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Initial Readings

October 4, 2010

You will be assigned a date/reading for which you will be responsible for offering some initial questions or suggestions. This is not a speech or formal presentation; rather, it is a way to lead off or lead further in to class discussion–and to give you a chance to think a little bit about this in advance. Think of it as leading point on our sauntering–for no more than 5 minutes. The idea is to share with us some of your response to the reading.

To facilitate matters, before class you must post a question and/or suggestion for discussion and one link on this blog (in response to this post, using comment box below). The suggestion and/or question should focus attention toward a particular passage or section from the reading to which you might point our attention. In addition, provide a link to something out on the web that associates with the reading, the author, an issue it raises, context for a particular reference it makes. The link could be biographical context, or academic discussion, but need not be. For example, when searching/sauntering for hits on “Thoreau”  and issues of sustainability and biodegrability, I found a company that sells a wilderness toilet and uses Thoreau’s name to do so. I find that association pretty interesting, and also odd. These links might lead us nowhere; they might be something one of us gets back to for further reading for the final project.

The schedule:

Monday 10/11: Pilgrim: John A., Mac, Kathleen

Wednesday 10/13: Pilgrim: Ruby, Jane, Dan

Monday 10/18: Pilgrim: Kelly, Rachel, Lacy

Monday 10/25: Pilgrim: Erin, Alice, Caroline

Monday 11/8: Abram: Karly, Lauren, Katie M.

Monday 11/15: Ceremony: John M., Kelsey Mc, Megan

Monday 11/22: Ceremony: Kelsey N., Maggie, Matt

Monday 11/29: Ceremony: Kristin, Chelsea, Amanda, Maria

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Chelsea Vetick permalink
    November 29, 2010 2:25 pm

    In the book “Ceremony” by Leslie Silko, Tayo is able to describe the environment vividly through color and metaphor. On pages 170 to 171 and pages 210 to 211, Tayo discovers the relationship between colors and flowers and their importance to the environment. This connection proves to be spiritual and based on intrinsic value. Ts’eh shows a connection through representation of intrinsic value and color. This connection can also be seen visibly upon her with the representation of the blue scarf and blue sky.

  2. Maria Whitman permalink
    November 29, 2010 1:29 pm

    I found with Ceremony that I was focused on Tayo’s after math from the war then rather the deeper focus of the degradation of nature. It took me till I had read the entire book till I felt like I had a better understanding for the book and its purpose. In the beginning I was having a very hard time connecting it to our class and the overall natural perspective I have focused on throughout the course. Finally by the end I saw how Tayo had to go back to his heritage to see nature for what the Indians have always appreciated it for. When I really began to realize nature was going to be a prevalent plot was when Tayo is walking on the side of the road looking at the grasshoppers jump from the grass in front of him and he shuffles his feet to make sure he doesn’t step on any of them. And then again when he is in the truck with Harley, Helen Jean, and Leroy looking at them as they jump.

    lots of grasshoppers jumping:
    slow motion grasshopper jump:

    From seeing the first video is seems its kind of hard to see the grasshoppers jump across and it shows how Tayo was focused on the grasshoppers as he walked.

  3. November 22, 2010 2:35 pm

    One passage that i found very interesting was on page 138 where the three sisters say “we try to teach our children to avoid touching alien tings…” I found this very interesting because throughout the book they all use and touch alien things. They drive cars and smoke cigarettes and use forks. It seems that some of them realize that they do not actually do everything like they like to think
    This seemed to remind me of a commercial that I saw the other day for a company called Western Sky Finantial.

  4. Kelsey Newborn permalink
    November 22, 2010 2:38 am

    At the start of “Ceremony”, Tayo sees his uncle Josiah in place of the Japanese soldiers. A principle of Native America belief is that everything is connected, the Earth, the people, the animals etc. Whilst Tayo is with Betonie, he retells the story of his interaction with the Japanese and his uncle Josiah, and Betonie says, “The Japanese (…) It isn’t surprising you saw him with them. You saw who they were. Thirty thousand years ago they were not strangers. You saw what the evil has done: you saw the witchery ranging as wide as this world.” (124). In conjuncture with this quote, I found a link that establishes the interrelatedness of all Native populations in North America on the basis of concrete DNA findings. A question comes to mind, raised by Betonie, if we were all at one point apart of the same population, what is this evil that has driven us to hate each other, fight each other, and enslave one another? Betonie attributes this to the “evil”, but what is the true evil in present day society- money? resources? property?

