “It was established in 1925 for the purpose of conducting research on silvicultural practices that would aid in the rehabilitation of cutover, abused lands and promote sustainable forestry, and also to provide a field demonstration of forest management practice.” This peaked our interest. Not only is it full of trees and escapes the city of Asheville, it has an interesting purpose and background worth studying and investigating. The expanse of archives accessible to us about the Blue Ridge mountains on the other hand is an interesting allure. I have grown up in the shadow of these mountains and continue to be in their presence while in college. I have spent weekend camping and hiking trips but I realized I’ve never studied their historical background or voice as we put in class yesterday. I think it would be beneficial to be in this class and in life to investigate a small region of these mountains.

So within the next few days Katie and I will visit these locations and hopefully find more clarity on with site will be the best for this project!

 

Nature

“In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds… Read More

“In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Wild. Something I dream about..yearn for, desire. A place that is completely left untouched- or should I say undisturbed- by mankind.  I think of returning to my natural instincts, skin dusty with dried mud and hair flowing freely in the wind.. how romanized this idea has become. Though once I finally reached this physical place that resides in my mind; a plane ride, a bus,  and a three hour trek followed by llamas and stray puppies..I was intimidated. Clothes spilling out of my giant inanimate friend,  piling layer after layer to shield my delicate warm internal organs from the unforgiving elements. Little did i know my bare skin would not see daylight for a week. I sat on the edge of the lake, rocks boring into the muscles of my butt and legs but I tried to block out those uncomfortable sensations. What is comfort anyways? If I drop the bar to nothing..then everything. Our idea of comfort here in the states has blown out of proportion. We have wedged our way into mountains, embarrassing ourselves with our massive unexcusable presence with a lining of insulating guilt.

However wedging my way into a crevasse between those sharp rocks… I was overcome by immense stillness and silence. No cars, no highways, not even trees to rustle in the wind up here at 15,000 feet in the glacial Andes of Bolivia. It made me feel like I don’t belong out here anymore. I thought to myself: I don’t know you, earth, we don’t really know each other anymore and that makes me ashamed and scared and I want to connect but I’m afraid to. This was a lake that just was. Normally in this day we consider lakes for the monetary and recreational value they provide, for the fish and the boating and the lake houses. But this lake sat here at the bottom of the jagged rock completely still and alone. Suddenly I heard the loudest whoosh sound and my heart started beating super quick and then I found myself laughing because it was a bird with long wings that flew past me and I realized I’ve never heard the sound of a birds wings against the air before. It was so powerful and cut through the air at rapid speeds. I looked around at the simple details of dried moss covered rocks and then an avalanche of rocks and snow that almost made it to the lake. I realized I never knew what moss roots looked like or how birds stare stoically towards the sky and if I don’t know these details how could I possibly say I love and belong here on this planet. It’s like forgetting the color of the one you loves eyes or the way their second toe is taller than the first.  And then I suddenly felt hot tears stream down my face. “Take me back” I asked the mountains, “please take me back. I’m sorry”.  As Macfarlane states :  “We exist in an ongoing bio­diversity crisis – but register that crisis as an ambient hum of guilt, easily faded out.” Sitting out there, feeling like big clopping monster that’s disturbing everything in its wake, how could I possibly hide from my guilt in front of these mountains?

Slowly beginning to feel accepted again, I felt the earth soften towards me and I to it and no longer felt the air as harsh and cold. In those short few days, I have an eye for that landscape and those mountains like I do my childhood home. As one of my favorite transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo Emerson, says: “To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child…His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food. ” I truly saw those mountains like I did as a child padding through the bed of leaves in my backyard, inspecting leaves and building forts out of branches. With the start of this blog, and this course, I hope to continue to regain my eyes to truly see the earth, it all its pain and beauty, intellectually, scientifically, and poetically.

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