November 17, 2017

Down in the Gila

Alex Kinney
Gila Wilderness, NM
Ocotber 24, 2017

The Gila was one of my favorite sites of the LAAW field work places. This place resonated with me because of the noises, colors, water and trees. On the last full day here, I sat in a hot spring and could see the cold water of the Gila pouring into the bottom of the spring. The evening sunlight streamed over the edge of the canyon and illuminated pebbles on the spring’s bank. The colors of the pebbles were heighted and felt like they were being bathed in pure crystal light. I felt so happy watching these pebbles talk to me while I lay in the warmth of the spring.

In the mornings, I would head out after breakfast around 8:30 or 9:00 toward Turkey Creek. I enjoyed watching the rising sunlight stream through the trees and these moments felt especially quiet. Something about the Gila made me feel enclosed in a special place of origin and death and visually reminded me of visions I had at Wild Rivers, NM while sitting by a river on hot boulders.


November 16, 2017


By Paul Ross
Gila Wilderness, NM
October 27, 2017

I sat there all night.
C:\Users\Paul Ross\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\20171025_gila_solo_pr_pr_0003.jpg

Well, mostly; I had to get up a few times to stay awake.
As I tucked my knees to my chin so to prop up my nodding head, I would gaze around my shrouded knee to see if it was time for another recording. Up all night, my sense of space collapsed with sense of time. Seeing little depth, only motion, but unable to move to give that motion dimensions, my sense of the world crumpled until its folds, usually gentle and expansive, steadily stacked to press me from all sides. And so I curled, sitting, bent to the weight of the nightly world.
I began to hear only that which was different.
Airplanes. Other low notes I could not identify, but still chewed on. They felt like the shifting and stretching of toots, or slow rolling stones, feet beneath the river’s surface, or un-namable unknowable deep things. Pressed by sleep and sound, pressed inward, in-pressed, impressed.

I got tired of exercising patience. I broke no walls, saw nor heard no ethereal perspective of the world. Transcended nada. The world was as it is, always was, will continue to be.

November 15, 2017

Surgeon and Seamstress

By Adele Ardent
Gila Wilderness, NM
October 25, 2017

It is a process of feeling more than seeing, trying to find the little gaps where the needle can slip through without damaging the threads of the fabric.

I am not yet skilled at sewing; my stitches are uneven, and I could never seem to get a comfortable rhythm going before the thread tangled.

In crafting my iteration of a “plant-carrying apparatus,” I was focused on getting it done, so that I could move on to the “real” interaction with the much-renamed Tufty, the Leyland cypress kind enough to collaborate with Paul and me as we explored the possibilities of empathetic engagement between plant and animal forms.

Left: Photo by Paul Ross. Right: Photo by Adele Ardent

In crafting my iteration of a “plant-carrying apparatus,” I was focused on getting it done, so that I could move on to the “real” interaction with the much-renamed Tufty, the Leyland cypress kind enough to collaborate with Paul and me as we explored the possibilities of empathetic engagement between plant and animal forms.

But, while carrying her around, sharing breath, and resting in the river yielded some interesting artistic directions for us to explore, I find myself thinking of this dismissed preparatory stage as something perhaps at least as valuable as the experience we were consciously trying to facilitate...

I had hoped that sitting still in the sunlight would provide a starting place for gaining empathy for a more sedentary form of life, but viewing inactivity as an attribute of plants is mere animal-life bias. It would be more accurate to think of those like Tufty as something akin to both surgeon and seamstress, with amending roots communally suturing the wide bolts of soil and rock into living skin.

Sitting in the sun, feeling down into the fabric with my needle, I was perhaps closer to understanding the active life of plants than I realized...

I have, perhaps, still much more to learn from them about building an artistic practice that allows for collaboration in the context of the wider community of living things, a way to bring together different ways of seeing, and thinking, and feeling...

November 14, 2017

A Rainbow in Our Campsite

By Issy Arnold
Gila Wilderness, NM
October 27. 2017

We went on what turned out to be the most beautiful failed mission I have ever partaken in, to find Turkey Creek hot springs. It was cool to be forced, by chance, to spend so much time in and with the Gila, the last wild river. It was kind of like the opposite of being at Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam, feeling the freedom and timelessness that people must have felt being in Glen Canyon before they drowned it. Long may the Gila run free and sparkly in the sun!!
How NOT to get to Turkey Creek hot springs from camp
Cross over the river exactly 4 times, regardless of whether this means abandoning a very defined path
When your instinct tells you that you have reached Turkey Creek and should follow it, ignore it, it doesn’t know what it’s talking about
Assume that every big rock you see is THE big rock Jenn was talking about
Take ‘there’ll be a bit where you feel like you’re off the track’ to mean ‘bushwhack through an area made solely of plants that can spike or scratch you, which definitely has not been seen by another human for at least 50 years’
Convince yourself that the first fencepost you see is THE homestead you are looking for

Whenever you are feeling a bit tired, look around and find any rock with a flat bit on it and know that this must be the rock wall from Jenn’s instructions and keep wading upstream, it’s probably round the next corner

November 13, 2017

Bad footage

By Mikala Sterling
Gila Wilderness, NM
October 23, 2017

Trying to piece together a full day’s worth of shadow and light material footage by working in shifts (due to battery limitations).  

