We drive up, I struggle to keep up with cars that are not from 1974. A winding and very fun drive up to Sandia Crest.
I am uncertain how to approach embodied research, and so I scab an idea I put into my notes app on my phone over the summer – a meditation for connecting one’s body with one’s neighborhood. This is not a place I can visit every day, so it is a somewhat different experience.
I made up
For connecting your body
To your place
During corona times
Before you begin: Find a place to lay on the ground in your yard or in a nearby park.
You may bring an old sheet, a beach towel, or something comparable so that you are comfortable and not itchy in the grass.
Find a shady place where you feel very comfortable.
Imagine that there is one best place for you to be and take your time finding it.
You may have to go there a few times to become comfortable enough to relax.
Mark out your space so that you feel safe:
Having a large blanket or something will mark out your territory.
Wear very comfortable clothing and a mask in case someone comes up and pesters you.
Find a way of making peace with the presence of others in your space.
Find a way of making peace with accepting the sounds of the place, or find a place with sounds which are acceptable to you. In short, find a place which utterly suits you.
1. Breathe in to count of ten, slowly, while moving awareness of your toes up your ankles, and focusing solely on your legs and lower back and hips. You can incorporate your entire body as time passes but feel content with remaining focused on just your legs, or even your feet and heels if this is easier for you. Breathe out to the count of ten – moving awareness to a ten foot radius around you. Continue until you have spread this awareness to the surrounding neighborhood. It is helpful to perform this meditation over the span of a week or two along with daily walks prior to and following each meditation session through the neighborhood aimed at a deep awareness of the space. While breathing in, feel each individual toe, and muscles and tendons, along with your skin. Be aware of the feel of your clothing. Over time, blend the awareness of your immediate surroundings with the feelings of extra pressure in your heels and hips, integrating your body with the ground in your mind. Continue counting your breaths and focus on connecting your body to your increasing familiarity with your neighborhood, which has been revealing itself to you in new and surprising ways every day. Breathe in slowly, and imagine that with each breath you are taking in and thus becoming the neighborhood, and with each breath out you are giving part of your body and your body’s respiratory droplets/water to the neighborhood. Feel the healing power of this exchange. Feel the vulnerability and responsibility of being a part of your neighborhood.
And so I took some time finding a place which utterly suited me, first urinating nearby out of both a need to urinate and a desire to not urinate over a cesspit in a communal space with no ventilation and the accompanying anxiety that that situation now causes me. Also with the knowledge that plants like some urea and understanding that this is actually a functional gift I have to give to some entities here.
Meditation was easy here and I let myself fall asleep. The place I found was very mossy, and sloped downward. I thought about the other places I have found for myself which slope and are mossy, like the Old Bear Ranch in Mineral King and my home in Altadena. I quickly fell asleep, which is surprising because this is a new place but also not surprising because everything feels new now and I am exhausted as a general rule. I thought about my engagement with this place based on my prejudices for wetness and darkness and how those preferences have shaped my experience of this place which is mostly not wet.
I remind myself after napping that paying attention to my body and caring for my body do NOT preclude learning and rigor, and I spent some time trying to unwork the shaming of capitalist structures that I have heartily internalized. Pissing and sleeping are two enjoyable and trusting activities that my body can undertake, and I am happy that I have not made an overly academic study of this place, but felt my body and spent time within it. I spent some time prodding the plant life and watching birds which I do not recognize, and then later climbed some rocks and looked out at Albuquerque. I also walked around to the TV towers trying to pay attention to whether or not I could feel their presence in an overt way. I could not.
After visiting Sandia Crest, I have unanswered questions. How does water behave here? Is it stored as snow, how much, how long? And I made what I thought was an absurdist joke about the mountain containing secret underground military operations, but since learning about Manzano Base I wonder how far that structure extends and realize that reality is far more absurd than my imaginings. I’m really flabbergasted by this. And I wonder if my body knew before my brain knew that there were people underneath the mountain.
Alisha – “City of abq still owns these lands – 23 properties – maybe be a landfill, oil/gas, interesting to consider valuation of land. “Biophilia for mountainscapes.”
“Water allocation, significant element of the transaction. How to redistribute – can you separate water from land? Has been in adjudication for many years in New Mexico.”
(the sound of a leaf blower, and the wind)
“Shell games – redistribute land – how to separate land from water.”
Dan has done a lot of research on land grants. “Looking at the past, so lengthy. What angle?”
