Photographs of the American West by Wim Wenders
John Muir, from “A Wind-Storm in the Forests” (1894):
Toward midday, after a long, tingling scramble through copses of hazel and ceanothus, I gained the summit of the highest ridge in the neighborhood; and then it occurred to me that it would be a fine thing to climb one of the trees to obtain a wider outlook and get my ear close to the Aeolian music of its topmost needles. But under the circumstances the choice of a tree was a serious matter. One whose instep was not very strong seemed in danger of being blown down, or of being struck by others in case they should fall; another was branchless to a considerable height above the ground, and at the same time too large to be grasped with arms and legs in climbing; while others were not favorably situated for clear views. After cautiously casting about, I made choice of the tallest of a group of Douglas Spruces that were growing close together like a tuft of grass, no one of which seemed likely to fall unless all the rest fell with it. Though comparatively young, they were about 100 feet high, and their lithe, brushy tops were rocking and swirling in wild ecstasy. Being accustomed to climb trees in making botanical studies, I experienced no difficulty in reaching the top of this one, and never before did I enjoy so noble an exhilaration of motion. The slender tops fairly flapped and swished in the passionate torrent, bending and swirling backward and forward, round and round, tracing indescribable combinations of vertical and horizontal curves, while I clung with muscles firm braced, like a bobolink on a reed.
“Leaves,” one of the last poems written by Ursula K. Le Guin:
Years do odd things to identity.
What does it mean to say
I am that child in the photograph
at Kishamish in 1935?
Might as well say I am the shadow
of a leaf of the acacia tree
felled seventy years ago
moving on the page the child reads.
Might as well say I am the words she read
or the words I wrote in other years,
flicker of shade and sunlight
as the wind moves through the leaves.
Here’s a thoughtful interview with David Naimon about Le Guin’s verse.
Four years ago in this newsletter I wrote about the beautiful records that Henry Kaiser and David Lindley made thirty years ago with a bunch of Malagasy musicians, and I singled out for praise a song with a fascinatingly mixed ethnic heritage: “Hana.” David Lindley died in March, alas, so this is a good time to listen to his glorious solo on that song, played on his trademark Weissenborn lap slide guitar. R.I.P. Prince of Polyester.
Edward Tenner on Adam Smith and the Roomba:
Could household automation be not only irrelevant to fundamental human welfare, but harmful? As an omnivorous reader, Smith would no doubt discover in our medical literature the well-established dangers of sedentary living (he loved “long solitary walks by the Sea side”) and the virtues of getting up regularly to perform minor chores, such as turning lights on and off, adjusting the thermostat, and vacuuming the room, the same sorts of fidgeting that the Roomba and the entire Internet of Things are hailed as replacing. In fact the very speed of improvement of robotic vacuums may be a hazard in itself, as obsolescent models add to the accumulation of used batteries and environmentally hazardous electronic waste.
As the sustainability movement grows, there are signs of a revival of the humble carpet sweeper, invented in 1876, as sold by legacy brands like Fuller Brush and Bissell. They offer recycled plastic parts, independence of the electric grid, and freedom from worry about hackers downloading users’ home layouts from the robots’ increasingly sophisticated cloud storage.
You may read more about the history of the carpet sweeper here.
Detail from the Bisitun Inscription relief showing Darius I wearing a crown. Stone, about 520 BC onwards. Photo by Surenae, WikiCommons (CC BY-SA 4.0). See the British Museum Blog for more about Persian coronations.