From Puerto Williams to Denton

I have been to the southernmost town on the earth. It is so far away from the world that time seems to have stopped there. It is also such a wonderful experience to work with a bryologist and an ornithologist. Mosses, birds, islands, oceans, mountains, interesting people, and quiet town. It is hard to say goodbye and I am thankful to be safe back.

Do something in the first week back to Denton …

In the south where you are, snow is flying under the sun shining; In the north where I am, cold nights are like spring; If it is not too late before dark, I want to forget your eyes; For the entire lifetime, I cannot finish this dreaming

He no longer talks to people about the isolated island where he met you; Because his heart is deserted, nobody could live there; Can’t afford another place in his heart for someone else; Just be a dumb lie to himself

He says the beauty that everyone praises of you; Not as good as that he first met you; Time flies, everything changes, the only thing leaves is just a sigh of breath;If all the land is connected; Then coming into life is just to hug you

Good night, he is drunk to dream, good night; He heard someone singing an old song; Sing what still happens today far away; On that isolated island, what he saw; No sadness, no flowers;

In the south where you are, snow is flying under the sun shining; In the north where I am, cold nights are like spring; If it’s not too late before dark, I want to forget your eyes; For my entire lifetime, I cannot finish my dream

The absurdity about life is that I just wake up

I just wake up

 

 

 

First Encounter with the Station

Joy and Jerry have been staying at the stación Biológica Senda Darwin in Chiloe for several days. The schedule of the workshop is so intensive that we had a quite limited amount of time for sleeping. Jerry seems to be going through a change from a child to a teenager. Sometimes, our egos fight against each other. Although in the drawing exercise I said that I take every living as my co-inhabitants, most of the time Jerry is THE co-inhabitant.

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The drawing itself becomes a bizarre and enigmatic experience. In the first place, we are asked to pair a group and sit down in the grassland to drawing the other person. At the same time, we need to think about the other person’s habitat, habit, and his/her co-inhabitant. Alicia and I are in a group. We sit down and Alicia explains what we need to do. She speaks English smoothly which relieves my embarrassment of being incapable of speaking and understanding Spanish. At the beginning, it is awkward to watch another person face to face in such a close distance. That is probably for our previous knowledge of Social etiquette. She is smiling and looking at me. I could not evade her observation. I look at her and she could not evade my observation too. We are experiencing the bizarre experience of changing between a subject and an object. “I” am observing and at the same time, “I” am observed. During the exercise, I try to identify the most apparent appearance, just like the way I identify a plant, to observe the texture and color of the trunk, leave arrangement, flower, fruit, etc. While observing and drawing, I try firstly attend to her face and hair. Her fluffy and slightly curled black hair twists into a braid and drops casually over her left shoulder. There are some adorable freckles on her face. Her eyebrows are slender and compact, and her long eyelashes cover her bright eyes. She smiles like the autumn sunshine, warm and bright. I started to guess her habitat, habit, and co-inhabitant. I began to think about the urbanization level of Chile because I have an impression of more than 80% of the population living in cities, I guess she is one of the 80%. She is engaged in ecology-related learning and research, so I guess she needs to be staying in the field very frequently. Her bright smile makes me feel that she might have a dog or a cat. It turns out later that she has both. This is how I reason through but not randomly guess her 3Hs. After the first stage, we then returned to the class to share our drawing and conjecture with others. I find the sharing process very interesting. We frequently burst into laughter, mostly because of our hilarious paintings and everyone’s effort of trying to capture the most typical feature of his/her partner in some way.

After completing the first round of exercises, we started the second stage. Sitting down by back to back, this time we paint ourselves and finish describing the 3Hs of ourselves. The problem is that I don’t very often look into the mirror. Nor do I take selfies very often with my cellphone. It has been like that I forgot what I look like. I had to memorize what I look like. Soon, I solve this problem by thinking about my appearance, short hair, glasses, and a hoodie. But I don’t know where to put the wrinkles to show my age, on the cheeks or to the corner of my eyes? As I was hesitating, we are called back to the larger group. I did not draw my wrinkles, so this self-portrait is a young female. That is Joy more than twenty years ago. At that time, I lived almost in the field every day. My favorite thing to do was to chase the change of seasons in the hybrid of wilderness and cultivated landscape. During then, the co-residents are numerous trees, crabs and frogs in creeks and Li River, dragonflies, fireflies, aigrette, and owls. Finally, we returned to the class to introduce our self-portrait and our 3Hs. It is a reconnection moment to think about “who I am”.

In general, this is a novel approach to introduce and understand the 3Hs. In previous courses, with UNT students, we have introduced ourselves through presentations to get familiar with the framework of 3Hs. But this time it is a dissimilar and unique way, which allows me to look forward to other possible approaches of introducing 3Hs to new audiences in the future. This also implies that, in the field, the innovative way of education exceeds the traditional classroom education so much that it is hard for the latter to parallel in a way, even though classroom-based education has plenty of merits. The most amazing thing is the feature of immersing learning subjects in such a creative educational environment is a delightful experience in itself. Aristotle once says that eudaimonia is the highest end of a human being and reason is a requisite but not sufficiency to achieve eudaimonia. To be happy, we also need to cultivate different virtues in various scenarios. Now we are in the field. What virtues do we need to cultivate? Within the framework of field environmental philosophy which places an emphasis on the dynamics among the teacher, learner, and their environment, the creativity of conveying information, imparting knowledge, asking and answering questions, and cultivate environmental virtues seems to be infinite. I could not stop thinking about the unique biophysical environment we are in and enjoying the dramatic consonance of this opening process. I could not stop expecting what I am going to learn and experience in the coming days, and how we could cultivate our virtues for the good of both humans and the environment by learning ecology and reflecting on ethics. To sum up a little bit, this exercise has begotten the journey of discovery in many aspects. I have imagined what I can do and what could be expected in an accessible future.

