The chaos in my current corner, in the land of milk, is ongoing, I am longing for the desert.

I am not sure where it stems from, this longing for wide open landscapes, desert and desert-like environments. A 360 horizon in which movement of my body seems to make very little impact, my perspective shifting slowly, yet becoming aware of other shifting bodies as changes in light sets other processes in motion that can be observed even from my own stationary position. But I know this, dwelling in such setting connects me to the universe at all scales and transcends my being, becoming simultaneously. aware of the fragility and force of life 

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Finland view toward Norway 

 

People have made interventions in the landscape to observe planetary movements since time immemorial and a range of small to monumental structures present in our current landscapes  testify of this fundamental human need to understand our larger context in relationship to our daily needs of producing and sharing food, Stone Henge, Nazca lines, to name a few, even though many of these monument are still shrouded in mystery. Why did people spent so much labor and energy in these works, what was the purpose?  And now, did we lose this ability to connect to our lands in such a way?

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Stone Henge Spring 2020

In our current capitalistic worldview we tend to consider the planet as an exploitable resource, compartmentalizing our shared planet into commodities, ours for taking. But in our modern societies this  need to understand the bigger picture, to feel connected and provide meaning in our lives was taken up specifically by the land art movement in the 1960’s in tandem with an emergent ecological movement. Lightning fields (Walter de Maria), Spiral Jetty (Robert Smithson), Roden Crater  (James Turrell). The latter, 45 years in the making is nearing completion in northern Arizona. About 400 miles west of Roden Crater, Charles Ross, a contemporary of Turrell is also finishing a major land art work, Star Axis, after about 50 years. Both works consist of chambers and tunnels, as a gateway to experience space and time in transcendental ways. 

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Northern New Mexico Spring 2020

Without a doubt, it is an incredible landscape to be in and in between Roden Crater and Star Axis is Chaco Canyon. At its center lies a magnificent ancestral site of the Indigenous communities living in the larger region today. Not only does greater Chaco exist of a network monumental structures, the history of the people is inscribed and enshrined in the landscape in multiple ways, a spatial language that is difficult to understand coming from a world of written words. It is a language of ongoing conversation with the land in which ancient sites play an important part, vast in temporal and spatial scale. The land that is fragile, the land in which people have lived for centuries, taking care of the land and its waters to sustain life. Of the many extraordinary aspects of Chaco the astronomical heritage stands out. Brought to broader attention during the late 1970’s, the Sun Dagger as it then became known, is an ancient instrument that was used for instance to align the architecture with the cycles of the sun and the moon, connecting land, people, and cosmos.

Over the last decades the region has experienced record droughts, which has affected many types of trees in detrimental ways. It is during this time that the oil and gas industry is expanding its reach, especially in the San Juan Basin, Chaco homeland. Fracking, a drilling process of using high pressure water to release gas, has made the US fossil fuel producing nation and the promise of jobs and revenue had led to opening up public lands for oil and gas exploitation and extraction in New Mexico. A different type of intervention, consumptive instead of sustainable. 

Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out at the head of the well, a process that is promoted as being risk- free. Fracking however is controversial, not in the least because it keeps us hooked on fossil fuel. Fracking uses enormous amounts of water, at a significant environmental cost. Furthermore, potentially carcinogenic chemicals may escape during drilling and contaminate the groundwater around the fracking site. 

In a fragile environment this is disastrous. 

If not in New Mexico, wherever you are, please find a way to connect to your land in a meaningful way. Roden Crater and Star Axis are almost finished, supported by generous donations. Unfortunately, and critically so, Chaco Canyon is under threat, not just, but especially by current oil and gas exploitation. Please consider keeping this incredible heritage alive. 

https://www.frackoffchaco.org/our-coaltion

https://solsticeproject.org/Preserving_Chaco/Fracking/index.html 

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/fracking-boom-ransacks-four-corners 

https://www.nps.gov/chcu/index.htm

http://rodencrater.com

https://www.staraxis.org