Tag Archives: language

Quothing the Raven by Patricia Karamesines

Photo of common raven courtesy of National Park Service
Photo of common raven courtesy of National Park Service

This post is an excerpt from my unpublished book, Crossfire Canyon and the Landscape of Language. I published a shorter version of the chapter in 2007 on the blog Times and Seasons. I’ve added material and developed my thinking about the intersection  of narrative and truth, posing questions about what our responsibility may be when we tell a story that deeply affects people–especially when the story isn’t strictly true, but people who read or hear it feel that it must be.

Winston Hurst
Archaeologist Winston Hurst

Early in the summer of 2007 I visited Blanding resident Winston Hurst, a longtime friend from my archeological field school days back in the 80s. Winston is an esteemed archeologist in the Southwest and a man of science. We were discussing Craig Childs, who was coming to Blanding’s Edge of the Cedars State Park to promote his book. I had met Craig in the 90s at a writing workshop he’d led in Torrey, Utah. The first time I read Craig’s work—it was The Secret Knowledge of Water—I  thought, Here is a writer I can learn from. I’d taken the risk to travel to the workshop, even though leaving the household whose atmosphere depended on the state of my special needs daughter Teah and on the whims of toddler Val left husband Mark with his hands full.

The experience proved well worth the risks to my household’s teetering domestic balance. Craig told our little group—all women—that it was his first workshop. At one point we met in the wonderful stone house, still a work in progress, of a local resident. To make memorable his point that we should all carry writing journals when we’re out traipsing, Craig set a pile of his own journals in the middle of the floor and told us to each choose one and find a quiet place to read it. I happened to pick the one that contained dialogue that would later appear in his book, The Way Out: A True Story of Ruin and Survival.  The dialogue occurred between Childs and his river guide friend, Dirk Vaughn, who used to be a cop. It involved Dirk’s statement that he’d killed a man. Continue reading Quothing the Raven by Patricia Karamesines

WIZ Spring haiku chain, 2017

2017 April 2 peach blossoms

April is the poetry month, coaxing

Odes out of the fund-cut land, upraising

Free verse and sonnet, arousing

A metered pulse despite uncivil chill.

Winter moils to hold fast, stifling

Voice by imperious squalls, periling

Spring’s sprung verse with rime-crust.

Continue reading WIZ Spring haiku chain, 2017

Review: Arrival 2016

2017 Arrival Poster*Spoilers Alert*

First off, I’d like any film that nudges viewers toward thinking about language and its effects on events, the environment, and relationships past, present, and future. Arrival’s got “events” and “relationships” covered, and, by extension, “environment”, so I like it. *SOAP BOX ALERT*  Lackadaisical attitudes toward language are common. Many folks don’t think about language much at all, despite how, when threatened, they quickly move to weaponize it when they feel threatened. Moreover, since a meaningful percentage of the population gets its information from movies and other media rather than peer-reviewed scholarly articles on language and linguistics, I’m good with casting language in a leading role in a semi-popular film. *END SOAP BOX BLURB*

We also have funny ideas about language, including that it impedes real communication. Charles Taylor discusses one angle of such thinking in The Language Animal, the theory that, ideally, language should just name things in the world with constraints on usage to enable precise communication—no funny business like metaphor, symbol, etc., which some literalists believe renders discourse into Keystone Kops ineptness.

For a taste of Keystone Kops, go here.

Taylor makes a good case that this idea of language still influences beliefs about human powers of articulation (unduly, he says). Arrival may in fact put the “language as precision tool” concept to work, since very few nods to metaphor’s powers of transport occur in the movie. It would be nice if the black-and-white nature of instrumental language could have been expanded a little, but that’s probably asking too much. Many people know language mainly as a tool for getting done what they want, even as they complain about its exactness.  In blame-the-messenger fashion (including in language Global Mall Facebook), laments abound over how language fails to live up to expectations then betrays us; ergo, it’s faulty.

