Ecopoetics Along Shorelines


Painting of snow capped volcanic island with part of the mountain cut away, names of differetn species cover the cutaway, corresponding to the elevation where the species are found

Alexander von Humboldt’s map of vegetation change in relation to elevation, from a climb of Chimborazo in the Andes Mountains in present-day Ecuador. Essay on the Geography of Plants, 1807. This work laid the foundation for biogeography. Source: Science Source

Our Spring 2019 field writing.

4/2 Counter-mapping

As we walked along the shoreline toward the Montlake Cut, following the Waterlines Project map and the Native Seattle appendix:

Stopping at each site, we read aloud the place names in Southern Lushootseed and their literal translations into English. At each site, make a note of one present thing that’s in the field with you, one absence, and one trace or sign of a thing.

Ending up at Rainier Vista, with the mountain obscured by clouds, we wrote  to the question, “What is a vista?” What does a vista show, frame, obscure, direct? Whose vista is a vista?

4/9 Chorology

i. class field writing (considering Rodriguez’s concrete river as an instance of the khora)

As we walked along the shoreline from Sakuma viewpoint to the overpass (construction zone, parking lots, razor wire fences around marina) and then talked and wrote under the overpass:

Stop when something reminds you of your own experiences in outside-the-fence / unregulated / gap-like places. Make a brief note of the memory (“that time when….”) and pick up a small souvenir object to take with you (e.g. pebble, dead leaf, paint chip). Don’t talk to anybody on the walk—just look around.

At the end of the walk, tell one of your stories to another person; let a third person tell you a story.

Pick out one image from your story. Develop it to about 3 lines of writing.

ii. studio (images and souvenirs)

You can go on with the story / image you already developed, or choose a different one from your walk notes.

Take out your souvenir object from the same spot where you noted the story. Alternate brief writing sessions: describe an aspect the souvenir object—develop an image from story—describe a different aspect of souvenir—develop a new image—and so on.

Select and sequence the resulting small writing pieces in a way that pleases you.

iii. afterwards

Continue your thinking about and looking out for the khora / chora. How do you know it? How do you pull from the centuries of philosophical recycling and refiguring that this term has undergone? If you’ve found your field site, is it in the khora? In what ways?

Continue the practice we tried out in class, of “letting stories arise” in conjunction with field observation. Try going to two very different sites (a forest and a parking lot? a rocky beach and a sandy one?). Still your mind in each one, and wait. Note what stories / memories occur to you in each place.

4/16 De-centering & Re-centering

Josh Reid’s The Sea Is My Country and The Waterlines Project’s maps both de-center settler colonial conventions of space and privileging the terrestrial. In this journal activity, you will apply these strategies of countermapping and re-centering to your experience of your field writing site.

1.     Put an x at the center of the paper to represent you sitting at your field site, and imagine you are sitting there. Then, draw objects, plants, animals, people,  buildings, and other entities that surround that spot.

2.     On the same map, or on a new map, again mark an X at the center. Then draw flows or passages that cross the site. These could be people, animals, the wind, water, or flows or air pollutants, pollen, or electromagnetic fields.

3.     Place another X somewhere on the paper (could be closer to an edge). Imagine that it is raining. Draw how water would get to and drain away from your field site on its way to salt water (Puget Sound). You may use torn up colored paper or paints, colored pencils, or other media to represent the water.

4. Write  captions for the first two maps. Following Ortiz, try to use expansive language, rather than language that sets limits. This caption may be speculative or may start describing what’s actually there and move into other realms.

5. Now consider the phrase “The sea is my country”. Respond to the prompt “The sea is my ____”, in relation to the third map. You may also consider the prompt “The sea is not my country. The _____ is my country.”

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