Next, I will briefly share my experience at the Station. If I have to use several words to describe my rudimentary encounter with the Station, I will use three words: awe, link, and intimacy. Awe comes from my observation of the unique biodiversity of the miniature forest. The miniature forest is so generous at showing her beauty. The awe also comes from my preliminary understanding of the development of the Station, of the tenacity of so many people embedding their hard work on the mission of the stewardship. The awe also comes from the understanding of ecological research. Teachers in the station are so knowledgeable. They not only know about the textbooks but also have a comprehensive comprehension of the field. Awe also comes from my observation of students’ enthusiasm for knowledge, learning attitude, and autonomy in daily life.  I visualized the next generation of all different types of professional environmentalists. Awe comes even more from my admiration of the resilience of nature, from organisms to ecosystems, to ecological processes, to the restoration of ecological experiences. This land is no longer a land for firewood, but a place to provide multiple functions of education, research, ecotourism, habitats for so many co-inhabitants, and many other services that we need to explore. The second term is the link. I feel that the day that I arrived at Chiloe, I linked to the person who I was years ago, the beautiful time before I became a graduate student at age 23. In the Station, I have a better connection to Nature, which produces a mixture sense of loathing and melancholy. I will loath a lifestyle that turns accessing to nature into just vocation. I will be carrying on a melancholy because I realize that it is a luxury to have such convenient access to endemic diversity. I also have a better connection with Jerry. We are conducting a collaborative writing project at the Station regarding the entire week. Hopefully, Jerry could have a better connection with nature this time. We hiked a lot when we were in Xi’an and he liked those activities. After moving to Denton, we even seldom walk to any forest due to our intensive schedule every day. I had the worries of Jerry becoming one of those nature deficit disorder kids due to both increased frequency of using electronic equipment and decreased opportunities to access nature. It might be just a bias from a mom who happens to be an environmental philosopher. I expect his staying in the Station connects him with something he aspires. I have linked to many people. I renewed my connection with Terrance, Javi, and “Juan the senior”, built a new connection to “Juan the junior”, Pablo, Christina, Camila, Karina, Alicia, Emma, and many other students, which as networks among people and as a symbol of relationalism are very much appreciated in Chinese culture. The third term is about intimacy. In the old forest, frequently I see several species of mosses, liverworts, hornworts, and lichens that are usually intertwined with each other. That is a world of indifference to the difference between “I” and the Other. Their distributions require me to rethink the philosophy of intimacy. It is also a great challenge to reconsider the real meaning of intimacy. In a time we own a technology and social networks that could connect people, people, and the local environment, people and distant environment, even people and the planet, to what extent this broad connection could carry on this intimacy in all those connections in all different scales without alienate ourselves as individuals, communities, and even larger collectives from the environment? We should learn from mosses. They achieve everything without causing much irritation to the environment. That is Wuwei. Mosses are Taoists.

 

Santiago’s Mourning

Because of ten years of drought, plants are dying around Santiago (Chile) area. It is true. We see the yellow and thin leaves on low shrubs. A biologist we met today says the drought has made the ecological process irreversible. She is so firm about the miserable future of the vegetation. It seems not only global climate change has crossed the threshold, but the local ecosystem also lost the chance to be restored. Isn’t resilience just another myth?

When scientists say there is nothing we could do to reverse the trajectory of the apocalypse, will humanities see some hope, both at a local level or on a global scale?

When I see the eastern Andes mountains without greenness, I miss the vegetation on my South mountain.

Santiago is weeping. I hope people here could work things out, economically, politically, and ecologically.

First Day of Class

It is the first day of PHIL 1400, Contemporary Moral Issue. I could not get to sleep yesterday night till 2:00am. After taking Jerry to school, I drove to the campus and parked it on Oak Street. Valentina tells me that it is free parking.

The first day of class, in the end, a student came to give me a five and said, “Joy, you rock!” To be honest, I am happy to hear this and am encouraged by him. It reminds me to speak slower to make my ideas clear to the students.

Thanks to the oncoming car light!

People say that in Texas spring we should prepare for the thunderstorm. This Tuesday, I had the first impression of what this means. I got more than twenty emergency alerts about tornado and flash flood in one hour, “Take shelter now”. Warning. Warning. Warning. We went to the first floor, gathered in a large classroom, and took shelter. Students were on their phones or computers. At some point, several of them began to talk. “Thunderstorm has one benefit. It helps reunion.” One of them said. It is true most of the time. Students and graduates hide in their classroom and offices. We do not talk.

Yesterday. It was the last day of energy class. Adam released us earlier. At eight, we were ready to go home. MW and I talked a little bit about our coming reunion time. She will leave Denton in several days. It is hard to say whether we would meet again very soon. I talked about my exams and my anxiety. It was raining and lightning outside. I felt like I should wait a while to go home.

Then, at 10 pm, I was ready to take my boy back to Argyle home, the temporary place I rent. The rains and lightning showed no sign to stop. We had to go. We walked downstairs, the building was empty. My car was the only one in the parking lot. I had to make the wiper move very frequently to see the road. I grunt that I hope there are cars on the road. We drove on 35 and then 377. My own car light it not bright at all. Very few cars were on the roads. And I did not see any car behind me. After I turn to 377, it was even darker. Very occasionally, the flashes of lightning tore the sky and the earth was white as the day. I drove at 40mils speed in the darkness. It is a strange experience, a strong feeling of loneliness, and a slight of awe. In this fear and dread, we drove in the downpour of rain at night. The lights of the oncoming cars gave me a lot of solaces. They were very few, but they were such a relief that I realized we were not truly lonely.

I hoped my car light also gave other people solace. I was the other who was also driving in a perilous night.