  5. November 15, 2010 2:59 pm

    An emerging theme in Silko’s novel, which I foresee developing into a major one is the issue of Tayo’s mixed heritage. With simple google searches of “mixed blood native americans” and “mixed race american indians” I came across many different articles surrounding the subject, and while there are many articles renouncing any prejudice towards those of mixed race, there seem to exist many opinions out there that support discriminating against native americans of mixed race, or those who cannot precisely trace their native blood. In some ways this makes sense to me, it’s not hard to imagine it being easy to get upset at people who know nothing of your culture trying to claim it, but as such a tiny minority in the U.S., it also seems to me that there would be a lot of upside to having those Americans with even the slimmest amount of Native American heritage learn about it, and keep the culture generally alive. I chose to share the post on “Yahoo Answers” because the poster’s tone makes it pretty clear that he is used to facing a serious backlash from being mixed race and not being entirely positive of his Indian origins. It just generally speaks to a very American style of identity crisis, one that Silko may have been one of the first to address in literature.

    The video of the medicine man song I decided to share because I just think it’s pretty interesting/beautiful.

  6. November 15, 2010 1:22 am

    The first section of “Ceremony” illustrates balance between the crippling struggles of war and the painful struggles of the Dust Bowl. Governor O’Malley in a speech given at the Maryland League of Conservation Voter’s annual Kabler fundraising dinner this year quoted a Native American saying, “How we treat one another is reflected in how we treat the earth.” This quote is extremely telling in the understanding of this first section of Silko’s “Ceremony.” Silko writes of environmental struggles on the farm directly beside her exploration of the psychological struggles of war for Tayo. Both are dismal fronts: one of nutrient starved acres, destroyed by monocrops and the other of war. If you think about it, how we treat each other is truly reflected in how we treat the Earth. In Silko’s exploration, the crippling struggle of life and death in war is reflected in the cause and treatment of the nutrient starved, barren land where “…for the sixth year it was dry; the grass turned yellow and it did not grow (13).”

  7. November 8, 2010 3:36 am

    Abram’s discussion in “The Ecology of Magic” of his time in the home of the young “bailan” in Bali gave rise to an interesting conclusion about the idea of “spirits” and their connection with nature. At first he laughed at the idea the little rice bowls the bailian’s wife left for the “household spirits” were being eaten by ants. But, he then realized that perhaps these ants were the actual spirits intended to receive the rice, because by feeding them in strategically placed areas around the buildings, the women created a boundary between the humans and the overwhelming ant population. So, perhaps this was the “magic”- a connection with surrounding nature that kept the nature from invading the human territory. Abram came to find that “magic” was developing such an understanding and relationship with nature.

    Below is a picture of the type of magic practitioner that Abram stayed with in Bali.,r:0,s:0

  8. Karly Kolaja permalink
    November 5, 2010 7:26 pm

    While reading “The Ecology of Magic” by David Abram, I couldn’t get the essay’s introduction out of my head. The image of fireflies intermingling with stars is one that I have witnessed on several occasions, both in my father’s family’s home in Spartansburg, PA (coincidentally, the place that I wrote about loving in response to Berry), and outside our house in Crumpton, MD. Although I’ve seen this many times, I always find it to be both strikingly beautiful and overwhelming. The sensation which Abram experiences of being immersed completely within the system of lightning bugs and stars is one which, I think, is enough to create a sense of something spiritual within the natural world. This spirituality is one far more in line with his understanding of native cultures, however, than it is one of imposed Judeo-Christian beliefs.

    In considering this imagery of being wrapped up in constellations and fireflies, I was reminded of a photograph that was chosen to be the Daily Telegraph’s Photo of the Day back in 2009. It was taken by Steve Irvine outside his home in Ontario. “He explains: ‘The camera was facing north, so the star motion caused by the Earth’s rotation made the background stars trail long arcs during the 64-minute exposure.'”

  9. Caroline Knuth permalink
    October 25, 2010 10:55 am

    Since ‘Fecundity’, it seems to me that Dillard has returned to the more objective close observations of nature that we saw in earlier chapters. The horribleness of abundance is not longer a dominant theme, though we do encounter plenty of horrifying acts of nature (especially parasites). But there seems to be more of a neutrality to her presentations of nature insofar as judging whether or not it is beautiful or horrible or otherwise. It is as though ‘Fecundity’ has cleared the air and from that point forward we can look again with both sides of the coin in mind.

    I have chosen this video to share because I think it works with a lot of Dillard, actually, but particularly since the return objectivity it seems appropriate. There is beauty here, but it can also be a bit overwhelming with its abundance and it is a good example of close-looking. The artist made it by putting the objects you see directly onto the film and then running it.

  10. Erin Gray permalink
    October 24, 2010 11:25 pm

  11. Erin Gray permalink
    October 24, 2010 11:24 pm

    Dillard’s ‘Stalking’ chapter has been one of my favorite because it is the one I can most relate to. I have stalked many animals for various reasons: deer that crowd the corn field and forest that surrounds my father’s house, herons that sit on my mother’s dock, squirrels that run around the campus, butterflies that hang around the garden outside of my dorm. I’m impressed that she caught sight of a dragonfly during her stalking; they are fast fliers and hard to catch in action.