But to the movie. Arrival is a cryptic thing on several levels, including its

Continue reading Review: Arrival 2016

The year of the fox by Patricia Karamesines

Red Fox public domain

From July 2010 to December 2013, the two years following Mark’s stroke and brain surgery, he struggled to regain lost cognitive and physical ground. The hemorrhage occurred in the back of the right hemisphere of the cerebral cortex in an area of the brain that supports eyesight. During the stroke he lost more than half of his field of vision. On the day we figured out that something momentous had occurred and I rushed him to the hospital, he cocked his head to his left side, like a bird, to see the doctor and nurses. We caught the stroke too late so some of the vision loss became permanent. The change in his vision disturbed him most at night when the house turned foreign. Every little object on the floor or crease in a rug transformed into a confusing and dangerous obstacle. Continue reading The year of the fox by Patricia Karamesines

LONNOL 2015 winter/Valentine haiku chain

Swans Valentine

After a slow start to Wilderness Interface Zone’s Love of Nature Nature of Love Month, we’re opening our LONNOL haiku chain. It’s our hope that readers will join in this winter and post-Valentine’s Day celebration of the logic of the heart harnessed with images of nature’s splendors and subtleties.

A haiku is a classical Japanese poetical form, usually 17 syllables all in a single line in Japanese, but there are longer and shorter forms. In English, haiku often take the form of one short line of 5 syllables, a long line of 7 syllables, and a short line of 5 syllables, but there are many ways–all versions are welcome here.

There’s no deadline for this activity and the only requirement is that you focus your feeling in a nature-oriented haiku. You can link your haiku to an image in a preceding one or simply forge a link out of new images altogether.  The chain runs as long as participants carry it along.

Traditionally considered a mindfulness practice, writing haiku brings perception and language together in a splash of imagery and aperçu. Can you distill you deepest feelings and sheerest insights to 17 syllables? Give it a go.

Here is my opening LONNOL haiku:

From plot twists in sea,
shore, savanna, city, this
departure, this love.

Review: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes

Cover of Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

As I mentioned in my Facebook posts about the book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (published in 1976) is a wild ride, not at all for everyone. It could especially prove problematic for those espousing religious belief. Or, indeed, belief in the veracity of science. Or in any kind of certainty at all. Furthermore, at times, Origin goes speculative to what for some will be intolerable degrees, and Jaynes’s writing style can turn florid and irritating. I was in it for the idea that the human brain and the consciousness it houses have changed radically since early periods of civilization, an idea that bravely contradicts common belief that human consciousness bloomed suddenly full-flowered upon early man. Continue reading Review: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes

Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt.3) by Patricia Karamesines

Desert storm with rainbow

This is the third part of a three-part entry. To read part one, go here. To read part two, go here.

Glancing at Belle, I can tell she needs water, and soon. I lead her away from the beaver ponds before she’s tempted beyond her ability to resist to drink from its giardia-laced teapots. I hurry her to the shade of a big juniper, another of my stops, and sit down in the dirt beneath a broken branch that hangs across the trail. Obviously, Belle needs more water than I can provide by cupping my hand. I relent and pour her a drink in the canteen lid. She laps four or five lids full then lies down in the shade without my prompting, her shoulder pressing against my knee. She pants rapidly but seems to have gotten enough to drink, refusing another offered lid.

Looking around inside the juniper’s shadow, I notice a single penstemon blossom, looking like a wind sock on a pole, glowing red against the litter. Its color leaps to the eye from a backdrop of live blue-green and dead brown juniper stubble; last year’s curled, tawny oak leaves; green wisps of grass growing in a clump; spider webs clouded with dirt and other debris; and round, purplish-blue juniper berries dropped into grey-toned soil speckled with blacker grains, probably of decayed organic material. From somewhere up-canyon, a canyon wren’s laugh pipes its downward-falling scale. Continue reading Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt.3) by Patricia Karamesines

Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt. 1) by Patricia Karamesines

Crossfire in the Fall

What a mystery is the air, what an enigma to these human senses! [T]he air is the most pervasive presence I can name, enveloping, embracing, and caressing me both inside and out, moving in ripples along my skin, flowing between my fingers, swirling around my arms and thighs, rolling in eddies along the roof of my mouth, slipping ceaselessly thought the throat and trachea to fill the lungs, to feed my blood, my heart, my self. I cannot act, cannot speak, cannot think a single thought without the participation of this fluid element. I am immersed in its depths as surely as fish are immersed in the sea. 

