Novels Across the US

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I usually do write about plants one way or another but this morning I came across Susan Straight’s amazing project to document novels specific to different regions of the US.

All I can really say is follow the link and learn about 1001 novels, a tale as winding and engaging as the Thousand Nights and a Night.

The graphic at the top is from the Los Angeles Time but the link embedded in the text above goes to the ESRI site.

plants/landscape + art + history = …

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Image: Les chenes d’Apremont by Théodore Rousseau.

If, like me, you love plants, art, and history you’ll be pleased to learn more about the (sort of) new field of ecocritical art history.

An exhibit, Natural Histories, at the Yale Art Museum delves into ecocriticism using ten landscape paintings. ‘“When historically oriented, ecocriticism may bring attention to neglected evidence of past ecological and proto-ecological sensibility or it may cast canonical works and figures in a new light by revealing previously unnoticed complexity regarding environmental concerns. What distinguishes ecocriticism is an effort to reorient and widen the scope of cultural studies by emphasizing the ways in which human creativity — regardless of form (visual, verbal, aural) or time period (ancient, modern, contemporary) — unfolds within a specific environment or set of environments, whether urban, rural, or suburban,” art historian Alan C. Braddock wrote in the journal American Art.’

A landscape painting, like the oaks shown in Rousseau’s work above, can show the effects of deforestation and grazing, for example.

Although I’ve never heard of artists returning to sites to repaint a landscape, rephotographing has been done by photographers for many years. Wikipedia describes it as follows. “Rephotography continues to be used by the scientific world to record incremental or cyclical events (of erosion, or land rehabilitation,[8] or glacier flow[9] for example), or to measure the extent of sand banks in a river, or other phenomena which change slowly over time,[10] and in gathering evidence of climate change.[11][12][13]

My own introduction to it was through the work of Mark Klett and his book Second View: the rephographic survey project. The work was done in 1977 and published by UNM Press in 1984. Klett has gone on to do additional work in this style. This link goes to the books page on his website but be sure to check the projects tab for some spectacular and sobering paired images. One such image is a Jeffrey pine photographed by Ansel Adams in 1940 and rephotographed, dead, by Klett and Wolfe in 2002, a mere 60 years later.

Is a weed just a sociable plant?

I met Benjamin Vogt when he was the keynote speaker at the Land and Water Summit here in Albuquerque a few years ago… perhaps 2017, 2018… sometime around then. I was inspired by his sincerity, the clarity of his vision, and his really beautiful photographs. I signed up to receive his emails even though the New Mexico ecosystems, as many and as varied as they are, can’t really be confused with the mid-west prairies, more specifically Nebraska, that Vogt calls home. Dorothy’s comment to Toto “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” could certainly describe most of the arid southwest.

Vogt’s most recent thoughts that showed up in my mail this morning ask about the point of ‘no mow May’ and questions its value versus its appeal to the lazy homeowner who is attracted to a month off from mowing the lawn. I recommend reading the article here and, if you haven’t already, signing up for his newsletters.

But perhaps what captured my imagination more in this email, was the idea of a plant sociability index. That blog post can be read here. The index he suggests, while mentioning that others can certainly be found, looks like:

A commonly-used sociability rating or index may go something like this:

1 — the plant is primarily a behaved clumper that stays where it is, only growing in stature over time
2 — the plant will creep or self sow lightly
3 — creeping is moderate or self sowing is more liberal but it won’t take over
4 — give it 5 years and the plant will easily dominate the landscape”

He does include a plant list, marginally appropriate for a place like Albuquerque, but it seems like some quality time spent in your yard should give you some ideas on which plants are which.