December 3, 2018


By Sarah Canelas
White Sands National Monument, NM
October 29, 2018

On the one full day that we were at White Sands, I walked the hiking trails barefoot.  When combined, the total distance was seven miles.  I think it was the longest distance I’ve ever covered without shoes.

The feeling of sand under my feet was nostalgic.

I haven’t been to the beach in years.  And gypsum sand behaves differently than silica—in the dim morning the pale dunes seemed more like snow.  But still.  

Perhaps it was the collected dampness.  While the surface may have been dry, water pooled beneath.  It is a basin.

One of the trails reached the edge of the Alkali Flat—the dry lakebed of what once was Lake Otero.  And at that furthest point, there is a warning sign.  It says not to go further—to stay on the trail.


December 2, 2018

White Sands National Monument is full of monsters

by Erin Gould
White Sands
October 29, 2018

White Sands is a very strange place. It is stunning. And it is terrifying. They tell you not to pick up objects you see half buried in the sands because it could be an unexploded bomb.

I have a hard time reckoning the landscape that I see before me as the place that the first atomic bomb was detonated just 73 years ago.

Did you know that the term "fizzle" refers to a nuclear detonation that "grossly fails to meet its expected yield," i.e. a nuclear explosion that does not explode correctly and likely spreads radioactive material throughout the environment. When they were preparing for the Trinity test, they constructed a 214 ton steel vessel to protect against any fizzle. They named the 14 inch thick walled sphere "Jumbo." They didn't end up using it.

Major General Thomas Ferrell, the second-in-command of the Manhattan Project, described that first detonation in an official report:

         "The lighting effects beggared description. The whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many times that of the midday sun. It was golden, purple, violet, gray, and blue. It lighted every peak, crevasse and ridge of the nearby mountain range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be seen to be imagined ..."

This bomb, the one that "must be seen to be imagined," was of the same design as that dropped on Nagasaki a few months later, resulting in the deaths of some an estimated 60,000-80,000 people. 

Did you know that the White Sands Missile Range, which entirely contains the National Monument and at 3,200 square miles, is the largest military installation within the United States. 

There are ghosts in White Sands National Monument. There are monsters. There are histories that I cannot even comprehend.

These things may sound antithetical, but I spent a good portion of my time at White Sands National Monument playin at being a monster.

December 1, 2018

unexpected lullabies

unexpected lullabies
White Sands National Monument/Missile Range, New Mexico

It’s 9 am on a late October morning, the day before Halloween. The sand is still cold from the night before, but the sun is already starting to slow broil the right side of my body as it travels in its long arc. I am facing North, sitting on a sea of white sand, and listening to airplanes.

I thought I would hate the jets as militaristic intrusions, as symbols of violence and dominion. Instead, I find myself tuning to the long slow cadences of sound they produce, waves of motion casting themselves over a drifting land. Combined with the strangeness of white sand and blue sky as the only visual, my current level of exhaustion (after staying up too late to watch the moonrise and getting up too early to watch the sun), and the feeling of unreality that pervades this whole place, they become a kind of rumbling lullaby - a tumbling, rolling surf that comforts me toward sleep.

Occasionally a bird meeps past. A single ant explores delicately through the sand. Children yelp as they slide down the hillsides. But mostly it’s just me, sand, sun, sky, and the lullaby of the fighter jets.

November 30, 2018

Shadow Tracing

Shadow Tracing
By Kyle Holub
White Sands, NM
October 29, 2018

Trace shadow, Wait, Repeat.

November 29, 2018

on edge(s)

nicholas b jacobsen
on edge(s)
White Sands (National Monument/Missile Range)
November 7, 2018

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"The White Sands dunefield fits the description of what the National Park Service sought in prospective sites: 'economic worthlessness and monumentalism'" (White Sands).
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*clears throat* 
Let me start again.

"Like a mirage, dazzling white sand dunes shimmer in the tucked away Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico. They shift and settle over the Chihuahuan Desert, covering 275 square miles--the largest gypsum dunefield in the world. White Sands National Monument (WSNM) preserves more than half of this oasis, its shallow water supply, and the plants and animals that live here" (White Sands). Those plants and animals that wander across into the other half do so at their own risk, as they enter the "Department of Defense (War)'s largest, fully-instrumented, open air range, provid(ing) America's Armed Forces, allies, partners, and defense technology innovators with the world's premiere [sic] research, development, test, evaluation, experimentation, and training facilities to ensure our nation's defense readiness," in White Sands Missile Range (WSMR). 

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        I walked to this line in the white sands, to try to understand this divide. How did the Department of War, (as the DoD was known when WSMR was first developed), choose this site? What were the reasons to divide "one of the world's great natural wonders" (White Sands)? I want to understand how we can so easily split our land values. How is this land half National Monument and half National Sacrifice?