    I find it very interesting that she takes such care in quietly stalking different creatures. Her earlier comment, that nature creates beauty without caring who sees it, is in my mind through this chapter. Because nature takes no notice of whether or not it has an audience (or because nature often hides if a spectator makes itself known), the viewers who wish to see such beauty must catch nature unawares.

    Two shot videos on dragonflies. Both focus on a stationary dragonfly flexing its wings.

  12. Kelly Dunbar permalink
    October 18, 2010 1:58 pm

    Dillard makes a reference on page 79 of automatically petting a puppy and looking out at the mountains. The mountains make a purple hue as the sun hits the tree trunks and rocks. This was very powerful for me, I could take myself to where she was with my own dog Hobo. Looking at the mountains and feeling just one with it is how I felt when I lived in Colorado for the summer looking down at the foothills and living somewhere where it was more than just 100 feet above sea level. It was a whole new world for me at that moment. Dillard captures all the images I witnessed that day and transforms a causal day of driving into something so spectacular to the human eye.

  13. October 18, 2010 3:28 am

    cicada makes a sound

  14. October 18, 2010 3:28 am

    In chapter 6 of Annie Dillard’s book she writes a small passage about the cicada. I found this passage interesting because the cicada’s breeding cycle consists of living in the ground from 13 – 17 years depending on the region. The at the end of the cycle the cicadas emerge only to mate and then they die. I related to this passage because I remember vividly being the the sixth or seventh grade when the cicadas breeding cycle was almost over and that they were going to emerge during that summer. The cicada invasion was on all of my peers minds because for most of us it would be the first time that we have seen the cicadas emerge. Annie Dillard made a comment which reflects on the life of the cicada and what they do for at least 13 years digging in the ground under our feet. This passage made me wonder about the part of the natural world that is buried under the ground and invisible to our eyes.

  15. Rachel Field permalink
    October 18, 2010 1:32 am

    Dillard creates a dichotomy between consciousness and self-consciousness that informs her discussion of the present on page 82. Dillard seems to be suggesting a loss of identity (in the modern sense) through her derision of self consciousness and her subsequent praise for consciousness. This distinction is important because one of the projects in “Pilgrim” is to examine the relationship between human society and nature and to revise that relationship into a more harmonious one. Dillard claims here that the way to live in the present and truly savour each moment is to lose oneself in ones environment, and to attain a heightened awareness because of that loss. This moment also recalls Thoreau, she echoes “Walden” when she says, “let us live as purely as we can, in the present.” It is as clear as if Dillard had lifted, “Simplify, simplify, simplify” right out of “Walden”.

  16. Jane permalink
    October 13, 2010 2:26 pm

    I enjoyed the passage in the beginning of chapter three where Dilliard descripes how winter opens everything up, esentially because the leaves have fallen from the threes and all of the undegrowth has died. I also really liked the imagery she used to describe such things as the sunset; “The mountains warm in tone as the day chills, and a hot blush deepens over the land…I have seen a sunset on a clear winter day houses, ordinary houses, whose bricks were coals and windows flame.” The line of the mountains warming in tone makes me remember a remarkable sunset I saw on the Blue Ridge mountains. I wanted to stop and take a picture and my sister said not to because those sunsets happen all the time, but I have yet to see it again like it was that day.

  17. October 13, 2010 2:06 am

    A video showing two Praying Mantises, followed by the female eating the male.

  18. October 13, 2010 1:57 am

    Dillard’s depiction of the praying mantis through the first half of Chapter 4 was fascinating. Another account of her ‘stalking’ was taken into even more depth here, where Dillard closely studies the praying mantis egg cases, the quirky mating processes, and how her hopes of seeing the egg casing in the field hatch before her eyes were ironically demolished by her neighbor riding a tractor on the field. Dillard in her accounts of ‘stalking’ has clearly been touched by the writings of earlier naturalists, and even those writings of Thoreau.

  19. October 13, 2010 1:54 am

    On page 46 and 47 Dillard shows her playfulness and curiosity with nature. While out in the woods Dillard stumbled upon a Coot. she tip toed around and hid behind trees in order to observe the bird without scaring it. This shows how she immerses herself in nature. She is almost childlike with her curiosity.

  20. October 11, 2010 3:37 pm

    Here is a link to go along with my comment:

  21. October 11, 2010 3:36 pm

    On page 7 and 8 Dillard becomes shocked and almost horrified when she sees the attack of the giant water bug on a frog. The way in which it kills the frog is probably what fears her the most. She has seen other predators and knows that some animals are carnivorous, but this one stands out to her. Why do you think this particular kill method stands out?

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