I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West

drew's writing:

  • "Always Forever Now," Ideomancer volume 13, issue 2
  • "Black Sun," Black Static # 32
  • "Bread or Cake" and "Pride/Shame,"2nd Annual Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival
  • "Copper Heart," Polluto Magazine issue 5, A Steampunk Orange
  • "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
  • "Hating the Lovers," and "Pipe Down!" Geez Magazine: Thirty Sermons You Would Never Hear in Church
  • "Beth/slash/Nathan," Paper Fruit Blogiversary Contest

Thursday, April 14, 2011

8th Philly hike of 2011, Pennypack; snakes, flowers, kingfishers, understory; Equus

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A screaming woman alerted us to the presence of this snake. We were at Pennypack Park with a friend I like to call The Duchess. The screaming woman stood on a slope between two paths, holding a small child by the hand. We stood on the upper path while a man dragged a teenage girl toward the lower path. At first I thought the teenager was making all the noise; it didn't sound like it was coming from an adult.

When I realized a snake was involved, I became concerned. Snakes get hurt in scenarios like this.

The Duchess and I walked down the slope to the woman. She complained that there were millions of snakes pouring from a hole on the slope. How could she get to her family on the lower path? I told her to return to the upper path, and follow it to where it met the lower path, and all could be safely reunited. (The juncture was visible from where we stood). The man on the lower path continued to grip the teenage girl by the wrist, as if afraid she might lunge for the snakes like some death-starved Cleopatra.

The woman turned and walked up the slope with the child. The Duchess and I looked for the snakes. I didn't know the Duchess would be as excited to see snakes as I am; like everything in nature, friendship is always becoming. Two garter snakes rippled over the leaf litter in opposite directions like water drops on a car window. I like garter snakes; they fool fish by mimicking the movement of grass, and some males seduce other males by producing female pheromones--to steal warmth, to distract rivals from mating opportunities, and, maybe, just for kicks.

(At this time of year snakes wake from their winter slumbers in hibernacula on south-facing slopes, so avoid these if you are phobic.)

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This was perhaps our richest hike yet for native species. A fellow student in a class I am taking is coaching me on spring ephemerals, plants that bloom before the canopy leafs out. Thanks to her, I saw loads, including the trout lilies you see above, and

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blood root,

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may apples,

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spring beauty,

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and toothwort. I had read that the deer are so controlled in Pennypack that there is actually an understory in parts of the park. Still, I was astonished when we walked into a grove of what I think was witch hazel or maybe green ash--clouds of yellow buds in every direction. Beautiful. We looked for barn swallows around a bridge where The Book (of fifty Philly-area hikes we are sworn to complete before the year is out) predicted we might see them; we didn't, but the Duchess spotted their nests. She explained her love of beech--the bark reminds her of elephant skin. My camerado, a creek fan, was pleased by the creek. We heard the bold rapping of woodpeckers. Best of all (for me), my obsession with the color blue was stimulated by the sight of two kingfishers. One flew up the stream and perched, turning its unmistakable profile toward us--a thrill--this is only the second time I've seen this species in the wild.

(The first time was with my dad, and that doesn't totally count--creatures flock to him as to St. Francis or Snow White).

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How tempted I was to take this blue rock! I'm trying to i.d. it, but can only formulate lame theories. Blueschist is my working hypothesis, but this rock seems harder, like a quartzite.

Pennypack is in the far northeast section of the city, but according to The Book of Philly Hikes and my on-line reading, it is teeming with wildlife. I hope to go back at dusk and look for owls (great horned and screech), grey foxes, and weasels. We also did not have time for me to investigate many logs for salamander eggs, because we had to get the Duchess back to her castle, and we wanted to see the EgoPo/Philadelphia Artist's Collective reading of Equus.

I thought I would write at length here about Equus, but have only sour things to say about this play, which raises intriguing questions and finds answers that are simplistic to the point of wrong. Alan's parents are entirely to blame for his problems and tweaking Alan's relationship to his personal religion so he can get along in the world would be completely terrible. I had a hard time believing Alan and his shrink were as brilliant as other characters said they were when Alan's religion seems a bit slapdash and Dr. Dysart is so easily thrown by Alan's probing him about his sex life. I read some reviews of the recent revival and original production of Equus; one reviewer praised Peter Shaffer for returning ritual to theater. I thought that was a good point: the reading I saw had Shaffer's words and solid acting, but I could not have felt the power of Shaffer's bold pagan imagery without seeing a full production. Maybe I would have been as seduced as the audience of the 1970s version.

This got me thinking that the ideal production of Equus would be a ballet, with red streamers for horse blood, no dialog, and a nice homoerotic pas de deux between Alan and Dysart (Equus is like the movie of Fight Club, a completely gay artifact that nowhere states its gayness). The music could be by the Doors, or Neil Young, or, I don't know, Stravinsky.

At any rate, we continue to be fans of EgoPo and Philly Artist's Collective, and are excited about the former's Golem and Dybbuk, and the latter's Marivaux in 2012.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

valley forge, 7th hike of 2011; monuments to monuments; danny boyle's frankenstein

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Back on track with the hiking, which will please my dad. WHAT'S GOING ON SON? he asked me recently. ARE YOU GUYS SLACKING OFF? (We swore that before the year was out we would complete all fifty hikes in a Philly-area hiking book my camerado got for his birthday--and we're a few hikes behind). Our highlights of Valley Forge were finding a turkey feather and hearing spring peepers, which to me sound just like the spacey atmospheric sound effects in original series Star Trek. We also enjoyed seeing a small monument the masons put up to commemorate their restoration of the National Memorial Arch. We hope a smaller monument will one day be erected to commemorate the restoration of the small monument that commemorates the restoration of the National Memorial Arch, till a trail of ever-tinier monuments spirals over the rolling hills of Valley Forge like dominos. We found some cool ruins and wondered if they were an open-air theater built for the bicentennial and then left to rot:
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See the deer on the right? The whole tableau suggested a post-apocalyptic scene in which we were strapping survivalists striding through the remnants of civilization looking for dinner, bows on our backs. My natural science goal for this hike was to learn to identify chestnut oak just by the bark--a modest goal, but I didn't have time to prepare more ambitious ones. I had hustled to Bryn Mawr Film Institute earlier in the day to see the simulcast of the National Theater's Frankenstein directed by Danny Boyle. As the creature, Benedict Cumberbach was preternaturally powerful, but also weightless as a dancer or ghost--a William Blake or Henry Fuseli drawing come to life. Here's Fuseli's Hamlet pere et fils:
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Cumberbach really did move and gesture with the strange, hypertrophic grace of a figure from the lunatic/classicist art of the time Frankenstein was written--and his performance was a miracle of power, lyricism, crudity, hope, and pain. The flaw in this Frankenstein was in the writing: the creature is so sensitive and enlightened, the murders seem out of character. Each time the plot starts ramping itself toward tragedy I can see more reasonable, plausible paths fork away from it, and wonder why these characters don't talk their problems out. If I was baffled at times by the creature's choices, I found nearly every choice Victor makes in the play unbelievable. It all made me want to reread the book--I was a little younger than its author last time I opened it.

UPDATE: my camerado informs me that we will have to rehike this week's hike, as we went nowhere near the parts of Valley Forge the book we are working from recommended. It's a good idea, because I'd like to read up on the history of Valley Forge--but--we are a good four hikes behind schedule aready... Will our year end as it began, with us scrambling around in the snow to complete our mission?

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