October 25, 2016

Wild Rivers: Water as Paint

By Molly Zimmer
Wild Rivers, NM
September 26, 2016

Process images of Molly making her functional grass brush to paint gestures in water.

Cut grass next to Little Arsenic Springs to build brush.

Process photo of bunches of grass woven together, ready to fasten around found branch.

Fully assembled brush next to Rio Grande River.

Video of Molly Zimmer's handmade grass brush on the Rio Grande River at Wild Rivers, New Mexico. This is a video that explores the poetics of painting within the medium of water with the site specific material of river grass.

October 23, 2016

Rabbit Brush (Chamisa) Dye Bath

By Molly Zimmer, Kaitlin Bryson, Hollis Moore
Wild Rivers, NM

September 26, 2016

  1. Rusty Can Mordant with Tannic Acid from Chestnut Bark
    • Fill pot with 1 tbsp of vinegar for every cup of water
      1. Our pot holds 20 Cups of Water, and we used all the vinegar we had (approximately 13 tablespoons)
    • Add rusty objects and bring to boil
    • Boil for 60 to 90 minutes (over wood fire or propane stove)
    • Add fibers to mordant and boil for 60 minutes
    • Cool, Rinse and let Dry

Start: 11:00am
Stop: 1:00pm
Total: 2 hrs (1hr with mordant, and 1hr with fibers added)

Fibers Before Beginning Mordant and Dying Process (mix of animal and plant fibers)

Collected rusty can mordant at Wild Rivers: 2 pieces of rusty wire, one bottle cap, one rusty nail, one rusted metal strap, 2 newly opened aluminum cans

Added 3 Tbsp of Tannic Acid to Mordant Bath, Let Fibers sit for 5hrs in Solution

Resulting Dyed Fibers with Tannic and Rusty Can Mordant

      2.   Rabbit Brush (Chamisa) Dye Bath
  • Heat Rabbit Brush for 1hr in pot
  • Let sit overnight or all day
  • Re-heat dye solution with blossoms to extract all dye for 1hr
  • Strain out blossoms
  • Add dye fabric
  • Re-heat and boil with fibers for 1hr
  • Let sit for 24hrs in solution with fibers
  • Rinse and Dry

New Fibers (unmordanted) for Dye Bath

Collected Rabbit Brush from along the Roadside, and stripped off all the blossoms.

Rabbit Brush in Fire Golden Dye Solution
Fibers Boiling in Dye Solution

Resulting Rabbit Brush Dyed Materials

October 20, 2016

Being in the water

By Hamshya Rajkumar
Wild Rivers
September 26, 2016

The water looks beautiful, but it’s cold.
I don’t want to embrace the cold.
But I just got in anyway for the challenge.
I used the mantra ‘Fruit salad, yummy yummy” to calm and distract my mind from the cold.
It wasn’t even intentional, I wasn’t aware, it felt like an instinctual coping mechanism.
I also got the giggles, I felt like I was 3.
I sought warmth on the rocks that absorb the heat from the sun, and we cuddled for so long. With the sun on my back.

Going for a mighty rock, for a colossal flat cuddle

October 19, 2016

Building Bridges

By Nancy Dewhurst
Wild Rivers, NM
September 27, 2016

I’m intrigued by the way the water has shaped the rocks here at Valle Vidal - they are hard, solid, immobile, but at the same time soft (some of them almost fleshy).

A rock in the Rio Grande

The water is powerful and fast here. I’ve been working on building bridges to get across to the other side (see youtube links below).

Building Bridges #1

Building Bridges #3

Stills from Building Bridges - numbers 1,2 and 3 consecutively

October 18, 2016

Rock Hopping and Otter Spotting

By Rachel Zollinger
Valle Vidal

September 26, 2016

Bare feet are preferable to shoes

Take care not to break a spider’s web

Watch for snakes

Watch for sandhill cranes

Watch for leaping trout

Rocks are hot but the water is cold

Put the camera in a dry bag

The current is swifter than it appears

Don’t bother with the camera, just watch the otter

October 16, 2016

Seven Generations Ahead

By Molly Zimmer
Four Corners
September 23, 2016

Out of the Hogan Ceremony we experienced as a group with Dr. Larry Emerson in Hogsback, NM, the resiliency of Diné philosophy really connected with me. Each human is sacred and equal; all voices are heard in a circle. Women are revered and supported. Everyone strives to be a good human, and to think how they can improve their community. We are each connected to the land; Mother Earth and Father Sky connect us all.

Diné philosophy teaches the community to think seven generations from now, to care and pass on their stories to the children to come. Such questions were raised for me as: What do I want to accomplish for 7 generations in my future for my community, to create a better and more sustainable life for them? What stories can I share about my family to teach mindfulness and resilience?

Out of the 4 Directions: East, South, West, North are four distinct parts of a whole community.

East: Mindfulness
South: You hold the good, bad, and ugly in your palms
West: Kinship
North: Peace and Resilience
Center of Circle: Your heart lives, the center of life

Each day, each year, and each lifetime, you can move through this cycle with the sunrise and sunset. We must be present in the moment.

