its best dress, philosophy wears hiking boots and carries
a walking stick, wandering trails that lead into the heart
of our wildernesses—both natural and cultural.” -R.
Frodeman, “Philosophy in the Field.” In, Rethinking
Nature: Essays in Environmental Philosophy.
Bloomington IN, 2004. p.149.
a corner, we’re
confronted with the spirit of animals distilled into minerals
that became their being. Therianthropes who synthesized matter
and myth sought
shelter in still steeper darkness. When the
planet warmed again, shadows
emerged and became shamans. Thousands of years later anthropologists
could not recall the meaning of the art their ancestors made.
construct in the cultural form to which we are attached;
not symbolically but as
a sign of our need for intrinsic value. In this century’s
climate emergency all the gods,
Olympian and otherwise, have
developed structural problems, as “extreme weather
such as droughts or torrential rains have led the ancient walls
temples to develop structural problems.”(1) Beauty,
too, is not discrete, but develops
in the luster between objects.
old Ch’an Masters dropped their teeth until they
could only suck up noodles, or
swallow mouthfuls of unchewed
rice. With no more allure they left for “the great out-
they strolled among stones that had
About 1.5 billion years ago, eukaryotes, the first cells
with DNA protected by a
membrane, appeared, and nanocellular
we are only now able to see,
began evolving toward a species so intelligent that it “accomplishes
in disappearing,”(3) At
first light, where the path begins a downward quest,
I reach Old Stony Face. What I can’t see in her remains
unseen in me.
brain creates reality “characterized
by the looping movement of returning to
itself in order to determine itself…”(4) Perhaps
an artificial intelligence will be able
to program itself to function in alternative realities, with
anatomies that have their
failures built in.
Grading marks made on stone, and objects shaped from clay,
from wood that rots away, we declared ourselves as the most
life on Earth, not knowing that every living organism contributes
dreamed that if I stood stock-still I’d be invisible
to the malevolent force pursuing
me, like this rabbit frozen the middle of the path. As “invisibility
is a state in which
we mustn’t linger or be trapped,”(5) knowing
this, Lepus californicus suddenly
races for the verge. “Stone, wherever you look, stone, / Let the grey animal in.”(6)
I walked through space the rabbit had just abandoned,
if we’d both
the same terrifying dream.
leaving this morning I checked the news to see if any
of my old teachers
away. None today.
through a droopy mustache Fred Nietzsche was muttering
to Old Stony
words my high school German didn’t understand. Seeing
me, the mad
philosopher hobbled away, leaving behind what
passed for a grin.
a Prussian Blue sky Paul Cézanne spread his
easel’s legs, mounted a
canvas onto it, and began painting brushstrokes that embraced
each other like
old lovers uniting after a long break.
Around the same time, Auguste Rodin was standing in a
dense cloud of plaster
dust pontificating to a young starry-eyed poet named
more beautiful than absolute trust in existence.”
More than a century later, the dark clouds of a rare summer
storm rolled over
California, as though existence ends, “in
both an ontological and an existential
sense with fnitude.”(7) Still
they continue to be: Cézanne, Rodin,
If painting caves and rocks was a form of writing, this may
why written language developed later than mundane speech. With
this thought in mind I left the path to look for indigenous
art made in California before Christian missionaries suppressed
Perhaps it wore off, as It rained more often here than it
Or these rocks didn’t attract artists, who preferred
to paint animals
alive in the nighttime sky on the walls of caves: their form
Because premodern societies adapted to each season appropriately
no need for acceleration, rupture, or revolution, placing them
in a world whose
climatic forces they knew how to accommodate.
dissolution of reality into the brackish waters of
death is less a word than a way of being, the earth
is your destiny.
Although too often a philosopher’s
is curled in
a world of
ghosts, it may still reach into a valley
teeming with green life.
