Wild Writing

I cannot tame my writing. I create outline after outline, yet the words always leak out the edges and send out tendrils in new directions that raise more questions. I try to introduce a short anecdote to demonstrate what I am saying, but then that story starts talking a blue streak and leads into a whole other place, unexpected and organizationally confusing. And yet I cannot let go of these tangents. They reveal more and the unexpected places they take me unfold the world as a beautifully complex place.


But there must be structure. An argument. An overriding theoretical intervention. It cannot be implied, and some things must be spelled out. There must be a narrative.

So I try again. Cut and paste together another structure. Just focus on stitching the edges together. Think of it as breadcrumb trails, dropping in words where they are needed to lead the reader along the path. But this implied that I know the way, when in reality there are so many interesting junctions, and how do I decide which way to turn? Decide I must, for if not, the readers run wild and sometimes miss the most interesting vantage point. Sometimes it is necessary to say, “Look, look here!” Acknowledge the lovely side trails, but we cannot investigate these whole woods in a single day.

Trudge and tarry, trudge and tarry. This is one way to proceed along the trail. Rather than trudging, can I dance, or skip, or otherwise make my merry way? Maybe, perhaps at times. But if there is one thing I have learned from my years of long distance running is that the trudge has its virtues too. Trudges require endurance, and a willingness to push through some rather uncomfortable moments. This pace tends to be slower, but also opens up the vistas of a journey slowly, one solid step at at time. Trudging can also lead to wild places. In fact, a solid steady trudge is more likely to lead to those places worth going, and yet few may find on their breathless dancing way, for they grew weary long ago what with all the energy of skipping along. But the trudgers, they can tarry in places of dancer’s dreams.

Perhaps I need to balance between the slow march and the exuberant dance. Enjoy the exultation of surprising lines of flight, but remember to slow down and come back to the reassuring slow shuffle of prosaic prose. Because I am not on this journey alone. I carry other people’s stories. I am scouting paths along which others will follow. If my route is too rough or unexpected, my readers may get lost, and then what kind of guide am I?

Remember the best ride leaders. They create a route that leads to lovely and sometimes unexpected places. Long, arduous climbs are rewarded with secret caches of just-right sitting places with gorgeous views. On the way down, options are discussed, but ultimately the leader picks and takes us down descents suitable for the audience. The more adept can fly with glee, while others stumble gingerly, still learning. A good ending to rides can sometimes be the trickiest part. Too technical isn’t always good, since people may be tired and make dangerous mistakes. Nobody likes a boring road slog to get back to where they began, and going back over the hills again can be daunting. So finding the right cool-down flow back is key. Take the riders somewhere that keeps them on their toes in a relaxed, leisurely way. A way that allows for sure but easy breathing.

Now write…


Neither Guilty nor Innocent

The preservation of spaces of nature is far from a natural act. Sites of wilderness are more museum than found artifact, replete with the historical baggage of colonialism, racism, ableism, and sexism endemic to some of our nation’s finest institutions of preservation. They are stolen, taken by violent means, made ‘pure’ through the extinguishing of that which was branded dirty, wasteful, or unappreciative of the ‘treasures’ around them.

This is the refrain environmental historians know too well. Its haunting tune enters the consciousness of the outdoor enthusiast and leaves them deflated, thrown into chaos as they watch their innocent nature assemblage become reterritorialized as imperialist, sullied, and soaked in histories of oppression. Access is racialized and privileged. Redwoods become sites of eugenics. Parks are preserved at the expense of others who suffer environmental degradation out of scale. The rhythm is thrown in chaos.

And so I come back to the mundane refrain. The sun warm on my skin feels good. Moving through the quiet hush of the trees calms me. I am a platitude. I giggle like a child. Is this a natal refrain of footsteps and heartbeats, breathing and wind? Maybe here is a refrain prone to deterritorialization. The refrain is a new budding.

“the intra-assemblage, the territorial asemblage, territorializes function and forces (sexuality, aggressiveness, gregariousness, etc.) and in the process of territorializing them transforms them” (325).

Just because I giggle in the outdoors does not excuse me from the territoriality of violence that we call nature. The ongoing legagies and everyday enactments of privilege ensure that I am always reterritorialized into these histories. But we need not escape one assemblage to enter another. When moments oscillate in the vibrations of shuddering leaves or the wind howling in our ears, these refrains can be “a prism, a crystal of space-time.” Assemblages are both amplified and eliminated. We are both fully complicit with and fully outside of colonized nature.

In a seminar, a woman asked, “can we decolonize hiking?” Perhaps the answer is yes and no, a both/and. We’ll never get free, but we can still certainly be swept away in moment when the music of the most mundane refrain catches us.

A reflection inspired by A Thousand Plateaus chapter 11: On the Refrain.

