Poly Canyon, San Luis Obispo Photo by Catherine Keefe
What did you see this weekend? What surprised you? What did you learn?
I saw the writing on the wall.
I took this photo during an exploration of Poly Canyon where the learn-by-doing projects for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo students in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design are open to the air and free to the public.
According to the Cal Poly website:
A portion of Poly Canyon encompasses a nine-acre outdoor experimental construction laboratory that for more than four decades has been the host site of several structures designed and built mostly by students of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design.
On a quiet November Saturday I saw families climbing in and out of seemingly abandoned structures and groups of students following leaders in brown straw hats. I saw piles of crushed, empty green plastic party cups. Green is the Cal Poly school color. Go Mustangs! I saw Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, smashed and flung below The Cantilever Structure. And I saw a small leg bone, presumably from an animal, about the size of a baby coyote. I saw The Shell House and The Stick House and The Underground House where I took these photos. I saw a plastic pan with dried black paint and a roller.
I bellowed to cows I saw across the canyon. I saw vineyards and brocolli on the bush in a field and a flock of turkey vultures, which I later learned is called a wake. I learned that San Luis Obispo is one of California’s oldest communities.I saw the infamous downtown Bubblegum Alley where I stuck a chewed wad of Wrigley’s Extra Polar Ice.
I saw three good friends.
I learned that life offers every surprise and delight you need, if only you stop to look.
What did you see this weekend?
For more information on Poly Canyon, check out Inside San Louis: Architecture Graveyard Hike.
As you head off into the world to explore somewhere new, think about how your presence might alter the space.
Fall. Peace. Trabuco Canyon, CA Photography by Catherine Keefe
How does the act of writing create or perpetuate myth about places?
Is there any such thing as an impartial observer?
What of our past do we bring to our present experience?
“Take only memories, leave only footprints,” Chief Seattle once said.
Will you write about memories or footprints?
“I’m eager to explore my new surroundings,” an ENG 103 student wrote.
Will you take the spirit of exploration with you, or approach the experience as a drudgery homework assignment?
Be attentive as you explore.
Be open and curious.
Be aware that your presence will linger after you’re gone.
As active agent, you determine what kind of silk or wool or nubby yarn this experience will become in the tapestry of your life.
Writing About Place syllabus is almost ready to launch.
Trabuco Canyon, CA Photo Credit: Catherine Keefe
The course is inspired by this Joan Didion quote from The White Album.
“Kilimanjaro belongs to Ernest Hemingway. Oxford, Mississippi, belongs to William Faulkner… a great deal of Honolulu has always belonged for me to James Jones… A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his image.” Joan Didion from The White Album.
Here’s to figuring out how to claim our place.
happens in June, 2015.
If you’re sorry to see our Writing About Place class come to an end, remember that learning to write is a lifelong journey with myriad opportunities and Writing on the Edge sounds like one of the best. It’s especially well-suited for writers with curiosity.
Grand Canyon Photo by Catherine Keefe
Thea Gavin, Orange County poet extraordinaire and barefoot hiker, offers a 4-day writing workshop at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon from June 23-26, 2015.
Some of the topics listed in the class brochure include:
assembling the nature writer’s toolkit, paying attention, recording details, writing origin stories, lyrical storytelling, campfire story sharing, and discovering the singer and the song.
There’s complimentary camping at the North Rim Campground or participants can arrange to stay and the Grand Canyon Lodge. The class is open to all ages and writing skill levels.
Hiking difficulty is listed as a 1 out of 10 meaning “negligible elevation change” and distances of up to 3 miles.
Cost is $375.
Registration is now open. Find all the details at The Grand Canyon Association website here.
Green Gulch Farm Photo Credit: Catherine Keefe
These snippets are taken from the prologue of The Best American Essays, Seventh College Edition, edited by Robert Atwan. They’re gathered under the title “Essayists on the Essay.”
“What is an essay…All you can safely say is that it’s not poetry and it’s not fiction.” -Justine Kaplan
“…essays take their tone and momentum from the explicit presence of the writer in them and the distinctiveness of each writer’s perspective.” – Susan Orlean
“I am predisposed to the essay with knowledge to impart…” – Joyce Carol Oates
“An essay is not a scientific document…More than being instructive, as a magazine article is, an essay has a slant, a seasoned personality behind it that ought to weather well.” -Edward Hoagland
“Essays, in the end, are not monologues.” – Edwidge Danticat
“A genuine essay feels less like a monologue than a dialogue between writer and reader.” – Kathleen Norris
“There’s nothing you cannot do with it; no subject matter is forbidden, no structure is proscribed.” – Annie Dillard
“We speak a good deal these days of the loss of community, and many of us feel that we have lost therefore something very precious. Essays can move us back into this not-quite-lost realm.” – Mary Oliver
“The material is the world itself…” Annie Dillard