(wind and leaf blower takes all the words, annihilate them. A bird chirps, sounds like a cricket chirping, comes into and exits the soundscape quickly. A hummingbird?)
“Echelon… stratification… Albuquerque Academy… transitioning of these entities…”
(Wind and leaf blower)…
“being aware of the certain kind of the different kind of Eco-niche we are entering into, the communities, the animal communities…do not feed the prairie dogs… this is a recreational space, what does that mean to recreate? This human interface.”
“Kind of a threshold environment. Each site that we have gone to, we have recognized a human presence, but that will necessarily increase and decrease in concentration depending on where we are”
(Audio of walking, kind of heavy breathing. Sounds settle down into quiet, only background noise, some quiet noises like touching a microphone repeatedly. Loud shuffling noises. Sounds of coughing and drinking water. A zipper, and sounds of subtle movement. Scratching sounds, a pen on paper moving rapidly. Time passes, and voices come in and out of focus)
“They lived, both in Germany, for two years. And in Japan. Because. The Army was still (_?_) stationed there over two (–?–)”
“McArthur was a viceroy… Rome never had a stronger viceroy for any of its (–?–) than Douglas McArthur who RULED Japan, but ruled it wisely.
“and wisely – had to make the decision whether to prosecute Hirohito…”
(conversation moves away, sound of footsteps in fine gravel on hard ground)
(Sound of a zipper. Sound of a mountain bike rolling up and stopping, moving on. Sound of a quick shuffling step accompanied by steady, hard breathing – a jogger. A few minutes of only background noise and stillness. Another bicycle rolls past, and the sound of a small breeze follows immediately. A higher, further away sound of wind or jet persists and increases for about a minute. A shuffling step enters and exits. The scratching sound of pen on paper)
I perform the same kind of operation/meditation here that I did at Sandia Crest, finding a good space to hunker down and connect. I walk for a short while before I find a good spot, which is just off trail but well hidden and a few feet below people. I have found moss and lichen in this space, and settle into a downward slope. I can hear parts of passerby conversation. I find that recording minimizes my anxiety in response to my proximity to strangers, around whose physical presence and my own physical presence I have newly formed anxieties. I am deeply concerned about these new anxieties, and know that repairing them will take more time and more effort to figure out than I have spent in learning them, which feels so big and overwhelming and makes me want to be proactive right now. I aim to make myself find peace with proximity to others through whatever means necessary while prioritizing my ethics and desire not to harm anyone or myself.
I remember flying as a passenger in my father’s small plane and how making photographs minimized my terror almost immediately. The abstracting and collecting satisfaction of recording impresses me here once again. I make enough notes to satisfy my internalized impulses to produce and then I nap, making a timelapse animation of clouds moving and changing overhead while I gently endeavor to end my conscious thoughts. I love that a machine can make this enhanced observation while I close my eyes and shut off my mind. I forget that my phone is operating in this way and does so for a while while I rest.
(extended sound of background noise punctuated by high buzzing sounds of flies and soft footsteps entering and exiting, bicyclists entering and exiting. A sigh. Bird noise every four seconds. A second and different bird noise.)
“You know the (–?–) about extra credit,”
“I can’t hear you.”
“You know Ms. (–?–)? I emailed Ms. Catlin, about extra credit, and she hasn’t responded.” “When did you email her?”
“On… either Thursday or Wednesday.”
“Ok. Don’t worry about it; she – you’re fine”
“I mean… I have a ‘C’ in that class right now-”
“Yeahhhh – but-”
“I don’t know what I had-”
“I wouldn’t worry about it. She’s – what – no – just- She’ll email you back when she can”.
Some time later I run into Brittney and we walk and talk for some time, which feels very good, and then I get lost, and have to exit trails and simply head in the direction I understand to be North to reconnect with the group. Being late makes me nervous. I walk up and down and eventually find a volleyball net, and assume I am near our parking lot. It begins to rain and becomes an overwhelmingly sensuous afternoon, I have trouble focusing on any conversation and am delighted by the rain. I record the conversation so I can revisit it later.
Tijeres Arroyo — 1st Stop
Four Hills Road SE recording: discussion starts after 3:00 minutes
“Well, maybe, do you want to start there just to see it?”
“Sure, I just, I… we can do that, I – “
“We can go that way if you want to cut over that way”
“I think you just go around –“
“It’s a bit of a jump down, kind of like a (___) down almost, the way the roads are now, so” “Oh. Yeah, yeah, no, but you have to avoid their driveway, right?”
