outside laws

White Mountains outside Laws, 2023. Robin L. Chandler

“During the more than thirty years that I did not make my home in Kentucky, much that I did not like about life in my home state (the cruel racist exploitation and oppression that continued from slavery into the present day, the disenfranchisement of poor and/or hillbilly people, the relentless assault on nature) was swiftly becoming the norm everywhere. Throughout our nation the dehumanization of poor people, the destruction of nature for capitalist development, the disenfranchisement of people of color, especially, African-Americans, the resurgence of white supremacy and with plantation culture has become an accepted way of life. Yet returning to my home state all the years that I was living away, I found there essential remnants of a culture of belonging, a sense of the meaning and vitality of geographical place (p.23) .”

Excerpt from bell hook‘s Belonging: A Culture of Place in the essay Kentucky is My Fate (2009)

“In ring composition, the narrative appears to meander away into a digression (the point of departure from the main narrative being marked by a formulaic line or stock scene), although the digression, the ostensible straying, turns out in the end to be a circle, since the narration will return to the precise point in the action from which it had strayed, that return marked by the repetition of the very formulaic line or scene that had indicated the point of departure…..interlocked narratives, each nested within another in the manner of Chinese boxes or Russian dolls (p.13)…..so we will leave our wanderer there and not bother him with all this history, the vast chain of events that has brought him back to the coastline where all the myths began, because, as we know, obscurity has its uses, too: can be as solid and productive, as concrete and real, as illumination is. We do not want to distract him. Now it is time for this exile to set upon his great work, a book that will begin with an account of a technique that is as old as Homer, known as ring composition: a wandering technique that yet always finds its way home, a technique which, with its sunny Mediterranean assumption that there is indeed a connection between all things, the German Jew Erich Auerbach – no doubt forgivably just now, given the awful and twisted route that has brought him here, the dark road, which yet, as he will one day finally admit, made his book possible – considers a little too good to be true (p.113).”

Excerpts from Daniel Mendelsohn‘s book Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate (2020).

lenticularis

Lenticular clouds above Mono Lake. Robin L. Chandler, 2022.

harsh winter wind

again and again

soul deep snowfall

holding earth

shades of black and gray

among barren landscapes

the mind may know

a springtime of green coming

still in the present

the inescapable now

bitter cold buries secrets

put away

all promises of resurrection

Poem 62. from Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place by bell hooks

Profundo

Five Bridges looking south towards Bishop. Robin L. Chandler, 2022.

“It is only after the European invasion and the installation of the colonial regime that the country becomes ‘unknown territory’ whose contours and secrets need to be ‘discovered.’ The viewpoint of the colonizer ignored the profound ancestral perspectives of the [first peoples] who saw and understood this land, in the same way that it ignored the [first peoples] experience and memory.” From Mexico Profundo: Reclaiming a Civilization by Guillermo Bonfire Batalla

“Difference between what you need and what you want is what you can put on a horse.” Eli Whipp, member of the Pawnee Nation, The English

Panum Crater / obsidian

View of the Sierras from Panum Crater. Robin L. Chandler, 2022.

“…..Obsidian, however, was everywhere: clusters of it every hundred yards or so, and individual chips scattered everywhere we looked. Clearly people had lived here. People just like us, not in some general way, but in the sense of having exactly the same DNA…..I tried to see it as it had been: a little village, with big oval huts standing here and there in knots of trees. People sitting around talking, prepping food, working on tools and clothing, eating meals together. Columns of smoke rising from campfires. Village life. It had been like that. They had not been on summer vacation; they were nomads, living in the right place for that time of year, perfectly at home…..That afternoon was a very different experience from our first discovery on the moraine mound. That first time, my feeling was one of joy: they were here! This time, seeing the meadow that had held a high village for thousands of years, my feeling was more complex, and suffused with sorrow. They were here, yes; but now they aren’t…..I’ll just say that to see those black chips of glass on the land is to feel something deep. We all are descended from people who evolved in Africa, some of whom walked out of Africa around 120,000 years ago, and kept walking. It’s important to remember that. Sometimes I think when you are walking all day, it’s easier to remember that, and to imagine what it must have been like. Possibly that’s one of the greatest values of walking up there [in the High Sierras]. It’s a chance to imagine the deep time of human history, and feel it in one’s body, in the act of walking all day.”

An excerpt from Kim Stanley Robinson‘s The High Sierra: A Love Story

inyo

Alpenglow. Mt. Tom sunrise from the North Fork of Bishop Creek. Robin L. Chandler, 2022.

…to east and west roll up the purple ranges,

Foot bound about by leopard-colored hills;

From east to west their serrate shadow changes;

From west to east stream down the tumbling rills.

