Goodbye Buffalo

Dear TEAM:

I’m now it the Albuquerque airport after a plesant ride on the shuttle here- the driver, John, was pretty cool, espousing his views on living in Taos and the rest of the world the whole way. He also took us on a senic by-pass of Espanola through the cute little town of Santa Cruz, so that was nice. It turns out my flight was delayed until 2pm, so I have some time to relax and there is free wi-fi here! Awesome. I’m glad I took the 8:30 shuttle here because I was able to have a relaxing last morning at the Buffalo, and on my run down Tune Drive to Mamby hot springs on the East Rim I saw a perfect vertical rainbow straight south of me, right next to Tres Orejas. There were lots of low dark grey clouds to the south this morning, so it must have been raining down there. I like to see the rainbow was a good luck/good bye present from NM. I will miss this place a lot, but I hope to be back soon ( and I know I will: the fact that three people tried to sell me land while I was out in the field this summer suggests to me that I’m meant to be here).

Anyway, I’m also sad to have to say goodbye to such a wonderful crew of people with whom I’ve been living with for the past 40 days, I’m sure a better field crew could not have been drawn together, and I’m excited to hear what you all discover later this month! I will  be avidly following this blog so keep it updated. And we should all get together (more than once even!) in NYC this coming school year to share ideas and good times.

And a special shout out to Galen: I’m so sorry I didn’t see you this morning! Girl, you are awesome and inspiring, I could not have survived my little rail road grade hiking adventure without you. I expect some garden reports and photos-post them during your afternoon breaks please.

Finally, if S-core (whom I think Sev was with this morning) remembers to remind Sev to get me a giant yucca seed pod, send it to me at 1198 Rossiter Lane, Radnor, PA, 19087 (or send me other things, any postcard that is sent to me will go in my postcard collection which gets hung on the wall where ever I’m living). My brother will love you forever and he’s super excited at the prospect of adding the seeds to his desert botany collection of plants under the grow lamps at my parent’s house in PA. And I will pay back the postage for sure.

lots of love, Hannah


Below the belt/Kaet’s Summer Camp

Which would you choose-Mason-laying or a Mason jar?
I’d rather be a Mason jar, so I would be strong and clear and could hold things. I’d be fillable. Kaet’s snorting and says something like ‘so much for the third wave.’ and that we’re not vessels waiting to be filled. i say at that mason jars are strong even when they’re empty and they can seal themselves. and brick-layers labor for others, not for themselves.
“no. no, it’s better to be a bricklayer. maybe you work for other people, but you can create for yourself.’
and now i’m thinking that i don’t see much of a difference between brick walls and glass walls, anyway. one is for the enclosed, and one encloses.

Tuesday Morning

I meant to create a post but ended up talking with Joe for about 30min. In some respects (well many), that was more fulfilling.

This kind of thing is quite common. In fact, since October, I’ve found that no matter the number of people living here – regulars, visitors or whomever – a lot of time becomes conversations and a lot of tasks become talk. Most of these conversations have made my mind marinate on things long after and a lot of the talk is thought-provoking…though some it is just talking…In any case, Joe and I processed a little about life at New Buffalo, talked about his portfolio and shared hopes for the future.

In some ways, this place is all about the future. Almost as if the future looms or dances tantalizingly ahead of each person here, depending upon who it is, and their perspective. But as much as this place is an icon of a specific past, it feels quite like it is about the possibility of any future. Like there is something quiet about the place – quiet in that patience of not having fully fulfilled a dream yet, but knowing that fulfillment is to be had. Its not a slumbering, or a distraction, or even an anxious wait and not even a lamenting sigh – its a patience that pauses and breathes and well, endures. This place endures. It endures people and their pressures, history and its insights, narratives and their delightfully distinctive perspectives – but most people and their pressures.

I think its when I talk with Joe that I mull over the patience of this place and its orientation towards the future. Maybe its because of how Joe and I talk, or what we talk about…but something in me feels it’s more that he reminds me that this place has its own agency – a subtle and regular kind of agency – and a patience that may make it persist and finally realize whatever calls this place into being.

But it already is just this place. In another time, New Buffalo will be something else all together, I imagine. I wonder what people will say about it then…

Joe is Great

Over a week ago I ran into Joe in the Buffalo kitchen– on my daily trudge from the pit house site to a REAL restroom– and a couple of the things he said keep rattling around in my brain. I think we were talking about community and ways of being ‘civilized’ (the pit house had just been witness to a bitter argument over music, taste and the Triangle of Communication—ask me later) and after a pause Joe offered that the human neocortex* has created a ‘hall of mirrors’ in our brains. Mammalian self-reflection can become excruciating if our self-awareness is repeated over and over, warped like a line of clowns in a county-fair funhouse. When the human inverse asks ‘why are we here?’ how the hell do you respond?
Probably with unhappiness and fear, or feelings of inadequacy.

Joe thinks the young people who built New Buffalo in the late 60s would have answered, “This isn’t right; it isn’t enough. We have to rebuild.”
Unhappiness and fear are part of the human condition, and feelings of inadequacy may never leave us no matter how old we get, but the arrogance-hope-naiveté-courage of youth alone had the huevos to try to reject modern ‘civilization’ wholesale. The MO of the hippies we’re studying was a patchwork of Native American spirituality, ideas culled from East-Asian religions and American pioneer can-do.
Of course, these people came up against their own limitations. But it is a long process to build and change societies, and the hippie movement is still part of our popular American consciousness. I’m not sure they failed; I think people will keep engaging with the ideals of the 1960s in the hopes of reworking what is seen to be unfair, inhumane or dangerous in our government and American life.

