Magazine article Sierra

Moment by Moment

Magazine article Sierra

Moment by Moment

Article excerpt

It's a strange jungle summer in Wyoming; caravans of ponderous, belly-dragging storms keep arriving from the south. By this time the summer motif should be established: isolated thunderstorm cells, visible from infancy through dissolution, rising up over the ranges. The neighboring rancher out in the soggy hayfields looks up at the sky, puzzled because he expects the usual pattern and this weather strikes him as too eventful.

But with or without clouds, the atmosphere is pure and ceaseless event. The prejudice of Western minds that see the world as an inert collection of things keeps us from focusing on the real constants, movement and change. When I ask my students to create an "event map"--a collection of notes and sketches that attempts to trace a bit of this flow, all I need to say is, "everything is doing something." This is a simplistic way of describing event-centered perception, but it serves to launch them on unexpected trajectories. Even something as solid as a mountain can be an event.

Walking into the Badlands to draw, I watch for the small events inside the present moment. An old juniper still works through variations on its twist-and-whorl growth style; then a kestrel lands on an outstretched limb in a superb contrapuntal gesture. A black stone rests on the edge of a sand rivulet, its precise placement the culmination of countless other transformations. Alan Watts once wrote, "The bud has opened and the fresh leaves fan out and curve back with a gesture which is unmistakably communicative, but does not say anything except, |Thus! …

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