Archive for April, 2013


Peter Warshall

by Peter Warshall

by Peter Warshall

Did you ever read Whole Earth Catalog and its sister publication Co-Evolution Quarterly in the 70’s and 80’s? One of its writers and founders, Peter Warshall, died yesterday morning. I got to meet him and connect with him at an Anasazi Fields Winery Poetry Reading – he was living in Tuscon, AZ then and came over for I think Gene Frumkin’s memorial service, and he has been working in NM with Bioneers and that publication Green Fire – doing a thing called “Dreaming New Mexico.” He was quite the ecology thinker and writer. I am glad I got to get a sense of what a neat person he was, in person. There’s a book of his I want to find – Septic Tank Practices – and another piece of his, Thinking Like a Watershed, demonstrates his thinking.

Link is to a talk he gave — Yup, he’s a poet and pragmatist, too.
Light and beauty — by Stewart Brand (about Warshall’s talk)

“The naturalist’s task,” Warshall began, “is to observe without human-centered thoughts and human-centered agendas, to observe with a Gaian perspective and with the perspective of the organisms you’re watching. The naturalist considers all species in space/time as equally beautiful.” There’s a connection between art and science—between the poetic organization of thought and the pragmatic organization of thought. Light operates at a distance. That inspires anticipation, which becomes yearning, which becomes desire, which becomes hope, which generates transcendence. When an image becomes transcendent for you, it becomes part of how you perceive. “The Sun is the initiator of all sugars.”

Starting 250 million years ago, life rebelled and began generating its own light. There are 40 different kinds of bioluminescence, used for mate attraction, for baiting prey, for deceit. “Danger and beauty always go together. Deceit—not truth—is beauty. A term some art critics use is ‘abject beauty.’” Humans began the second light rebellion by harnessing fire a million years ago. Then came electric lights in the 1880s, and we transformed the light regime and hence behavior of many species. Artists like James Turrell shifted art from reflected light to emitted light, and that is increasingly the norm as we spend our days with screens radiating information into our eyes.

Our eyes are pockets of ocean that let us perceive only a portion of the Sun’s spectrum of light. Bees, with their crystal eyes, see in the ultraviolet. Snakes perceive infrared, and so do some insects that can detect the heat of a forest fire from 40 miles away.

Bowerbird males create elaborate art galleries, even devising forced perspective, to impress females. Young male bowerbirds watch the process for four years to learn the art. Throughout nature, watch for bold patterns of white, black, and red, which usually signal danger.

Every day there is a brief time without danger. At twilight—as daylight shifts to night—all life pauses. “That moment has a contemplative beauty that we cherish. It is a moment of Gaian aesthetic.”

Warshall’s talk, and his life, have been a convergence of art and science. Asked about how scientists could learn more about art, Warshall suggested they go to an art class and learn how to draw. As for how artists can learn more of science, he had two words:

“Outdoors. Look.”
— by Stewart Brand

Peter Warshall explains the purpose behind the New Mexico Dreaming project.

Photograph from TEDxABQ 2011 (an independently organized TED event) at the Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
 Photograph Copyright © 2011 Peter Norby.

Peter Warshall explains the purpose behind the New Mexico Dreaming project.

Photograph from TEDxABQ 2011 (an independently organized TED event) at the Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Photograph Copyright © 2011 Peter Norby .


yard log: 4/24/2013

Here on the east side of the Rio Grande, elevation 4976 ft., we have 34 degrees F. outside – a sunny, late April morning.

It’s been cold at night – last week we had two nights in the low 20’s. Last night it didn’t get down below freezing, according to NOAA weather blog.

I write to list the plants in our yard that don’t seem to be doing too well. My spouse says to wait a while til after it’s warmed up. This photo is of the first plant – the big lilac bush given to us by my mom the month after we moved in, 1985.

April 24, 2013  - 28 year old Lilac

April 24, 2013 – 28 year old Lilac

Each spring we witness plants that didn’t make it through the winter. The spring of 2010, there were plants that didn’t survive the week of extremely low temperatures in February of that year (Rosemary, Lingustrum bushes, Spirea).

2013 Plants don’t seem alive:
Red Plum

2013 Plants with major percentage dead growth:
2 Lilacs

I hose-watered every month over the winter. But our rainfall has been zilch. At the NOAA website I looked at this map/graph of last 3 months precipitation (SPI – Standardized Precipitation Index)
It shows our central NM area as the color light brown (between negative – 0.8 and 0.4 inches).

Here is another map I downloaded (where our area is shown to have ‘drought persist or intensify’):

And here is that same Lilac from 3 years ago – April 28th, 2010:

Mother's Lilac 4/28/2010

Mother’s Lilac 4/28/2010

Mother's Lilac 4/24/2013

Mother’s Lilac 4/24/2013

I read this good overview of water in New Mexico by VB Price in the NM Mercury last evening-

It got me thinking about how my family could make our lives work on 50 gallons of water a day. And this morning I want to start measuring …

clay & log posts

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