Saturday, January 17, 2009

Coral, cord wood and termites

I cannot get over the discovery (and dating, thanks to Molly Miller) of the sheets of coral fossils on the limestone slabs - 450 million years old, or
thereabouts. Somehow I want to draw that fact into the YB experience. Options: one could try to make rubbings of them (or photograph them) and display them indoors, in a gallery structure nearby. Cf. Chris Drury's thumbprints/mushroom spore prints. One could try to recreate the originals in cement etc. But what is the point of any of these options? To facilitate a multi-leveled temporal awareness. Watching a spider spin its web, one also bears in mind the evolutionary process that has led to it having this skill. And that 450 million years ago, the earth had no humans - indeed no plants, no birds, no dinosaurs, or mammals - everything lived in the sea. So here we are, looking at this highly visible trace of a world that completely predates almost everything we know. Is this experience important? Heidegger said that to be truly at home (heimlich) in the world, it must also be a little unheimlich (strange?) to us. This temporal depth is one good way of bringing that about. It begins perhaps as a focal experience, and then turns into a modality or tonality of a broader capacity for experience. It may e.g. encourage making connections between things, it may draw attention to aspects of things unseen, it may allows us to see things in new ways. Perhaps we will have sharper eyes for process, for long cycles. Is 'seeing differently' not the point of art? I still don't know whether the art-object matters (however material or dematerial), or whether it is always a mere means to a new seeing, and in principle substitutable.

Today the cord wood pile was begun, and the results of December chainsawing collected from beside the new road. I raised a platform of treated wood on concrete blocks on the lower level outside the basement. This is supposed to discourage termites. Though some of these logs are surely already termite-infested. I imagine them dropping off, and looking for another home. I am preparing for the wood-burning stove, even as I read that as a planet we need to be heading for zero carbon emissions. Is it enough that these new stoves are highly efficient? Or that they will help me burn less gas? As I stack these logs I am reminded of one such stack I saw - in St Anton-am-Arlberg (Austria) when I was teaching English to a certain George at the age of 16. There the wood filled a cement arch at the front of the Pension. The sun dried it from the side, and the arch protected it from the rain.

Termites, some facts:
  • Termites have been around since the time of the dinosaurs!
  • Termite colonies eat non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week!
  • Termites have wings that they shed once they have found a good place to build a nest.
  • Termites cause up to $2 billion in damage per year!
  • All Termites are social insects and raise their young as a group.
  • The total weight of all of the termites in the world is more than the weight of all the humans in the world.
But compared to coral, termites are new arrivals.
Termites = Terre-mites? Mites of the earth? How much entomology can we learn from etymology?