October 13, 2016

Reprioritise? Water is more precious than oil

By Hamshya Rajkumar
Four corners
September 24, 2016

Shrine-like Mandalas to consolidate the experience over the past few days.


Looking at different areas on this planet, a form of abuse occurs everywhere on all scales and life. Rarely have I been in such a location and have become a physical witness of brutality. To be shocked and sad exhibits ignorance to certain extent, however I can only place very little blame here.
The practice of the transmutation of pain to willpower should be encouraged instead. This form of 'healing' should not be underestimated. It drowns those who can feel it (knowing allows for desensitisation and distance) as the pain it creates will ruminate, weaken and destroy.  Wallowing gets you nowhere.
Which is almost akin to theorising and conceptualising. I won't dispute its ability to expand ways of seeing and understanding, but now we have reached a point where we have become surrounded by exploitation that now demand action.   
I just feel tired and angry of cyclic forms of violence here. I ended up forging interventions in my head against fracking. I began to imagine what it would be like if one day if America woke up to painted oil rigs with an array of protests nationwide like the Dams. Could that spark something? Could that set off a boiling feeling of change? How do we restore our power in this situation? I kept thinking, but everything I desire to do feels far too big and silly.
I need vanguard comrades.
I can only do so little.
Yet to be born in between those who hold the riches and those who fight for everyday survival constitutes a strange luck and perhaps power within the mass of the middle. There are many "lucky" people today but we lack faith. Capitalism deludes us into thinking we have no agency and our voices are phantom.
However, being around a person like Larry who gives and fights into his later years of his life empowering those who cross his path and seeing the hope being filtered down to the next generations who strive to re-establish control to local communities and people. Seeing how much they feel the need for a sense of community to belong to something larger than themselves. I absorbed inspiration from here and collected another reason added to my list. How much more validation do I need.

$ide Thought
Larry's aversion towards theorising and conceptualising is another rarity I witnessed. The demand to speak from heart can appear bizarre, particularly to those who are involved in education. It can be a difficulty, a commonality or a yearning for some to communicate in such manner.  I feel that all human being should be experts from speaking from the heart! But it is uncomfortable in most societies today.
After being in the Hogan and asked to speak our stories make me think about the lack of familiar communal space to speak our story and be respected and understood on the basis that this has constituted part of who you are in this space and time should also not be rarity and a difficult experience.

Last Notion, (I have too many)
Participating in the sun rise ceremony yanked me back to my childhood when I kneeled on the side of the sofa to look out of the window at a moody Glaswegian sky with the sun rising and I would sing "Good Morning Mr Sun"
I embedded the feeling of the seemly childish awe and simplicity into my prayer.
No matter which ways of being we have absorbed, there is no harm in greeting the sun when it rises and sets. It reminds us that we are made up of the remnants of exploding stars. This is a perspective we have all become too distracted to see blurring our identification as a mere human being. Could this be a solution?

October 11, 2016

Northern Diné Youth Committee / Dream Diné Charter School

By Nancy Dewhurst
Four Corners
September 22, 2016

We have been staying with Diné elder, activist and artist Larry Emerson at his farm in Hogback, Dinétah (between Shiprock and Farmington). Over the past four days we have seen the disastrous effects of environmental abuse and racism on the Navajo Nation, as well as the resilience and resourcefulness of those who live here. We have met so many people who have so generously given us their time, but in order to do justice in a short blog post, I will focus on just two of them. However, I think the spirit and ethos of these two people is representative of all those we met.

On the 22nd - our final full day - we met with Graham Beyale and Byron Shorty from the Northern Diné Youth Committee. The grassroots organisation is about 7 years old and provides a platform for Diné youth to come together, share ideas and find ways to improve their communities.

On the 5th August 2015 - whilst attempting to add a tap to the tailing pond of the Gold King Mine, Colorado - the EPA accidentally released three million gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers. At the same time the Northern Diné Youth Committee were in the process of growing a community garden. The water they needed for their crops was contaminated, and they were - of course - devastated, but they chose to salvage what they could (about 18% and not to full growth). They used water donated by the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (the EPA sent water - failing to mention that it would be in oil tanks! The water came out yellow), and help from community members. 32 children from the local Dream Diné Charter School came to work with them. They watered the garden, picked the (limited) crops and shared a meal, all the while learning about hope and resilience - how the ‘river got sick’ but that it can get well again.

Graham reflected upon the importance of the involvement of youth in maintaining a sense of togetherness in the community as well as continuing Diné culture: “I think our culture is evolving”. In response to the project, the elder’s dialogue started to change from: “the youth should...” to “the youth did”.

Graham and Byron have worked with the Charter School to establish a garden of their own. Many of the children’s day-to-day lessons are conducted through the garden - maths, science and so on. Through hands-on experience with the garden the children learn to respect the plants that provide for them, and to continue the cycle. They learn about the idea of kinship and working relationship with all things that power life (not just people). Through gardening the children learn about so much more than the production of something that they can consume. After witnessing the effects of greed and capitalism on the Navajo Nation, the importance of this teaching is increasingly clear.

The below images are of the Dream Diné Charter School garden.