“I believe so”
“Yeah, well whatever you want to do”
I immediately notice many juvenile lizards, little scaly and dark ones, on discarded tires and on bottoms of tree trunks.
I see a very large tire, and plants growing out of tire.
I see hypodermic needles and clothing under an overpass.
“People wearing sandals be careful” not to step on needles and broken glass. Similar to LA arroyos, or in Pasadena
I use the “Seek” app to id redwhisker clammyweed Polanisia dodecandra
the seedpods look like radish squidges. The flowers look like plum flowers.
salt cedar – phreatophyte – desert adapted – roots go down deep to connect with water table.
highly alkaline, deposits, they terraform their environment, changed the PH of the soil and change what can grow around
from the leaf droppings
they are taking over a lot of the riparian habitats around the West
huge program to eradicate them – we bring in beetles – biological control
brought in to put pressure on the salt cedar population
But all the wildlife had adapted to salt cedar over many years
wipe out salt cedar – wipe out other communities
try to halt the beetle – but how do you control a beetle
Tingley Elm – Siberian Elm
planted throughtou abq for shade
city eradicating over past decades but they pop up “Tingley’s lice” the seeds
Chinese Elm coming in now
“Tree of Heaven”
Tree of Heaven – “sumac” other names _______________________
Dan thinks they are called mimosa
I think the leaf structure is similar to Persian silk tree
they are different trees, but with a similar leaf pattern. Compound pattern, even pinnate leaves.
We see many Tree of Heaven – they are also apparent around town at old home sites or well sites. They spread through both rhizome and seeds.
We see Rio Grande Cottonwood and Chamisa, which is also called rabbit brush – these are both native. There is some erosion/cutting on visible on the banks of the arroyo.
Arroyo changes through moving sediment, changing shores, meandering.
Old timers talk of springs further up that would run year round, but when was the last time anyone saw any spring activity?
We notice a barn or shed structure above the bank
Dan loves the liminality of the space
I say in CA there are laws about traversing navigable river – could I keep walking up?
not considered a waterway, says Jen
but what about perennial streams? Monsoon, snowpack, streams,
this is county – ranches try to fence/block and define property
liminal zone (((((16 minutes)))))
“cusp of – how do you identify this?”
apatial human understandings of human environment
you go away, somewhere remote – it can be a shock to rediscover the city and ADA compliant structures etc human understandings of built environment – revelatory moment
this year we have a gradient – see this more slowly
Peak what we designate as “nature”, move down into –
High desert/Elena Gallegos – attempt to recreate a habitat – meshing over/overlay, template of wildlife marsh – plastic lined –
what is the nature – is there a defining line between the two? What is habitat? How is his different?
Where we go today is same topography, but here we have these structures. How do we culturally define these edges?
Once we designate something as private property, it can limit our capability to “see” the natural elements
consider as we move about different spaces
look at scale – ant colonies in the urban environment – pull the lens out, what does that do to our understanding?
How people find those edges
Jen – Alisha – grappling with idea of connection – boundaries – America – private – controlled by individual – right to control, but it is part of larger ecological system, water rushing through backyards and off roofs, or different plant communities, animals in the city. About connections. What do we enable, prohibit, or modify to construct different connectivity
New Mexico waterway laws similar – recent laws privatize parts of Pecos -some of the river has been given to ranchers who are doing conservation actions. ?
Relationship with policies we make and how they impact the life of these different landscapes. defining line of Rio Grande
Big Bend, no fence
river meanders – territory changes depending on how the river meanders. How to determine physical parameters/property lines of something as changeable as a river?
arbitrary nature of trying to determine ownership over structure that has been changing and moving landscape architecture theory – idea that landscape is always changing.
systems that have many overlays, not necessarily ever beholden to our structures and systems. So depending on your aim or point of view, systems can look quite different.
Revisit sites every year, even the most finite differences can give you a different experience of structure. What if instead of “structure or “system” you said “life force” and “energy”. Your relationship to the thing changes.
“Want to come back and walk this place. It is so much of what I am interested in: a fine line between private spaces, who owns this and what that means, feels like a place I should come back and explore a little bit. The detritus left behind – these acts of human element, you can see some kind of control taking place… lot of remnants of things that call to lack of respect, throw trash in this particular feels like you have some kind of right to do so. I’m feeling a lot in this particular area”
I think – why should we have the right to walk in this place while we call out the right for “trash” to be here, or for others to feel entitled to leave objects in this particular place? Why is it more appropriate to place trash in one giant heap in some location and not in this place? Is garbage in proximity to flowers somehow more offensive? Is garbage placed together with more garage appealing to our sense of “everything in a place and a aplce for everything”? These thoughts are interesting to me, because it is thoughts like these that structure how we limit space, how we define and use space and how and when we feel justified in doing so.