*project faces NE - clear skies all days

sun shines through cliffs/tress making shadow footage very variable and very ephemeral

I had one minute of total timelapse material by the end of the week, which was not entirely successful in telling an “8-5 plant’s workday story” – lots of choppy/fast footage, alas.

November 12, 2017

Spiral Eddies

By Catherine Hulshoff
Gila Wilderness, NM
October 27, 2017

How to build a “Spiral Eddy”:

Step 1: Find a river. Forget traditional notions of language.

Step 2: Find a space or section that speaks to you, or is at least easy to get in and out of.

Step 3: Walk up and down this section of river until you feel well acquainted. This works best with bare legs so that you can feel the push and pull high and low or under currents as it rushes passed your body. Note the river bed- the changes from silt and mud, to sand, to rocks.

Step 4: Build for yourself, in your head or on paper, a library of Semasiographic indicators that you are reading from the river. Watch how the water moves over or around stones, or how currents push against the riverbank. Note how the river indicates to you the slope of the ground underneath, the pull of fast paced water in deeper areas and the trickle of water that bubbles around smaller river rocks in shallow areas.

Step 5: Choose your favorite. This can be a current, a slope in the riverbed, or a shallow canal of river rocks near the shoreline.

Step 6: Once you have found your “shape”, using rocks from nearby or underfoot, pull that shape up from the river, building it and embodying it with the rocks. The number of rocks needed to successfully raise the indicator from the water may vary.

Step 7: Grab rocks and start piling and shaping however the river tells you to do so. You will know when you are done as the current and shape you found initially will not change, but only become more pronounced. It will feel right.

Step 8: Step back and watch, listen, and read the river.

Step 9: Return a year later and check on it. Repeat as necessary.

November 11, 2017

Weaving the Unweaving

By Paul Ross,
Patagonia, AZ
Near the top of a hill strewn with driveways, mesquite, chest-high chain link, and pale amber grasses, sits the former elementary school of Patagonia, Arizona. The stucco walls, a few shades lighter than the surrounding grass, hold up red-brown roofs one story above ground. One building breaks this standard, standing a square forty feet tall with steps to help one ascend to the door. This “ole main,” now houses the Patagonia Museum.
Inside is the most professional middle school science fair project you’ve ever seen, repurposed to tell the stories of living in south-central Arizona. Amongst the lovingly cut foamboard displays, antique tobacco cans, and an old saloon piano nests the words, “the journey of water is the thread that weaves people, plants, and wildlife to place…”
Nothing sums our time here up like those words, perhaps followed by, “and we are here, trying to shore up the seams.” The people working for and with Borderlands Restoration gave us the chance to lend a hand to this purpose. With a melon-sized rock in one hand, and desert seeds spilling from the other, these people are doing their darndest to slow the unraveling of the dusty yellow and green sweater in which they live.

This sweater is woven from a weft of soil and rain, and a warp of scrub, trees, grasses, lizards, coyotes, cattle, hares, and people. The sweater has snagged on the barbs of various borders that have been drawn onto the region, and for various reasons, some of these snags are enough to pull the threads apart from one another. Borderlands restoration is committed to enabling the reweaving of the yanked sections, as well as slowing the further parting of threads. Follow the water, recognize its subtle and ferocious power, and live in a slow and gentle manner, so that the water may do the same.

November 10, 2017

Borderlands Restoration

Alex Kinney
Patagonia, AZ
October 19, 2017

Working with the people at Borderlands was the highlight of this site. Outings at the Wagon Wheel, the Market, the spigot, moving rocks, Guss’s motorbike and engaging in most of their processes… all a part of the Borderlands/Patagonia expierence. Their hospitality and efforts were most memorable and I think their focus and love for what they do is inspiring. I enjoyed the mindset of moving rocks in an effort to mend torn up landscapes. Having the process and knowledge laid out for us helped everyone come together and achieve something on both small and large scales.     

November 9, 2017

Golden Gus

By Ruby Pluhar
Patagonia, AZ
October, 15, 2017

Watching Gus zoom around Patagonia’s fields in the magic hour embodies the same feelings of optimism, possibility and warmth that are shared within the whole Borders Restoration team in Patagonia and their work restoring the land. When taking these portraits of Gus I made an attunement with the warm fall glow of the land and the rush of energy bolting through it.




