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

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

land of little rain

the east side. Robin L. Chandler, 2021.

It is thus that the novel takes its modern form, through “the relocation of the unheard-of toward the background…while the everyday moves into the foreground.” There is, however, an important difference between the weather events that we are now experiencing and those that occur in surrealist and magical realist novels: improbable though they might be, these events are neither surreal nor magical. To the contrary, these highly improbable occurrences are overwhelmingly, urgently, astoundingly real.

Amitav Ghosh The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable

departure and arrival

After a year confined, while Shiva created and destroyed, the open road beckoned. The horizon open, the land infinite, and my mind seemed lotus-like, unbound.  And Earth shared: sky, mountains, trees, deserts, meadows, and rivers. My soul replenished: hope glimmers.

Clockwise: Thunderstorm over Wheeler Peak, Taos, NM; waterfall at Whitney Portal, Lone Pine, CA; sentinel trees at Whitney Portal, Lone Pine, CA; monsoon over Mt. Langley, Lone Pine, CA; and the San Francisco Peaks from Bonita Meadow, Flagstaff, AZ. Watercolors by Robin L. Chandler, 2021.

the spirits aren’t lost

Night on Cindermountain, 2019. Robin L. Chandler

In mid-January, we drove northward on 395 through the Owens Valley from Los Angeles to Mammoth Lakes. Late afternoon, the sun flirted among the storm clouds and the Eastern Sierra mountain peaks creating a dramatic bright yellow light shining on the valley floor turning the White Mountains a mysterious blue. Ahead, a red cinder cone, a volcanic legacy, grew larger as we made our way closer to the sleeping Long Valley Caldera. The cinder cone, a beautiful rich red, still captivates my imagination.

Rebecca Fish Ewan wrote in A Land Between: The Owens Valley“ the landscape…reveals that stability in the West is both precious and fragile; the relationship between people and the land is deep and passionate, yet the balance of this union can be shaken overnight.” When settlers brought cattle to the Owens Valley in the 19thcentury, the new grazing animal destroyed the grasses and marshland environment that had been vital to the lives of the Pauite-Shoshone. When Los Angeles Water and Power Department diverted and transported snow-fed lakes, creeks and rivers of the Owens Valley to the Los Angeles basin, the ecosystem of the region was changed forever.

The Buddha teaches that we must accept that impermanence characterizes existence. But the Buddha’s noble eightfold path also teaches us to have right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort right mindfulness and right concentration.  The recent damage to Joshua Tree National Park caused during the Federal government shutdown may last for centuries. It is difficult for me to grasp the consciousness of people who cause such damage.  Are they mindful of their actions consequences? Do they lack a relationship with place and community? Do they believe their “life” exists somewhere else in a different time and space? How can I teach that every moment is precious and our actions reflect our consciousness? We must understand our impact on the land and it’s inhabitants; our choices must be guided by sensitivity to the needs of others and not by our desires alone. Stewardship means never having to say your sorry.

In the 1970s, Gary Snyder heard a Crow elder say at a conference in Bozeman, Montana “you know I think if people stay somewhere long enough the spirits will begin to speak to them. It’s the power of the spirits coming up from the land. The spirits and the old powers aren’t lost, they just need people to be around long enough and the spirits will begin to influence them.”[1]


[1]Snyder, Gary. The Practice of the Wild. “The Place, The Region, The Commons.” p.42 San Francisco: North Point Press. 1990.

aspens

Aspens
Aspens, trees of life, sketched at Lundy Canyon. Robin L. Chandler, 2018.

Last Saturday morning – October 27, 2018 – I was standing on the rim of Panum Crater at the edge of Mono Lake looking across the long valley at John Muir’s “range of light” beginning to understand great fullness is found in the emptiness.* My dear companions were scrambling joyously across the rock and ash, relishing the beautiful obsidian and pumice fragments, shattered remains of a past volcanic event. Sadly, a text notified me of the tragedy befalling innocents worshipping at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh over 3,000 miles distant. I kept the news to myself desiring my friends feel the joy of discovery, just a little longer. Looking West, I saw before me quaking yellow aspens dancing up the hillside along creeks fed by the alpine lakes Parker and Walker.  A single perfect moment – shattered suddenly into a thousand fragments by the destruction at the Tree of Life.  At the Eastern Side of the Sierras, we grasp our insignificance within the vastness of eternity, and realize the significance of our actions towards other living beings. May we all find healing, redemption, forgiveness and a mindful constructive path rising from the ashes of our volcano.

* “Before the emanations were emanated and the creations created, a most supreme, simple light filled the whole of existence. There was no vacant place, no aspect of empty space or void, but everything was filled by that simple, infinite light…what is called the light of the Infinite (Eyn Sof).” Luria, Issac. The Tree of Life (Etz Chayyim), Vol. 1. with an introduction by Donald Wilder Menzi and Zwe Padah, and ed. (New York: Arizal, 2008), p. 13.