A house is the foundational site for everyday living, for rooting in place. At the same time, a house is a site for processing loss. It has its own cycle of breaking down, and is subject to larger ecosystemic uncertainties. It is much like an organism extending from our creature selves. How does a seemingly stable structure adapt, across different intervals of time?
A house carries ghosts, nightmares, memories. Meeting here we can open up with vulnerability, make space for grief, look towards collective healing.
Thus we arrive at a wild domesticity. How do we commune with each other, humans and nonhumans, amidst a gradually hostile world? How do we redirect expectations toward antiquated structures and seed potentiality in the unexpectable?
Pueblo architecture can be understood in the context of "a world in which a house or structure is not an object—or a machine to live in—but is part of a cosmological world view that recognizes multiplicity, simultaneity, inclusiveness, and interconnectedness" according to Rina Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo). In this tradition, buildings are seen as living entities with a finite lifespan, and "are fed cornmeal after construction so that they may have a good life." The "center" is an important concept, with the plaza as both the physical center of the village and the metaphysical center of the universe.
All bread is made of wood,
cow dung, packed brown moss,
the bodies of dead animals, the teeth
and backbones, what is left
after the ravens. This dirt
flows through the stems into the grain,
into the arm, nine strokes
of the axe, skin from a tree,
good water which is the first
gift, four hours.
Live burial under a moist cloth,
a silver dish, the row
of white famine bellies
swollen and taut in the oven,
lungfuls of warm breath stopped
in the heat from an old sun.
Good bread has the salt taste
of your hands after nine
strokes of the axe, the salt
taste of your mouth, it smells
of its own small death, of the deaths
before and after.
Lift these ashes
into your mouth, your blood;
to know what you devour
is to consecrate it,
almost. All bread must be broken
so it can be shared. Together
we eat this earth.
This is what makes plastics particularly interesting as a pollutant, though there are other pollutants that do it too, which is that there's not really a simple nature / culture divide, there's not really an “us and them”, or “it and us”, or whatever you want to call it, and I remember this when I was on one of my first research voyages, is we were out in the middle of the open ocean, there is nothing anywhere near us that you could see above the water, and we came across this floating clump of a buoy with some ropes and snails around it, and living around all of this was not only that bacteria and these sorts of things of the plastisphere, but, like, in huge—like I could eat them huge fish, right, so it was acting as what's called a “fish aggregator”, which is something that provides shade and food for fish, and most of these fish were tropical reef fish, so we’re halfway between Bermuda and New York City when we found this, and so it'd probably started closer to Bermuda near the shore, and this entire little fish village had moved out into the ocean. And the debate with all the scientists on board was, “do we take it out and kill everything, or do we leave it in, even though it's pollution?” I, personally, voted to leave it in, but I was vastly outnumbered, and outvoted, because the other side has understood their primary, and really their only goal - to get rid of plastics. And so they took it out, and the fish died, and all the things living on it died, and so this idea and annihilation, right, the ban, the getting rid of straws, getting rid of plastics, “boo plastic”, in a very complete sort of way is very, very strong, even with scientists, you know, across different social movements, across different sectors, as a sort of annihilation relationship. But I think if you annihilate plastics, just, you know, you can do a thought experiment, you would end up in a B-Horror movie really fast like our roads would crumble, our airplanes would fall out of the sky, like, just things would immediately cease working.
“Despite all our accomplishments, we owe our existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact it rains.”