November 8, 2017

I left Arizona with a bag full of grass, a poem and the feeling the water likes to laugh but sometimes it can't.

By Viola Arduini
Patagonia, AZ
October 20, 2017

Seven things I learnt in Patagonia: 

1. The border is a scary place. Border Patrol vehicles run constantly in the area, making you feel unwelcome and doubtful of your rights. Some of the officers say "Hi", or waive to you, they are just human beings. The problem is not them;

2. You can hear music coming from the Mexican side of Nogales. The border cannot stop it. It is pretty good music;

3. An urge of piercing through the steal barrier gets you, just because it feels so soaked in non-sense;

4. Maybe water wants to laugh. That's all. You can use rocks to help her, that's what the Borderland Restoration crew taught us; 

5. Never leave an apple in the backpack. At least if you don't want to share it with grasshoppers, lots of them;

6. Somehow Southern Arizona has the most beautiful grass, tall and golden, brushing in the wind;

    7. German gave us 
    a poem on the border and I want to share with you all;

    The border: A Double Sonnet by Alberto Rios 

    The border is a line that birds cannot see. 
    The border is a beautiful piece of paper folded carelessly in half.
    The border is where flint first met steel, starting a century of fires.
    The border is a belt that is too tight, holding things up but making it hard to breathe.
    The border is a rusted hinge that does not bend.
    The border is the blood clot in the river’s vein.
    The border says stop to the wind, but the wind speaks another language, and keeps going.
    The border is a brand, the “Double-X” of barbed wire scarred into the skin of so many.
    The border has always been a welcome stopping place but is now a stop sign, always red.
    The border is a jump rope still there even after the game is finished.
    The border is a real crack in an imaginary dam.
    The border used to be an actual place, but now, it is the act of a thousand imaginations.
    The border, the word border, sounds like order, but in this place they do not rhyme.
    The border is a handshake that becomes a squeezing contest. 

    The border smells like cars at noon and wood smoke in the evening. 
     The border is the place between the two pages in a book where the spine is bent too far.
    The border is two men in love with the same woman.
    The border is an equation in search of an equals sign.
    The border is the location of the factory where lightning and thunder are made.
    The border is “NoNoThe Clown, who can’t make anyone laugh.
    The border is a locked door that has been promoted.
    The border is a moat but without a castle on either side.
    The border has become Checkpoint Chale.
    The border is a place of plans constantly broken and repaired and broken.
    The border is mighty, but even the parting of the seas created a path, not a barrier.
    The border is a big, neat, clean, clear black line on a map that does not exist.
    The border is the line in new bifocals: below, small things get bigger; above, nothing changes.
    The border is a skunk with a white line down its back.


    November 7, 2017

    Foundations for Breath

    By Adele Ardent Eden
    Patagonia, AZ
    October 20, 2017

    Everything is breathing its way into everything else.

    Breath: oxygen and carbon and water.

    This process cannot be stopped.

    Winds and hands and words thrust through the border wall at nearby Nogales. Water penetrates rigid lines of earth, brushes its fingers across the undersides of roots and rocks, works curious fingers into every open place.

    A few days ago, some of us gave our breath to a mesquite tree rooted on the “Other Side” of the border wall, the delicate fronds draping down across the barrier into mouth’s reach… carbon and water free to travel their accustomed route into root.

    Yesterday, here, I lay with my back against eroding soil that used to be a road, a way for vehicles, now coming apart under the restless roaming of rain, a loose thread that the persistence of storms will pull until it unravels.

    I lay there with three stones on my belly, and when I started to giggle at the absurd sight I must have made, the water in my flesh (little rivulets of myosin) laughed them off, sent them tumbling back to the ground: The stones we placed today are not barriers, but the foundations for a home made entirely of doors, where the water can laugh itself, breath itself, back into vivid soil.

    Any attempt at impermeability will be torn apart. The things that want in, that need in, (And there are many things that want in: air, water, love, pain) will find a way in, will find a way to insinuate themselves into the larger body of the world, as each breath panted today in exertion will find its way through air into root.

    Our work here was in easing the passage of breath, of living things growing one into the other.

    November 6, 2017


    By Issy Arnold
    Patagonia, AZ
    October 21, 2017

    We spent the week camping in Patagonia’s old school yard, building with rocks, collecting seeds, having spigot showers and drying out in the sun on the basketball court, riding Golden Gus’s motorbike, meeting all the wonderful people that work at Borderlands Restoration and screaming Girls Just Wanna Have fun with them at the Wagon Wheel karaoke.
    One morning a whole family of Javelinas with little chubby babies bounced across the road in front of us on our way to the rock structures.
    Among many other things I learnt while in Patagonia I discovered that goats have RECTANGULAR PUPILS
    Thanks for having us BR!!!