After ten dry months, a long thin atmospheric river stretched
across warm Pacific
waters. On a morning like this Martin Heidegger hunkered down
in his hut, stoked
the stove, conjured up ethereal beings roaming the forest outside
and pondered Kant’s message
that in the future we will have no direct knowledge
of spiritual beings, only opinions
was already too late when, fifty-four years
atmospheric engine was fired up. From then on
gnosis could only be
or may appear risen in holographic
stuck between cleats, I continued walking with data collected
from an unknown
source, a practice that maintains a balance between integration
and differentiation in
a landscape with no spirit without substance to bind it, and
no ethos without beings
to pry it free.
he never climbed the mountain, his vision drew Cézanne
to paint Mont
Sainte-Victoire as if “generating
a space that was moving into a different, yet-to-
Adam to Linnaeus, who “was in reality a poet who
happened to become a
assigned ourselves the authority to name, to classify, and
place every object into a taxonomy.
painted the same mountain from various angles and inclinations,
its “surface ruptured with a pulsation of marks that
tend not so much to elide,
as to ignore the code of resemblance” to the truth
of a vision yet to be seen.(11)
Would Rilke have joined this hummingbird flitting from flower
sounding like a foghorn on a foggy night, in its various angles
shaped by hands, and fired in a kiln, takes on “a
beginning that linked
primal innocence with sculptural simplicity.”(12) While
clay baked by
hardens into a balance between differentiation and integration.
walls of Paleolithic caves contributed to the shapes the
The art may have cosmological significance remembered in
galleries of the human mind.
are above and below. Coal, Oil, Gas are
up to fuel machines coughing and spewing
climate-heating gases, and
of highly profitable returns
raise the bottom line.
On the curve of a recently opened path, redwood and knotty
pine nailed together
are weathered by windy thoughts howling until they crumble
into the loam of an
“More and more of
us will evolve past flesh. At what point, do you suppose,
we stop being real?”(13)
dawn spreads through a scattering of dark clouds. No rain.
I’ve plied these paths for a decade,
a scheme of
that drew me to where life can be viewed
its center, and reality
falsified. What consciousness
elusive because it cannot be thought.
downhill one foot slips, then another, two times I’m
from Cerberus’ sharp teeth by a walking stick probing
for signs in
Gaia’s most awesome directions. Here a faint path leads
that ring with the angular beauty of stones.
a Burning Bush is a wildfire mythological space subsumes
cosmological place. Here the mountain itself, turns me around.
1. J. Sallis, Stone. Bloomington IN, 1992. p. 93.
2. In Quentin Meillassoux’s philosophy, the great outdoors
is “the wilds of the Real to which philosophy
may achieve direct access once it frees itself from the correlation
between thinking and being.” D. Spaulding, “Inside
Out.” 9/21/21. https://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/inside—out—
3. C. Malabou, “Superhumanity on Plasticity with Catherine
Malabou.” MMCA, Oct. 27, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kL6oQRKu4s
4. Y. Hui, Recursivity and Contingency. Lanham, MD, 2019).
5 P. Ball, The History of the Unseen: From Plato to Particle
Physics. London, 2015. p.7.
6. P. Celan. From, “Assisi.”
7. N. Wilde, “Burning Bridges: The problem of relations
in object-oriented ontology—a topological approach.” Humanities
and Social Sciences Communications, 25 Feb 2020. p.9.
8. Kant on Swedenborg: Dreams of a Spirit-Seer & Other
Writings. G.A. Magee, trans. West Chester, PA, 2003. p.39.
(Originally published in 1766.)
9. R. Morris, “Cézanne’s Mountains.” Critical
Inquiry. Spring 1998. p.815.
10. A. Strindberg. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Linnaeus
11. R. Morris. In, C. Greenberg, The Collected Essays and
Criticism: 1950-1956. Vol. 3. J. O’Brian,
ed. Chicago, 1993. p.84.
12: S. Geist, “Brancusi.” Artforurm, March 1967. https://www.artforum.com/print/196703/brancusi-36744
13. A Rosenfield, The Cutting Season. Boston, 2007. p.148.