Mocking the shadeless slopes and sullen ledges,

Through the sunburnt wastes of sage and yellow sand,

Run down to meet thy willows and thy sedges,

O lonely river in a lonely land!

Excerpt from Mary Austin’s poem Inyo

a world on fire

Menhir. Robin L. Chandler, 2022.

“…..on that stretch of the Lewis and Clark Trail, he talked about how the explorers’ mapping of a route to the Pacific forged the way that millions of American settlers followed. Being there, and listening to the lessons of the Missouri River, gave Bernard [DeVoto] an epiphany. The western land the explorers found was filled with species adapted to drought: sagebrush, prickly pear cacti, tens of millions of buffalo. In the 1800s the North and South raced to add western states in a battle for dominance in Congress. The future of slavery hung in the balance. But the land of the West settled the question – it did not have enough rain for a cotton economy, which meant that the slave system was bound by climate and geography and, therefore, politically doomed. Lewis and Clark proved that all waters – meaning all trade routes that the people who occupied the land would follow – pulled together from the tops of the Appalachians to the tips of the Rockies toward the Mississippi River; there was no inland sea or central mountain belt that could divide two nations, one slave, one free. So when Abraham Lincoln, explaining his decision to wage war on secessionists, said “We cannot separate,” he spoke not opinion but literal truth from the land.”

Excerpt from Nate Schweber‘s book This America of Ours: Bernard and Avis DeVoto and the Forgotten Fight to Save the Wild

home…home on the range

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play. Robin L. Chandler, 2022.

“…..as is well argued by Bruce Pascoe in his book Dark Emu, the Europeans had a terrible track record for arriving in a new world (Australia in the case of Dark Emu) and, as we all know, devastating the Native tribes by varying methods of genocide, or at least brutal displacement. In order to treat other human souls so viciously, this behavior on “our” part required a certain degree of denial. This was achieved by treating the American Natives, or the Aboriginal tribes in Australia as less than human – vermin, really – that required extermination, so that the proper “civilized” humans could set-up house. Pascoe succinctly points out that when the English made their reports detailing the progress of their settlements Down Under, they therefore had to necessarily ignore the complex civilizations of the local tribes entirely, despite their methods of surviving amicably in concert with nature that had been developed over millennia. Housing, farming, fishing complete economies: eradicated. Wiped off the face of Australia. “Nothing to see here, your highness, except some random savages!” Next, of course, the English heroically shipped in herds of grazing sheep and cows and attempted to plant their wheat and other continental grains, and then looked on stupidly as they all faltered and died in inhospitable soil, within an ecosystem that was entirely alien to the biology of their plants and animals. They exhibited all the common sense of hijacking a plane for its cargo of riches and then killing the pilots without gleaning any of their imperative knowledge. We’re all in so much of a hurry, then and now, to make money, that we never bother learning to land the son-of-a-bitching plane.”

Excerpt from Nick Offerman‘s book Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside.

Chinese boxes

Chinese Boxes. Robin L. Chandler, 2022.

“…..that’s how my grandfather used to tell stories. The long wind-up, all the background, all those Chinese boxes; and then suddenly, the swift and expert slide into the finale…..where the connections between all the details you’d learned along the way…..he’d lingered over at the beginning, suddenly became clear.”

From Daniel Mendelsohn‘s The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million

C = 2 π r

Robin L. Chandler, 2022

Where we lived, the settlers build their houses. Where

we drew fresh water, the oil companies sucked oil.

Where deer ran in countless numbers, we have a new

mall. Where the healing plants thrived; the river is

burning. Now, a fence cuts the road home. Next the sky

will be tethered, and we will pay for air.

From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo

the demands of certainty lead inevitably to tragedy

Powerlock. Robin L. Chandler, 2022.

Obsidian is so sharp that you can use it to cut your lousy life to pieces, and then when you have the original parts, the real ones, you can put them back together and have a clean assembly of things and see the world as it is and always was, and get to work at last, before it’s too goddam late.

-A Nevada hermit living near Big Smoky Valley

Excerpt from the book The Paradise Notebooks: 90 Miles across the Sierra Nevada by Richard J. Nevle & Steven Nightingale

The Coyolxauhqui imperative is to heal and achieve integration. When fragmentations occur, you fall apart and feel as though you’ve been expelled from paradise. Coyolxauhqui is my symbol for the necessary process of dismemberment and fragmentation, of seeing that self or the situations you’re embroiled in differently. Coyolxauhqui is also my symbol for reconstruction and reframing, one that allows for putting the pieces together in a new way. The Coyolxauhqui imperative is an ongoing process of making and unmaking. There is never any resolution, just the process of healing.

-Gloria E. Anzaldua

Excerpt from the book Light In The Dark/ Luz En Lo Oscar: Rewriting, Identity, Spirituality, Reality by Gloria E. Anzaldua and edited by Analouise Keating