Why should one place deserve our respect while others are deidcated to our garbage?
“flooding in 1998 in the arroyo, and people are constantly concerned with using arroyo as dumping site. Creates more acts of flooding. Pile of things there. Clumping together from wind or water. People’s trash is being moved around. Not a still place; it moves. Some of the east mountain residents have been fighting the city of Albuquerque to buy some of the Tijeres Arroyo to create a system of recreational trails, which I don’t see taking place right now. If we can buy it, we can recreate it, and who recreates it… more things about land grant… this is part of the carnuel land grant association, it has lost like thousands and thousands of acres of land in land swaps. Soil… Think I’m going to return here”
Piles of stuff – makes me think of wind and water. Made in response to flooding, and so made me think of Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers in Los Angeles – huge engineering project that took a lot of time and labor, in response to a lot of death and destruction of property. Visiting the LA River and the San Gabriel Rivers, there are channelized and then there are “soft-bottomed sections” where infiltration is happening, as opposed to runoff in channelized sections. Also what I read about this place made me think of how the intersection of public space and people who are experiencing homelessness, how city infrastructure gives us garbage services and how easy it us for us to take out the garbage. I think of how people are being marginalized when I see this garbage instead of being disgusted by “disrespect” of trash being left in this place. Like to remind myself that this is where people live, where they have little privacy. Surprised this isn’t a waterway and curious about how that is defined, because it looks like there is water here every year.”
There is a great book on the Los Angeles River that I can borrow – Los Angeles had acequia systems and…
bosque – similar to here.
James Corner – ? an architect.
LA is in love with Frank Gehry – who is architect spearheading the Los Angeles River “revitalization” project
Shows how things change over a timeline – what interests are there – and how we get to a point where the Los Angeles River is no longer identifiable.
Phreatophytes – desert adapted plants – roots reach water table. Salt Cedar, Russian Olive, Tree of Heaven. They change the alkaline content of the soil and the biome surrounding the trees – terraforming. Also hoping to see alkali sakaton but haven’t seen them yet.
All these plants listed are monocultural – huge, dense populations – they take over, block out light for other plants. Humans are like these plants.
Perspective – connecting trash with social justice issues.
Research into Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA), on their website their byline is “protecting life and property since 1963”. Fascinated by mandates/language of organizations. They say their purpose is to prevent injury or loss of life and to eliminate or minimize property damage. They do this by building and maintaining flood control structures which help alleviate flooding. Found a report by a scientist giving suggestions for policy makers: “once the work of a drainage basin is disrupted, humans will have to take on a workload to make up for what the stream used to do naturally”.
“Shear stress” , “Liquid/solid suspension
A chart – how an arroyo develops. How can we think we can map a thing like this, with land use, external influences: climatic conditions, internal adjustments: etc.
Wild animals – maybe someone is planning a greenway for mule deer
Economic advantages – long term changes – who has access to living in a neighborhood – may help put money in this kind of project, more than empathy for mule deer.
“Life” means people life, human life, floods that occur in these arroyos have killed lots of people. Developed and undeveloped, channelized, because the water moves quickly and violently. Something to think about. People who live here must grapple with this fact. Be aware that water moves and is so powerful. Weather can change so quickly here.
It’s the number one cause nature-caused cause of death here = flash flooding.
AMAFCA language – 1950s – as opposed to SCFCA (?lol)
More looking at habitat than just property security, we get to visit some of these sites later. Different approach, less cement, less channelization. Humans now have to take up the systems that used to take care of themselves.
Maps of the flood control system are significant
Manzano Open Space, at the end of stagecoach road—2nd stop
Four Hills Road SE (1 hour 32 minutes)
Here we are, Four Hills, quite a distinctive line marked around here, gain orientation in the entire transect, can’t really see the peak from here, we are in the southeastern district of Albuquerque. Beginning of Manzano Mountain Range
Lil Nuggets? Development of the neighborhood
1950s, post WWII, many people move to ABQ for University and Labs, higher economic status, what kind of demographics were this neighborhood built for? Connection between why people want to live here versus near campus. Neighborhoods tend to have certain qualifications, this neighborhood has an association.
