Archives for the month of: January, 2020

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I am in Somerset, England, making cheese on a small, nice, family farm that is build up over the last couple of years around the cheese-making business. So far, only one, soft, French inspired cheese is produced here and I am now employed as assistant cheesemaker, together with a cheese making colleague; together we produce this cheese. This is my first time making cheese from pasteurized milk, where the milk is sourced and delivered from elsewhere. It is organic cow’s milk, but it is strange not knowing the animals who gave the milk. 

The idea is that in the near future two more cheeses will be developed by the owner of the farm, who took on cheesemaking as a second career after leaving a city job. Somerset seems to have become a hub for urban escapees re-structuring their life in rural mould.

On the farm, which is located in a broad valley of pasture land, rural roads are lined with hedges leading to small villages with plenty cottages. The  plan is to expand production. We will soon move into a newly built cheese-barn, raised with European rural development funds. One of the requirements of receiving this fund is to employ a certain number of people. I am one of them. Production and sales need to go up to justify all the expenses and to become a profitable farm business.

On the brink of Brexit. In the middle of pasture land. As far as the eye can see, toward the rolling hills bordering the broad valley, green fields, lined with hedges and dotted with mighty oak trees, but not much in terms of produce, vegetables or grains. It is still a bit of a mystery what will happen. Will the price of living go up, will fresh vegetables become an exclusive product only affordable by the privileged?

We will see. For now I focus on mastering a new cheese procedure and a different approach to making and marketing cheese. To be continued…

It is a familiar riddle, if a tree falls in the forest…. 

Not too long ago I was earwitness to exactly this phenomenon. A fierce wind, the tree could no longer stand up, its core was rotten. Over time it had slowly leaned over and now reached a tipping point. It started with short cracking events until at one point the tree fell with a loud crack and a swoosh of the branches hitting the ground, sweeping the nearby vegetation on its way down. 

The question is an old philosophical one, the sound of the falling tree considered an object of perception, without ears in earshot picking up the mechanical (sound) waves, does the sound exist? An existential problem, basically asking if reality exist outside our perception of it. I am not trying to answer that question, I am interested in the perceptual potential of the space in which we are immersed.

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My training as an archaeologist/anthropologist involved a lot of tech of the Earth observing kind. Interested in different perspectives, the view from space is an exiting one, way beyond the ordinary. It was pretty mind-blowing to understand what these sensors aboard the orbiting satellites ‘see’ and collect: reflectance (values) of electro magnetic waves, and how we can use these data to calculate and visualize the changing appearance of our home planet, In some cases, in dry areas, it even let us ‘see’ below the surface. It made me aware that ‘seeing’ is not simple, but complex and multidimensional and related and intertwined with other kinds of wave energy that can be perceived by us and other sensing beings. In a way, learning to process and interpret satellite imagery and other spatial data, extended my natural sensing abilities technologically, but also philosophically. What more is out there that I don’t pick up. 

How about the song of the wings, the dancing fireflies under a starlit sky, and other such subtle and rarely experienced events in our modern lives. Are we losing these perceptual objects? Still there but unperceivable because of sensory pollution? Or worse, transformed into something else entirely? Signal interference that actually changes a message into something unintelligible, and therefore no longer existing as intended. 

It is a new riddle for our times. 

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I cannot decide. It is exciting to have all these technological tools at your fingertips to experience the world in multiple new and different ways. At the same time I search for places that are devoid of technological impact to tap into the natural potential. I count myself lucky to be able to perceive and appreciate these perceptual wonders at opposite sides of the spectrum so to speak and beginning to grasp the complexity of our wavy world. I am not sure which one excites me more: sitting at a computer viewing the whole world on my screen, or dwelling in vast landscape, suddenly becoming aware of the singing feathers. But it dawns on me that these different ways of experiencing the world may not be compatible in the long run and that we have to make some choices. For instance, using our phone actually disturbs the navigation skills of bees in the vicinity.

 A question for our future…

During this winter holiday season I reside in the northern European region with family and friends in mostly urban settings, where the days are short and often overcast. It try to soak up enough daylight, especially when the sun appears from behind the clouds, but what I seek most is places where I do not consciously hear the ‘hum.’ 

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Index of sound architecture

Automobile traffic, rubber tires spinning across asphalt. Sound or noise clouds dispersing in different directions, creating an audible hum, inundating the urban sphere. Vectors of stress, cause of a number of modern day ailments that plague our species.