    Image result for goats eye

    November 5, 2017

    Tending to “Place” in an Unusual Way

    By Catherine Hulshoff
    Patagonia, AZ
    October 16, 2017

    A non-profit collective known as Borderlands Restoration of southern Arizona is pursuing experimental theories of collective conservation and adaptive environmental husbandry with a relentless fervor. The assorted collaboration of folks at BR are working in the flood plains of southern Arizona to prevent further erosion of soil within arroyos, or washes, so that vegetation may hold fast.  As humans began to over develop the desert and divert water to unnaturally irrigated landscapes, soil erosion in this environment has been rampant, destroying the biodiversity of the area. So the BR has begun to design and build a series of patterned check dams built from locally sourced mesquite branches, or recycled chunks of cement or “overburden” from local mines. The styles are referred to as media lunas, trencheras, and Zuni bowls. These three shapes create patterns strategically spaced throughout the arroyos and flood plains, beautifully woven into the landscape- indicative of both aesthetic and functional compositions. This type of creative resistance, implemented through the intervention of human hands, is left alone to allow nature time and space to recover, an optimistic salute to art that heals.

    November 4, 2017

    Slow the water, retain sediment, allow recovery

    By Mikala Sterling
    Patagonia, AZ
    October 22, 2017

    We camped in an old school yard and spent the week learning and working with the
    Borderlands Restoration group. The end of the week culminated in working
    together to build rock walls on a very steep hill to potentially slow erosion and
    rehabilitate the space.

    A few notes/thoughts from our week in Patagonia:
    “work in anticipating the unraveling of land”
    “What are our roles as ethical creatures?”
    “put your body where your ethics are”
    “how we mark space to create and represent meaning over time”
    “understanding – across space”
    “deep hanging out – spending time with a space”
    “reading the landscape”
    “heals as an empathetic entity”

    November 2, 2017

    Big wave

    By Paul Ross
    Muley Point, Bear Ears National Monument, UT
    October 3, 2017

    I walked 20 miles that day
    (by accident)
    A handful of those miles went along
    The crest of a thin geologic wave,
    Rising from riverbottom to the south,
    Leveling beneath my feet,
    And soaring one thousand feet to the north.
    And breaking.
    The whole deal is gliding northward at a rate of about one house sized block per thousand years
    If I could walk slowly enough,
    You might call me surfer.

    I tried to inhabit a moment of that crest by climbing through a crack
    One I could not quite fit in.
    Exhaling to slide along
    Inhaling to press the rock
    As the freezing and thawing of water does each year.

    November 1, 2017

    Ropes and Needles

    By Alex Kinney
    Muley Point, Bears Ears National Monument, UT
    October 3, 2017

    This area really helped me communicate with other life forms besides humans. Particularly a frog who I invited to chat with and who took refuge in my foot imprint in some mud. I guess he made me think of scales and I thought a large bear on the land that could be talking to me. I think Muley made me realize a lot about my approach to making art in that I approach a lot of things like I do when I paint, which involves almost no thinking at all! Just a lot of doing and a lot of layers and intuition. I started to collage photos I took with my phone. Above is a line of rope with cactus needles in them. I played around a puddle and put the needles on my body and watched the water soak around the rocks. I have no idea what it’s about, but I can tell ya it’s not about Jesus Christ… although I said a prayer for the first time in long while at this site.

    October 31, 2017

    Words and Water

    By Adele Ardent
    Muley Point, Bears Ears National Monument, UT
    October 4, 2017

    There have been many words shared during this trip, both weighty and light—traditional DinĂ© stories, tales of the impacts of fracking on local communities, stories about far-off family and friends, poems, songs, jokes, riddles. There have been many words spoken in these places over the course of this trip, but I’ve captured almost none of them… At least, not in the expected way: transcribing, recording, capturing the living words and mounting them lifeless with shiny glass eyes to the pages of my journal.

    In the past, as someone approaching art from the perspective of painting and drawing, I’ve been very concerned about the artifact, about the final product. I am trying to feel my way towards a way of making that is less about fixing some physical remnant into place, and more about allowing something to come also alive in the spaces between living beings.

    Of course, I’m not yet sure how this should work...

    As a start, I’ve asked everyone in our group to let me draw their eyes, but while we sit together and my hands are busy, I’m also hoping to draw out whatever part of their story they are willing to trust to me, face to face. I’m also experimenting with different ways of bringing water to the desert plants whose home I’m sharing, using my hair and mouth.

    We eat with both mouth and eyes, consuming the world around us in different ways, but our faces are built to give back as well as to take: the tiny muscles around the eyes and mouth are little open gates where rills of feeling can flow outward. Other animals feed their young from their own mouths, and while we’ve forgotten this art, I hope that words and fully offered attention will have their own power to cultivate fallow spaces.

    Still from “Water Sharing Experiment,” 2017