I wish you could talk to Joe. Your mind would be spinning!

*Wikipedia: The neocortex is involved in higher functions such as sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought and language.

Those who could not choose

The speaker series which occurred two nights ago centered on the subjects of medical practices and midwifery and how the counterculture interacted with these two fields.  At some point in the evening it became starkly clear to me (as often it does) that there was a gaping hole in our conversation: the Native community.   The conversation had been circling around the question of choice, namely the choice to have a caesarian or vaginal birth (or as was also failed to mention the choice to adopt or even to not have children).  The midwifes in the room adamantly spoke against caesarian births from the position that they were linked to higher infant mortality rates but also also more passionately from the personal belief that vaginal births were the more spiritually potent method for a mother to connect with their child.  I found it slightly ironic that one of the midwifes had mentioned “the business of birth” because I wondered how much of their defensive nature came from a need to maintain their financial security —though that was probably a secondary reason, the first being rather conservative views of womanhood or authentic way to be a woman… which I frankly find to be bullshit.

Beyond direct issues of gender, I found the midwife position frustrating because it seemed obvious that only certain privileged women can choose to have a home-birth through midwives and perhaps only privileged women who would find home-birth  appealing seeing as how other peoples and communities have been having home-births with or without midwives who were or were not trained for a very long time.  Which makes midwifery an obvious appendage of the  back to nature movement which seemed largely based in playing indian.  This is what seemed to me the grand irony: as hippie women got to choose to return to their view of some pristine spiritually connected method of giving birth at the same time the native women they might have wished to be were being robbed of their right to give birth.

Seeing as up to this point not one mentioned had been made about the Native communities, I made a comment about sterilization programs mobilized against Native women and would now like to elaborate a bit on the issue and lead people where to find further information on the issue.  I first learned about the extensive sterilization programs, which were at their peak in the early 70’s and finally ended in the late 80’s, from Andrea Smith’s book “Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide.”  While genocide is a fraught term for many people I do not hesitate to call the sterilization program a genocidal practice.  There are estimates that 25% of native women were sterilized without consent.  These operations were often performed directly after birth without consent or after abortions in which doctors withheld any sort of pain reliever or anesthesia although native women were disproportionately encouraged to have abortions.  Also considering the adorned birth control pack we found in the trash pit I find it important to mention how birth control was used against native women as a  way not to give them further freedom but further rob them of any sort of choice regarding their bodies.  Andrea Smith also details this in her book specifically how birth control akin to a more archaic nuva ring (which is inserted into the body and must be removed to avoid health problems) was administered for free to Native women  but when the time came for women to have the birth control removed complications arose and many women could not find a doctor or nurse to have the procedure done. This lead to many harmful effects among them sterilization.

My conclusion from such issues are perhaps generic but it was startling clear that as I stated in my earlier blog post the appropriation of supposedly Native practices come from a privileged position of the ability for the colonial settlers to transcend whereas Native peoples are only repressed.  While I was willing to take a gentler look at appropriation in my previous post, I think in some cases the appropriation of Native practices or the desire to play indian or get back to earth casts a shadow of ignorance over the actual state of Native communities and the genocidal practices mobilized against such communities.  If the hippies of the past and earth-loving quasi-hippies of today were to play indian “authnetically” it would not be a very fun game… and perhaps if the movement had not been so self-centered awareness for issues in the Native communities could have entered the national consciousness as opposed to images of anglo-made teepees and barefooted ladies.

For more information on the issues of sterilization read the Smith book and check out this extensive well informed blog post :

The Corn is as High as an Elephants Eye

A late start today due to monsoons and delayed flights thankfully gives me time to reflect on yesterday morning. We had the joyous opportunity to work with Michelle and Mason in the New Buffalo garden yesterday. Somehow weeding the corn and planting brussel sprouts made everything connect.

It was a beautiful clear-blue-sky kind of day and the whole team set itself to transplanting and sowing with the same enthusiasm I’ve seen it bring to (almost) every day of excavation. Seeing every bed in the garden with at least one care-taker bending over it to weed or water was a sight to behold. Let’s call the atmosphere bee-hive like and my mood ecstatic. I’d never gotten a chance to work this extensively in the garden (besides a few bouts of watering here and there) and given the closeness of our project to this place that continues to live with us in it it seemed wholly appropriate. I love the connectivity of everything that goes on there: a pulled weed gets thrown to a chicken, who then fertilizes the garden, or even more simply a bed planted with tomato and basil (the pasta plot!) will soon be ripe for primavera. Gardening and farming was an important part of the origins of New Buffalo and it gives great context and a sense of continuity to see how it persists (however different – thankfully). Michelle, Andrew, and Mason (soon to leave New Buffalo for Oregon) have worked really hard to get the garden up to snuff, and the leaps and bounds it’s taken since last year are incredible!

Working in the garden (and getting a nap in at lunch) left me with such a great feeling that setting up the total station in the afternoon, under the threat of giant storm heads, was a snap. ClockPunk, Darryl, Beatrix and I spent a speedy afternoon mapping in various community structures, including a sweat lodge that, while now defunct, clearly shows great concern with cardinal directions (something to ask the hippie informants about!). One thing I love about total station mapping is getting in a groove and being able to shoot a point in about 15 seconds flat. The four of us make a great team within Team.

Which brings us to this morning — with a new crew member Matt and a new project to start. Today we head out to the gorge to start work on the Pictured Tipi site near Pilar. Given that I spent the last year writing on the site I’m looking forward to it — however traumatic revisiting the locus of Thesis Crisis may be.