        A focal question of my research practice is "How is that Western humans believe themselves to be the peak of natural selection and the only unnatural force on earth?" This line, where federal land is divided from federal land, is a living, corporeal example of this split consciousness that we all carry around concerning our collective body, earth. 
        Frankly, I didn't learn much here. The sand isn't different. The plants and animal tracks didn't change. Maybe I didn't walk far enough, maybe in another hundred yards, or couple miles the land is less unique, dazziling, or naturally wonderful. Maybe "our nation's defensive readiness" (ready for what?) is more valuable than our nation's ecological sustainability. Maybe I am looking at this backward. Perhaps, the values through which I read this situation are not our nation's values. Maybe the national monument is the national sacrifice. Did we sacrifice some of our more-valued national defense for our less-valued ecology? This would seem to be the case as even our WSNM's website perpetuates a narrative of escalated violence as linear progress. "From atlatls to missiles, the glistening gypsum dunefield of White Sands has witnessed the steady advancement of human history, technology, and engineering. For thousands of years the people have called this place home" (White Sands) Not only does this equate weapons for food to weapons for war (but then from an imperialist perspective, are they not both technologies for the acquisition of resources?) but also alludes that attempted genocide and forced removal of peoples from their homelands is all part of a "steady advancement of human history." 
        As part of this attempt to understand edges, especially the psychological justifications for these divisions, I made series of images using panorama pictures from three different boundaries we visited during this year's Land Arts tour: WSNM/WSRM, United States of America/Estados Unidos Mexicanos, and Rio Grande National Forest/Weminuche Wilderness. Overlaying these images (which themselves overlay the lands depicted) are bits of found language used to describe these places--different names that create different boundaries, expectations, values, responsibilities, and norms for these spaces. 

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"WSMR, White Sands Missile Range." Nov. 7, 2018.
"White Sands National Monument." Nov. 7, 2018.

November 28, 2018

Maintaining One’s Own Heavenly Form in Contrast with the Undefinable Beauty of Landscape and the Harsh Conditions of Nature

Maintaining One’s Own Heavenly Form in Contrast with the Undefinable Beauty of Landscape and the Harsh Conditions of Nature
By Rowan Willow
White Sands
November 13, 2018

It’s shocking that if you take one little nap on a big ol’ sand dune you get so much hotter than all of the sand in the whole damn dune field. Please, God, reconstruct me so I am made of gypsum and I no longer have this lousy sandal tan.

November 27, 2018


By Sarah Canelas
Gila National Forest, NM
October 26, 2018

Of all the sites we’ve visited, this one seems the most awake.

On our first day here, however, it rained.  Not lightly—not a drizzle—but a heavy downpour, flooding the washes and forming deep pools.  The river filled and clouded with mud.

I was out exploring during the rainstorm.  I was soaked, but the woods were quiet.

Waiting, maybe.

Over the next few days, though, that would change.  Birds would gather, murmuring to each other, and chase one another through the trees.  Pollinators would settle, finding remaining flowers in the warmth of the sun.  The trees and brush were filled with the rustling of motion, full of activity.

And when I would walk the same path that I had in rainy isolation, I was not alone.  

Everything responded.

There was so much life—and so much activity.  And in comparison to the other independent sites we had visited, this seemed entirely their space—not ours.  Some times, I felt like an intruder.  At others, I felt like a welcome guest.  But, I never felt as if I were anything but a visitor.

It was not my space.  And may never be my space.  

There was something comforting about that.

November 26, 2018


Symposium in conjunction with the project, A Garden: The Birds Arrive

LISTEN – PROCESS – INTERVENE – KIN is an afternoon symposium at the Albuquerque Museum drawing together presentations, discussions, and performative works highlighting the year-long earthwork and garden project currently underway called, A Garden: The Birds Arrive. Presented by artists from Land Arts of the American West, 7th regen, and UNM Art & Ecology, this symposium will address contemporary Art & Ecology practices through examining the role of listening, creative processes, intervention as engagement, and kin-making as catalysts.

Free and open to the public

December 6, 2018
2pm – 330pm
Albuquerque Museum
Ventana Salon
Albuquerque, NM

wilderness of human desires

wilderness of human desires
Gila National Forest, New Mexico

I wanted the Gila to be a place of reflection and quiet. Instead, it was full of humans. Humans, including us, all wanting something from the place. A club of backpackers heading upriver for an overnight, couples and families driving up the bumpy road to get to the hot springs, folks on four wheelers tearing up the dirt tracks, trucks full of hunters looking for mule deer and a good time, and a couple of flat white institutional vans full of dirty college students looking for some kind of wisdom.