Somnambulistic Reflection

A Methodology for Reading D&G

Reading A Thousand Plateaus can be a confusing and potentially frustrating experience. Readers often complain that they do not understand precisely what the authors are talking about, or what the point of the whole thing is anyways. I know often in my own experience I find myself thinking, “What in the world do they mean by strata? Plane of consistency? What is all this nonsense about anyways?” So I try to read in a looser, more flexible way. I let the words wash over me. I pay more attention when a phrase strikes me, but not too much attention lest I get caught up on concerns of precisely sorting out the difference between content and expression. If there is one thing D&G know how to do, it is to name things. The defining of things, not so much. This can be frustrating, to put it mildly.

Luckily, I stumbled upon the ideal method for encountering this esoteric text. I have a particular talent that lends itself to this methodology known within the medical world as idiopathic hypersomnulance. In everyday terms this means, “you are really sleepy, and we don’t know why.”

As I sit at the table diligently plowing through Prof. Challenger’s lecture, I surreptitiously slip out the side door into a less linear narrative that complements his style quite nicely. Strata slide into new assemblages that revolve around a wagon wheel spinning and bumping rhythmically along a trail that is both over and in the strata. It wobbles along terrain, bumpy and uneven, but with a flow that suddenly slips and flies off into a gully unseen from the original angle of view.

I jolt back to the room as my eyelids fly open and encounter the white page with black text adorned with a few stray marks of purple lines, placed practically randomly upon the page. Probably the best way to situate them. I make a new mark in blue. Those knees. Yes, I like the knees. Imagine breaking to make this articulation. We break trail to make a new possibility. Destruction is perhaps then simply planes of consistency reaching stratum for new assemblages. I mean, look at where our dear professor ends up when this is all said and done.

Signifiers and signs blur and disarticulate. This feels so cozy and familiar. I’d forgotten the pleasure of the slipping away, of watching the world remove itself from its banal congruity and take on more surprising and simple forms. The comfort of nothing more than the eyes, barely open. The next word on the page. What was it? Time becomes elastic, measured in eye-beats. One. Substratum. Two. Divisions of stratum. Three. (hold onto the phrase. Don’t move the eyeballs while they are closed. It’s easier to find the word again then with little effort) Four. Stratum.  And so on this trance reading slips between the black figures on the page and illustrative assemblages behind closed eyelids.

“Hello.” Eyes shoot open. Smile. Greetings. I look down. “woman-bow-steppe assemblage?” Of course. Like my body-bike-terrain assemblage.

And so you can see that this method of somnambulistic reflection offers much promise to the scholar seeking to read with D&G in a manner befitting their style.

Making Single-track

We are becoming single-track. Single-track is riding along desire, moving in a suspended line of dirt, rock, rubber, sinews, muscle, metal, and nerves. It is the possibilities of negotiation between things we think of as separate. Body. Bike. Trail. To make single-track is to fashion multiplicities.

Throw out a line. Let go and brake less. A thrill of terror enters the bloodstream. No time for logical reasoning, just motion as the rocky terrain passes faster than thought. We know this is working until it is not. Thrown.

Now we have new connections. Synapses that connect speed and nerves to fingertips gently squeezing the brake lever. Centers of gravity that account for slopes. Tires that skip off rocks of a certain size in direct relation to speed.

It takes awhile to learn how to use the sensory capabilities of the rubber pads. Sensations are crude, mostly limited to slipping at first, the times the dirt slips from beneath the rubbery nubs. Sometimes I can feel them dragging and sticking into the soft layer of pine needles. That means the tires need more air.

Everything crowds around me. Sight lines are short as movement and sight curves. In another configuration the trail is a raw sore cut open. Bleeding ruptures of tree stumps and broke branches, eroded soil and trampled grasses. Making single-track is an ongoing business that requires ongoing injury. Kill the life underfoot and alongside to keep the wound open and rideable.

A tight turn ahead, switchback. If I switch back to my body negotiating this bike around this trail turn, I stop riding. I stutter to a stop as my eyes track my fears. The brambles lining the trail that my front wheel stubbornly follows so long as my eyes see what is not the single-track. To make the switchback means not switching back. Look forward and lean, steady on the nerve-brakes. They are sensitive to even a millimeter too much in either direction. It really is a measurable thing, making this switchback. I know the formula, but the middle is the messy part. Moving outside the moment is disaster, or at the very least a minor inconvenience.

Making single-track is hard to sustain. I get scared at the flows, the loss of the me that I have grown so accustomed, and cannot sustain the line of flight. Nor can the multiplicity remain quite yet. I worry that I will get drunk on the flow and move beyond current possibilities into the impossible, the making of injury.

Riding single-track relies on making memory. Short term memory happens in the moment of making the ride. It relies upon those tendrils of long term memory extending from nerves down the metal frame into rubber nubs and flinging out to rocks and roots and soil. Memories are in the making but they don’t stay there.

It’s like riding a bike. You never forget. What they don’t tell you is that the forgetting is in the not-making. Remembering requires making riding, another multiplicity that’s more than just a memory in a body. Two wheels and a sense of surface make riding a bike a memory of relations. So we store ourselves in the middle, in making multiplicities that are always one less than the sum of the parts.

The above is a reaction to reading the Introduction to Deleuze & Guattari’s Introduction in A Thousand Plateaus.