David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

Part One of a three-part post.

August 24, 2013. When I head out today for Crossfire Canyon, I step into a world in motion. Currents of surface wind, smooth in texture, cool to the touch, flood out of the south, curling around every solid body be it person, fencepost, or stone, leaning into every curve in the terrain. Weeds and spindly desert sunflowers undulate in it. As I pass my neighbor’s orchard, waves of wind sound in the apple and pear trees’ leaves, oceanic in temperament, noising like breakers crushing themselves against sand.

Here on White Mesa, the character of the desert air ranges widely from spring’s sandpaper winds that rattle windows and flake shingles off roofs, to the sudden dust-ups of sand spouts or dust devils, to dead still, the odd hour where the air’s quiescence reminds me of a motionless pool deposited in a stream bed after a flash flood has rumbled through. Today’s wind surges without half smothering me. I’ve walked into mesa blasts that grapple with me for my breath. This wind is respiration friendly. Continue reading Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt. 1) by Patricia Karamesines

Goat Paths by Patricia Karamesines

Echinopsis_Atacamensis_and_the_Milky_Way

We are the Day Society:

See how we skirt surefooted as goats

the Crevasse of Desire.

God is in the well-placed step that bears us above Death,

while Beauty weeps for us beyond the goat paths.

 

By day, the way is clear, so complete,

the ground floor and ceiling blue.

We see where we are and name it alone and only.

On our tongue, world settles into a few words—

unanswered, unanswerable shouting.

 

Then sunset’s splinters—orange, mauve—

 fade to night’s raw transparency

and the first call of a star.

 

Perfect, calling silence, star following star

like deer stepping from shadow or heavy forest

into the dark’s open, stream-curled meadows.

 

Now we’re in sterner metaphor,

the embrace of the abyss,

brought by goat paths

to the brink of wilderness.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Patricia KaramesinesPatricia Karamesines has won numerous awards for her poetry, essays, and fiction, including awards from the University of Arizona, the Utah Arts Council, and the Utah Wilderness Association. She is the author of The Pictograph Murders (Signature Books 2004), an award-winning mystery novel set in the Four Corners area.  Her poetry appears in the anthology Fire in the Pasture (Peculiar Pages 2011).   She writes for the Mormon arts and culture blog A Motley Vision and runs the nature writing blog Wilderness Interface Zone that advocates for the “greening of human language”.  She has taught English classes at USU-Eastern off and on since 2006 and now tutors English students for the NASNTI Grant program–a job she dearly loves. She lives with her husband and three children a stone’s throw from beleaguered Recapture Canyon, has put in plenty of foot-time in the canyon, and is currently completing a work of creative nonfiction about her strange and wonderful experiences there.

The Whole of My Interest by Enoch Thompson

472px-Joseph_Sattler_-_La_Danse_de_la_Mort2

I always assumed death
would devour me
in his dense boney fingers,
snuff out my life, like
crushing flies on a window pane;
and forevermore
I would write
of the blackest mold
beneath my eyelids.

However,
books with spines
spewing sunshine and
colorful ribbons
sheltered
white sheets
of paper inside me.

Now, I press
at the balls of my feet,
waiting for anything
to devour me.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Enoch Thompson is an aspiring poet and storyteller. He was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He has been homeless off and on since he turned 18. He taught himself how to read, which is why he has a passion for reading and writing. He believes that becoming the best writer he can be is how he can become the best person he can be. He says that the written word has affected him by opening his mind to various new perspectives and possibilities. He hopes one day that his writing will be mind-blowing. Currently, he is a student at Utah State University-Eastern in southeastern Utah. For more poetry by Enoch, go here and here.

The illustrating image, “La Danse de la Mort” by Joesph Sattler, is in the public domain.