The Gila river was unusually high because of unexpected post-monsoon rains (thank you, rains!). To hike upriver you had to cross the rushing water several times, which left every hiker with the option of (a) wearing shorts (b) getting their pants soaking wet with cold river water or (c) just hiking in their underwear. On our last day in the Gila, while wearing shorts (we try to learn quickly), Erin and I ran into a group of men - hunters - carrying one bow, one muzzle-loading shotgun, and a lot of sheepish looks on their faces to be caught crossing the river in their underwear by a couple of fully dressed girls. They asked if we’d seen any wildlife, and we lied and said no. Well, did our group want to party with them that night anyway? Not particularly. 

This was the tenor of a lot of encounters I had with other humans in the Gila that week - an awkward crossing of paths between people who didn’t really understand each other. Several people assumed that our group was a science class, and I talked to them about how we’re interested in both art and science, and that we come here to learn from the place and make artwork about it. “Oh, so you draw then?” was a common response, people understandably trying to place what I was talking about into a frame of reference that they were familiar with, paintings or drawings on a wall. “Well, some of us do - we’re more interested in ecology overall and using whatever mediums fit what we’re talking about,” I said, not really clarifying anything for them. I surprised several people by popping out from inside the streambed I was filming and then attempted to allay their suspicions by saying, “oh, it’s ok, I’m an artist!” This chipper statement did not diminish the confusion on their faces. But, it was good practice for me in trying to be active as someone not fitting into any particular known categories of activity (hiker, hunter, partier) and also trying to explain why.

I know it seems strange for me to be writing about humans when we in Land Arts are usually concerned with the landscape itself, that mystery of overlapping non-human lives that we humans usually either ignore, destroy, or romanticize. But it bothered me that at this remote site in the Gila, several bumpy hours from food or potable, from-a-faucet water, the valley we camped in was full of humans. What was drawing us all there? Everybody seemed to be looking for something, even if sometimes we didn’t know what it was ourselves - some to get away from the eye of society to party, some to hunt, some to relax, some to inhabit “the mystery of nature.” All of us looking to either get away from something or get to something else, all of us unsettled, reaching, unsatisfied.

After everything we’ve done to this earth, what does it mean that we still go back to it in search of something different, in search of a way out? Doesn’t the land itself deserve a wilderness, one without any human presence, a place to be itself without our ubiquitous neediness constantly butting in? As much as I personally feel a need to go to these somewhat away-from-other-humans places, to feel and learn from different kinds of life - I still want there to be places where humans can’t go, where I can’t go, at least a few lands left for all of the others. Can’t a wilderness be a wilderness on it’s own?

November 25, 2018

Disturbance Vs. Destruction

Disturbance Vs. Destruction
By Rowan Willow
November 13, 2018
Holy heck! There are so many mushrooms in the Gila. Patches of massive and delicate silver mushrooms the size of your head erupt from the base of trees. Entire fallen trees are lined with perfect rows of velvety turkey tails. Deep reddish brown mushrooms that feel almost like Styrofoam are nestled in the brush on an old stump. During my first mushroom haul, I showed Erin a handful of some of the silver ones by my campsite and she exclaimed “THERE'S SO MUCH ABUNDANCE HERE, IT ISN’T REAL.”

All those mushrooms are the final stage in the life cycle of complex mycelial networks that exist in a clandestine subterranean landscape just under our feet. These exist to the fungi to solely spread spores, although in that process they become food for many species and a source of wonderment for me, specifically. Disturbing and picking mushrooms can be good for the wellbeing of the mycelial population, because it can help spread spores faster and over larger areas. Still, the relationship between me and the mushrooms was important, so I asked each one if I could pick it. That brings up a lot of questions about human relationships to plants. We all know overharvesting can lead to decline of a population, which can lead to larger ecological consequences, but we also can’t separate our lives from the lives of plants. They feed us and inspire us and build our homes, and we can’t just export the task of removing them from the ground as an attempt relieve our own guilt. Sometimes, beauty can be disturbed in order to make other beautiful things, and if we don’t remove ourselves from the “natural world,” we can take part in that full practice and focus on healthy methods of harvesting and honoring the plant that gave its life for us. We have separated ourselves so much from spaces of abundance like the Gila that our own presence in them makes us uncomfortable, partially because we know we are a force of destruction. But we don’t have to be. We can work with nature instead of in opposition to it.

November 24, 2018



By Sarah Canelas

Patagonia, AZ

October 19, 2018

November 23, 2018

Do you think they miss me?

by Erin Gould     
Turkey Creek, Gila, New Mexico
Sometime in late October

I spent most of my time with this one sycamore tree. They are so beautiful. We spent many hours together; I was in their arms for a good portion of each day and slept under them each night.

I love how they sound in the morning.

I have been reading The Language of Plants, an anthology of essays that consider both the intrinsic and extrinsic language of vegetal life. I am not going to lay out the many instances of scientific evidence or the philosophical arguments, but plants use and understand a variety of forms of language. They are intelligent. They learn from past experiences and plan for the future. Plants see. Plants smell. Plants feel. Plants hear. Plants speak.