I am not sure if it bothers everyone else as it does me, but maybe it is because I have a recent sound memory so radically different, a silence so intense, It is inappropriate to categorise it as the absence of sound. A silence so big, it feels like a blanket of potential. 

Walking across the fjells of rocks, moss and lichen, a view of mountain ranges all around, in different formations and character, and nothing to hear but the occasional bird call. When I concentrate I can even spot the bird who is making the call. The air is crisp and clear. Even when clouds fill the sky, their patterns come alive as an organism of aerial performance. It is an incredible feeling: the thought of being a part of this ancient, seemingly inert landscape, stillness in anticipation of potential, vastness into multiple dimensions and scales.

Ma, the Japanese spatial concept comes to mind, roughly translated as ‘gap’, which has been described as consciousness of place, the living breath that measures time and space, not as an enclosed three-dimensional entity but more as the simultaneous awareness of form and non-form, an emptiness open to imaginative possibilities that something may enter enter to the invisible, like a promise yet to be fulfilled and the silence between the notes which makes the music.”

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It rings a bell, literally, as my sound memory.

In the morning I accompany the goats up the mountain after milking. They know their land, they move as one, their beating hooves, bleating conversation and the two bells create a sonic object recurring as daily rhythm. Only when leadership is in question and signs of indecisiveness create random movements in the front, I perform my herding duty and lead the way. 

Music, emergent in this otherwise soft spoken surrounding in time and space, subtly changing the airflow, awareness of form and non-form. These movements across the land, its sounds, smells and sights become part of the landscape, aware of the physicality of emptiness. 

The swallows have started to build their nest in the barn, where I milk the goats. Swift and agile they move around, in and out the barn and around the cabin, and one day, quietly observing them I notice something, their wings make specific sounds, it is like they speak with movement. Can that be true? Apparently it is called, aeroelastic flutter, not only do they sing vocally, but communicate in many other musical ways… find ma, and tune in to the edge of perception.

See also: https://kyotojournal.org/culture-arts/ma-place-space-void/ 

I cannot speak for anybody else, but for me the idea of strolling through mountainous lands while accompanying a herd of animals, preferably goats, sounds like a great way to pass time. That is, when they follow you, or an acceptable pathway. Goats! Quite the characters.

Over the last years I have had a chance to get closer to the mind of the goat and transhumance as a lifestyle. Not to be confused with transhuman as a concept, even though in my life the underlying ideas converge. 

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One is quite old (transhumance), the other conceived only mid last century (transhuman), the latter suggesting the possibility of new evolutionary beings, resembling a human, but equipped with powers beyond the ordinary. Enhanced intelligence, awareness, and strength, all to be anticipated!. According to the early futurologists, typical signs of transhumans indicate physical aa well as mental augmentation, and include protheses, intense use of telecommunications, a cosmopolitan outlook and a globetrotting lifestyle. Formed during the 1950’s and 60’s, these ideas actually describe our current lives pretty well. Our modern day extensions of our sensory selves come to mind, our phones, a kind of prosthetic to which many of us are almost permanently attached, extending our world into the digital realm. Other sensors and enhancements that enable experience beyond our bodily limits, what else is new. 

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Transhumance, on the other hand, does not refer to the human body directly. The word derives from the latin words, trans, across, and humus, ground. It refers to an action, a nomadic, or globetrotting lifestyle. More specifically, people who follow animals into remote locations, where animals can eat, digest, and transform inedibles into something that can be consumed or processed by us into something digestible and nutritious, milk and mutton for instance, but down the line, maybe something else is transformed in unexpected ways.

When I engage in this lifestyle I am thankful for having some transcending equipment, a ‘smart’ phone that lets me connect to people in different places, that can connect to satellites when I am not sure if the path I am taking leads back to my cabin. But actually I am interested in my innate super powers when I cross these lands. The edges of perception of my natural self, ones that have perhaps been numbed by years of tech-assisted living, of inhabiting uninspiring, signal inundated environments. Somehow I believe that spending time with these roaming creatures in remote regions, piques my senses. Can I tap into my superpowers, increase my intelligence, and heighten awareness in this way? Who knows, what I do know is that it is worth the effort to try. Whatever it is, this is pretty awesome.