They brought this vernacular from their origins, different forms of architectural styles, different landscaping
feels suburban, but not “high end”, very midcentury, idea of living in suburbia very appealing,
interesting because you don’t see a lot of this in ABQ
maybe not as common in New Mexico
In Taos it’s not like this at all. Uncle here, she thought ABQ was all like this
Time moves differently in each different pocket, still sidewalks are a new thing in Taos.
I say neighborhood has affluence, but not new affluence, landscaping, materials, all different – how many of these are older? Living in parent’s home? Mature landscaping? More character. Every place individual.
Distinguish yourself – salmon themed mailbox – place to be expressive of who you are – expressiveness.
No sidewalks here – no thought for people who are mobile by foot or wheelchair, steep curbs
“Elephant in the backyard”
place to be – but Ray Bradbury-like darkness – Manzano mountain – storage facility for nuclear warheads – pretty well fortified – look at aerial photograph to see stabilized entry points, bulkheads.
they drilled a giant tunnel into the mountain
military golf course near
La Cabra Dr SE (6 min)
sensation of presence with images…
hummingbird came up to me when I sat in shade near rocks, put its face right into the mango juice bottle. Orange cap.
sound – sensitive when walking – changes understanding of body in space
everything is jaw-dropping – the sounds – touching things, walking, wind
more sensitive and less sensitive than my human ears – Magdalena can hear birds and bugs better with her ears
Alisha says we also have directional mic – more control
Ryan says not as hot as anticipated – can manage exposure?
later we will go to the Brent Baca Memorial Disc Golf Course, south of town
place we can gather – shade – explore – there will be more people in this area
we get on I40, then i25, rio bravo exit, then get in the left turning lane and go south, parallel i25 on broadway. Junkyards, industrial, go down Bobby Foster, takes you over a little bridge, make a left, it takes you back into a canyon. Road turns into los picaros. Cluster of facilities, transfer station, golf course across the street from this.
Brent Baca Memorial Disc Golf Course—3rd stop (no audio)
There is little shade here, DIY “Mad Max” or “Burning Man” aesthetic. Bring your own picnic chair, pour your own tiny concrete foundation. Still there are butterflies and moths pollinating something like a butterfly bush – this remains habitat alongside extensive and varied human endeavor.
This is a different kind of leisure space – not curated to appear “natural”, like Elena Gallegos or Sandia Crest.
Question – what are the things that change our ideas about a place? “Contextual staging”. How can we decontextualize in order to make new sense of a place?
What are the variables that bring WELL-BEING into a place?
Who holds memories of this place?
Who remembers the tree farm here?
It can be helpful to project into the future – what are the conventions we have now and how do they get established?
I encounter this place through two enhanced awarenesses – a microphone hooked up to headphones and arms and legs exposed to more extended time under sunlight than I have experienced for months. It’s not uncomfortably hot but I am very aware of being in full sun for a duration. Being able to hear my footsteps and the differences in sand, gravel, flat and firm earth versus loose gravel is endlessly fascinating and makes me feel totally contained in my body in this new space; I am not trying to orient myself past the limitations of my body. It is an overwhelming experience from moment to moment.
I find a wooden shelter structure for frisbee golf players, there a re a few empty corona bottles inside and it is excellent to get out of the sun for a while. There is a breeze and I can hear the structure creaking, I can hear twigs hit each other quietly.
In the days that follow I realize how much I cannot hear. Have I not noticed this before, and simply gotten closer to people in order to hear what they have to say? This makes me consider how my own physical parameters dictate the systems and relations that I operate within. This makes me also consider how adaptable I am and how these changes in distance have made me aware more of my own body in so many ways.
I think of my body in this space. I realize I have been contained in my body for a long time and allow myself to consider an increasing swath of space around me, consider the airport, locate the Crest and orient myself. I take this further and imagine the distances I covered in my car driving here less than a month ago and imagine my home and different places I have lived and where they are in relation to me now.
I do not record audio of conversation because I want a different experience of every place and understand how much media dictates experience. I take notes with a pen. I lose much of the lil’ nuggets of information and feel like I have missed out on something. I remember that the most authoritarian regimes are obsessed with documentation and try to quiet the collecting part of my mind.
I squat under a tree and call my partner for five minutes, describing where I am and asking what he is doing and where he is in our house. Imagining my home while in this place feels like an immense collapsing of space. I feel like I’ve done something wrong by making a phone call here, but I think that this place is transgressive so maybe it’s ok.