Borders to Canvasses (Devil’s Mountain III)

The interior of the four-story building that supports the domes of the former Cold War listening station on the Devil’s Mountain in Berlin is accessible only through two (new) exterior stairwells. Each has a long corridor (without any doors!), and open spaces separated by walls.

Most of the walls are decorated with the most wonderful graffiti in bright colors.

The entire building has become a piece of art.

Views through the ‘windows’ show more building-sized graffitis.

So in a miraculous way, one of the most secretive and locked up places from Cold War Berlin has become an organic landscape of open art.

If only we all could deal with our own borders like this.

Happy Birthday (Chanterelle, Again)

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Another day of heavy rain and warm weather did it, the chanterelles have come out, just in time for my daughter’s birthday, who, alas, just left again.

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My first serious harvest this year was enough for two toasts (with Phantasia, a wonderful local goat cheese, and aragula sprouts),

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as well as a small salad with roasted vegetables.

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Let’s see what else July will bring.

Winter in Summer

After all the spring wildflowers are gone, there is not much left blooming here. So these little flowers came as a surprise when I found them on my Pate Hollow Trail.

What we have here is Chimaphila maculata, or the Striped Wintergreen (an odd name for a summer wildflower).

Endangered, it says for Indiana.

This has been my first time with this rare misfit, and I hope it is here to stay.

The End of Spring

With the end of spring, the Brood X cicadas are finally gone, together with their song.

After 17 years under ground (17 years — a measure of life?) they have emerged for a final dance.

It’s precisely choreographed, and slow.

Who taught them all this?

Then, after a very long embrace, they rest. They now have all the time in the world.

Here are 30 minutes of cicada song, fading into rain at the end.

Correspondences (Badlands XI)

In the Badlands a natural focus is the horizon, a verbose border between sky and ground, between dream and reality.

But if we look carefully, there are more forms of dialogue everywhere.

The horizon seems to show the solitary visitor the limit of the inhabitable space, itself unreachable.

And these other dialogues seem so small and irrelevant, being mere events, they only constitute time.

But I think this is all misconception. Every dialogue takes place at a horizon.

Prairie milkvetch (Astragalus laxmannii )

And only this: inhabiting the horizon: allows to define each other’s position.

Northern Cryptantha (Cryptantha celosioides)

Palimpsest (Badlands X)

The little dark dots in the middle up above are a small group of bison, a universal presence in this part of the park.

When they noticed me from a distance, they wearily looked at me and moved on, maybe realizing that I was no threat.

During the day, the slowly walk on their tracks alone and in small groups, and pause to graze even more slowly, as if every blade of grass counts.

Their tracks crisscross the landscape like songlines, having a purpose of direction, but also a purpose of protection:

This way, the fragile ground is left unharmed.

Their entire existence seems to be an enormous effort of irrigation, eating only what they need, and fertilizing the arid places on the way.

Indeed, every blade of grass counts, like everywhere else.

At night, they gather as a larger herd, greeting each other, and telling about their dreams in eldritch voices.

I didn’t have a telephoto lens with me, but in the above photo is a small region with maybe a hundred little black bison dots.

So they write on this landscape as if it was an enormous palimpsest, being alive.

Border Districts (Badlands IX)

The mind is a place best viewed from borderlands

Gerald Murnane, Border Districts

After yesterday’s more technical description of my Sage Creek Valley flight, today an attempt of a second layer.

I think about photography as a dialogue — between the features of the subject and my abilities to perceive them.

The sparsity of the landscape and its contrasts call for black and white, and this is a good choice, because it also helps emphasizing the occurrences of natural borders.

Here the borders occur at different scales and in different contexts, in the texture of the ground, the vast horizons,

and in the transition between grassland and desert.


Sage Creek Valley (Badlands VIII)

So off I went for an overnighter in the backcountry. My route is above, clockwise, about 12 miles, which one could do in a day, but maybe not with taking as many photos as I did … Here is a first layer.

While there are stream crossings, there is no pumpable water, neither at the campground, nor in the wilderness. For me, that meant carrying 4 liters of water, barely enough for two days.

What struck me first was the lush greenness of this region. Where did all the arid rock formations go?

Then there are no trails. What sometimes looks like trails are bison tracks. More about them in a later post.

Now I have reached the north fork of Sage Creek, which I didn’t dare to cross. Sinking in ankle deep is ok, but not knee deep without guarantee that it ends there.

So instead I followed the middle fork for a while, crossed when it looked reasonable, and continued east. The landscape underwent some changes soon.

It’s is very tempting to keep going beyond exhaustion. Don’t. Use map, compass, GPS, and set goals. Easy to say.

Pitching a tent early gives shelter in the scorching sun and allows to enjoy the sunset. Finding a good spot for a tent in this vast emptiness was surprisingly difficult. I wanted to avoid wind, bison tracks, mud, and tall grass.

The next morning looked a bit gloomy, but I didn’t get any rain.

Time to return. Isolated trees are ideal landmarks, as the bisons obviously know, too. Tomorrow we’ll get the second layer.

Sage Creek Road (Badlands VII)

Today the journey takes you from the town Interior (what a fitting name) to Sage Creek Campground, a convenient door to the Badlands backcountry.

For most visitors, this is a drive-through road, offering stops for spectacular views.

Short hikes are possible here, but the terrain is steep and endless.

The Bighorn Sheep are going on family trips, too.

Then, slowly, the landscape begins to change. You first encounter patches of green,

and then colorful hills

with nuances of yellow.

Then you arrive, grab the backpack, and look back for a moment.

Window and Door (Badlands VI)

Rooms without a view are prisons for the people who have to stay in them.

From Windows Overlooking Life in A Pattern Language by Christoper Alexander et al.

At the Notch trailhead and the Castle Trail trailhead there are two more short trails, the Window and the Door.

These are also obvious architectural design patterns whose lack or presence in a building we much more easily perceive than their lack or presence in ourselves.

Windows offer a protected view, the exchange between inside and outside is virtual, and, like at the Window Trail, there is no safe way to step outside.

The Door is an entirely different story. And what Alexander writes about doors is valid also for our personal doors: Placing the main entrance is perhaps the single most important step you take during the evolution of a building plan.

On the map, the Door trail looks even shorter than the really very short Window trail, but the former does allow us to step outside into a vast landscape.

We instantly encounter unfamiliar heights, dangers, and the fear of getting lost.

So why should we step vvvvv

So why should we step outside? What are the benefits of an encounter with the undesigned?

In essence, I think, this is a form of survival instinct. Life needs protection but doesn’t like confinement.

Tomorrow, we will begin to step outside — — —