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By Ron Broglio

It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. – Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire


Sometimes we overlook the obvious that is right in front of us. This exercise is designed to help us pay attention to the entities on the landscape.

Duration: five to fifteen minutes

Preparation: It is handy to have a notebook and pen or pencil to write down your reflections.

First, Quiet your body and mind then look around. Choose something to spend time with and focus on. To help you choose, ask yourself: what in the landscape calls to you and what do you feel drawn toward? Then, saddle up next to this entity: a large rock, a cactus, or an agave or anything in the landscape that calls for your attention. Spend some time in front of this entity. Look, listen, and observe. The key here is to not get distracted. Just focus on this one entity.

Ecological awareness is saturated with nothingness, a shimmering or flickering, a shadow play of presence and absence intertwined. What does this feel like from moment to moment? – Tim Morton, Humankind

There is much to notice: light, shadows, colors, textures. Then more deeply there is the felt duration of the entity’s life in the landscape, the sense of time it holds in its surfaces, its weight and sense of place.

To perceive is to find ourselves not supplied with sense data or objects but subjected in each thing to a reality in the interrogative mode, whose consistency and coherence weighs on us with the weight of an imperative. The imperatives in things, the imperatives things are, do not order us with an imperative for a universal and necessary form of response our thoughts would program for our sensibility; they order the diagrams and variations of our postural schema and exploratory manipulations. A thing is there not as a given and not as a a possibility or a hypothesis but as an imperative. —Alphonso Lingis, The Imperative

Reflections: List things you noticed about this thing that you did not notice before? Has your feelings or thoughts about this entity changed and if so, how? Next, draw parts of the entity that you found most compelling.


A growing number of studies suggest a dim future for desert dwellers in the coming decades, as they face warmer, drier conditions. (…) Many biologists think that desert organisms are living at the limits of survival — and that cooler regions may be out of reach for slow-moving or short-lived species. (…) Others on the resurvey project are exploring how hotter, drier conditions might harm birds and mammals, by studying species’ metabolisms and how much water they lose through evaporation. Ecological modellers can combine these findings with the latest population data to better project how the desert ecosystem might fare as the planet warms. Ideally, scientists would revisit these forecasts in a few decades using fresh data. But fieldwork of this sort is falling out of favour. Staring at the blue mountains on the horizon, Patton says that he doesn’t know who will replace him: very few students today train as naturalists, and museums and national parks are chronically underfunded. “Everyone wants to know how nature is changing and why,” he says. “But there’s almost nobody doing this kind of work“ –Amy Maxmen, The Ambitious effort to document California's changing deserts

Dust and Shadow Reader Vol. 1. Previous: fieldnotes 1. Next: ways of listening.

For references: bibliography

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