I was thinking about what I will call “tree-time.” How many sunrises and sunsets and full moons and summer equinoxes has this sycamore seen? How many bird songs have they listened to?

I have been collecting the round, spiky, strange, aggregate seed clusters from sycamores for a long time (at least by my perception, maybe the sycamore would disagree). My almost-mother-in-law asked everyone to bring something that represented freedom to Passover dinner a few years ago and I brought a bowl of them. I wonder how many potential trees I carried out to Espanola that day.

I have never really tried to get to know one tree like this before.

Do you think they felt me there? Heard my calls of “good morning” and “good night” from where I laid inside my tent each day? Appreciated the gifts I left in their branches as I cried and said a “goodbye,” an “I cannot wait to see you again,” an “I will never forget you”?

What would the world look like if humans paused for any moments to stop and really think about the lives of the trees around them? What would it look like if more of us gave a shit about vegetal individuals beyond wanting them to be beautiful and scenic and clean our air? What if we said “them” instead of “it”?

If I make it back to that site, and camp under that tree, will they remember me?

It has been a couple of weeks since I broke down my tent under that sycamore. I miss them already.

November 22, 2018

Kaleidoscope Eyes- Gila River

Kaleidoscope Eyes- Gila River
Brionna Garcia
November 12, 2018

No Butter No Fly

Bubblin’: Amorphous vs. Molecular Structure

November 21, 2018


By Kyle Holub
Gila Wilderness, NM
October 23, 2018

I am known to the Knowers 
as one who hear the songs
of healing compassion.

One who listens but cannot sing them. 
Not yet a Knower myself. 

My intentions are good, but
not yet pure.
My words can help, but
not yet heal. 

I have not yet come to know
the extent of suffering.
But one day, one life.
Maybe soon.

A sycamore branch points to 
that which cannot be spoken,
a river flows into it,
a boulder falls on top of it,
because of it. 

To interpret this quiet 
is to die the most worthy of deaths.
To re-member the dismembered.
To become whole again.

I am human being wrong.
I am spirit being ignored.
Hush now, and listen being.

November 20, 2018

dogs bark, crickets chirp, agaves grow

dogs bark, crickets chirp, agaves grow
in and around Patagonia, Arizona
Jess Zeglin

A dog stands barking at the intersection of the Calle Internacional and a street I can’t see the name of through the fence. She is casually informing me not to infringe on her territory. I wanted to make friends with this dog, but in order to do so I would have to climb up and over the massive barrier or find my way to one of only a few border crossing and the many bureaucracies, fears, and threats awaiting there. Instead, the dog and I just stare at each other while I wave hello and she continues to bark at the strange human across the street. For several minutes this interaction occurs, me waving and saying hi, her barking to determine if I really am a threat. Am I? Physically, no - I would never make it on the climb up the three story monument to nationalism sitting between us. Politically, socially, maybe I am. Eventually the pup decides I’m not worth the trouble. She slumps down into a good-natured pile of fur to nap in the sun. I walk away from her, footsteps crunching on the gravel of the border patrol road, back to the American side of a landscape that has no interest in being divided.

Standing in a field of tall grasses at dusk, recording a constellation of cricket sounds while feeling the oceans of grass rustle around me. I’m standing as still as possible to get decent audio, attempting to ignore the hungry, itchy mosquitos that have discovered my foolishly unmoving self and are taking advantage of the available meal. Realizing that this eternal-feeling hillside is actually part of a luxury home development property and will likely be transformed to faux-adobe buildings with nice pools before the next time I can come back and visit.


Meeting baby agaves for the first time, learning about how they are suffering population losses due to climate change, use in tequila and bacanora industries, and general disregard. Visiting a clonal agave patch that has grown in the same place for centuries and was likely established and cultivated by ancestral indigenous people to whom this land was a corridor of life. Planting baby agaves in what we hope will be a brand new patch, a small but deeply moving gesture of hope and solidarity with generations before and after us.

November 19, 2018

The Sun and Moon


Angel Peak: The Sun and Moon
September 24, 2018
We arrived at Angel Peak in the afternoon. That evening during dinner we got to watch the sunset and the Harvest Moon rise. They lined up perfectly, the moon copied the sun and glowed bright orange. At night it was so bright that we didn’t need a headlamp and the stars were hiding behind the the glow of the moon. Inside my tent it looked like the light of a car shining, which made it a little hard to sleep. The next morning the moon began to set where the sun set and the sunrise began.         
When we came to the Greater Chaco Region we watched a movie that visually presented how the architecture of the great houses lined up with the sun and the moon. Seeing this amazing event made me understand why they were so fascinated by them and used it in everything they built. I felt honored to see this part of the dance between the sun and the moon and I hope I am able to see more.