Sunday, February 18, 2007

south dakota winds blow me home

the glare of my computer screen doesn't tan my skin the way i'd like, it doesn't feel warm, and the computer's heat on legs probably isn't healthy. but that's how i live during the winter, when i freeze going outside and have a constant reminder why winter sports are so hard when it's 15 below zero. i love the outdoors, and i love being active, but both of those activities tank when it's this cold out, and i become a slow-moving, tired, often sick, and cerebral sort of guy. i try to convince my housemates to play board games, they try to convince me to watch movies, and i end up spending most of my time typing up papers. at times, it's academically useful, but i still miss the spring. and i'm ready for the 40 degree temperatures we're supposed to have this week.

i've spent the last few months trying to write a paper--a future chapter of my dissertation--on the topic of hope, especially along the highway in between my homes in south dakota and minnesota. i can't say how interesting the paper is (someone else will have to be the judge of that), or whether it is much of a scholarly contribution, but i did find it useful to figure out what i think about the topic of hope. even more so, i found the process of writing, rewriting, and writing again to be a good, if lengthy process.

you see, all too often i find that people who study environmental issues are forced to reckon with two things, without enough of a third. they encounter loads and loads of environmental problems--climate change, extinction, pollution, consumption, waste. and they encounter theorists destabilizing both how they've thought of environmental issues (i like wilderness; people damage the environment) and indicting the easy solutions already in place (let's set up national parks; let's participate in sustainable tourism and organic food). they rarely hear about helpful, hopeful, working solutions to environmental problems, or ways of thinking about environmental issues more generally. and i think that this could be improved. and i'm trying to figure out how. i guess if you want to read the first installment of my thoughts, let me know, and i'll send you the paper, but i'll warn you that it isn't short. if you want something shorter to fill your time, track down a copy of this song and listen to it.

what i like about this song, aside from the fact that a friend wrote it, is that it tells a good story about someone's life and loves at home, complex and ambiguous as they are, never trying to be too good/moral, yet not trying to be overly deviant either--it's not about being an angel or a devil, a puritan or an alcoholic, just someone with some experiences back home with friends. right now, i'd like to pretend that it were warmer and that i had a year to spend however i want, guilt-free and economically able, hanging out and playing soccer, hiking in the black hills or the boundary waters, sleeping in a tent or walking cross-country, picking up a few more experiences to write about along the way. but i'll have to wait on that for now.

south dakota by the lonesome crowded east

yellow lines are painted on
all the roads that I drive on
when I'm in south dakota.
I get off work, no where to go
another summer with my friends back home
spent dancing and drinking
in my friend's basement.
We bike drunk across the town,
I pass out on the ground
just watching the summer pass in a blur.
The setting sun means soon I'll go
head out east, and I don't know
just when I'll see you again

so let's pretend
that you'll remember every moment of every single day
let's pretend that you'll stay in touch after we part ways
let's pretend that a thousand miles isn't very far
let's pretend that we're different... even if we're not

we go camping in the west
two dumb kids who are at their best
just finding love for the first time.
it starts to rain on our tent,
so we stay in, and we invent
words to all the songs that I can never remember.
driving home on 29
I can't believe it's almost time
to try to forget that you ever existed
so I hold my breath
and I hide every clock
hoping you won't realize how late it's gotten

so let's pretend
that you won't leave when september comes and rears it's ugly head
let's pretend that this night will last, tomorrow won't begin
let's pretend that every song I wrote just for you
let's pretend that we're different... even if we're not

South Dakota winds blow me home
and I'm tired of sleeping and drinking alone
so I close my eyes and pray for another year
hoping when I open them, you will be here

Monday, February 12, 2007

our hull aground

if i were to make an excuse for not writing recently, it would be how busy i am, how much i've been writing for my classes, the research i've been doing, the games of settlers of catan i've played to keep myself sane.

but i don't need that i guess. what i need is more of a reason to write on here, to feel like it's worthwhile, not just for me, but that others enjoy it. and maybe they do, but it's hard for me to let them when i don't write. so i'm to blame, and i'll try harder.

i can't wait to tell you the stories i've thought of lately, and even more importantly, i can't wait to tell you about what's happening in my life right now--teaching at saint olaf college, a place where students seem just as engaged with the course as i am, where they seem motivated to learn environmental history. it should be a good thing.

the following song has one of my favorite rhyming lyrics of recent days: dirigible and untraceable--i'm not sure how this guy pulls it off. i like the flow and beauty of this song, but just as importantly, i've been reading an amazing book lately: the pine island paradox by kathleen dean moore. in it she reflects on environmental ethics while blending those thoughts with her experiences on and around an island in alaska. i appreciate her book so much that i sent her an email today, and i hope she responds sometime. so making our homes on the water is something i'm thinking about lately, my times spent in boats and in the water itself these many years. in particular, i have some of the most vivid memories of fishing and boating with my family on lake thompson in east central south dakota. really just a big slough, it's become a lake and stayed that way the last twenty years. amazing place.

sons and daughters by the decemberists

When we arrive, sons & daughters
We'll make our homes on the water
We'll build our walls of aluminum
We'll fill our mouths with cinnamon now

These currents pull us 'cross the border
Steady your boats, arms to shoulder
'Til tides are pulled our hull aground
Making this calm harbor now home

Take up your arms, sons and daughters
We will arise from the bunkers
By land, by sea, by dirigible
We'll leave our tracks untraceable now

When we arrive, sons & daughters
We'll make our homes on the water
We'll build our walls of aluminum
We'll fill our mouths with cinnamon now

Hear all the bombs, they fade away