One Boiled Frog

it's getting warm out there.

When I first took a look at the garden in our newly rented house, I expected the plants to be affected by too much shade and a ground aspect that pointed away from the most sun exposure. I also assumed that a few heavy amendments to the dirt would be enough to make living soil. I was wrong on both accounts.

The dryness of Susanville’s high desert climate more than made up for the tall pines that shaded the garden after 6 or 7 pm. After two times a day of watering, I could put my finger a couple inches into the soil and feel only dry sand. And speaking of dry sand: Over a dozen bags of Harvest Supreme soil amendments couldn’t turn my dirt into anything other than. We mixed the bags into the first six inches of topsoil. After a few days of watering, the material packed down, and it looked as if I just had a browner color of caked sand. Water wasn’t absorbed, and was instead wicked off into the walkway.

Because of these factors, the carrots and more than 70 percent of all the seeds did not germinate. It took weeks for the spinach to become visible. Only one eggplant seedling came to fruition.

It’s funny that I read gardening books, and right when I start gardening, I completely ignore them and try to do improvise what would appear to work for garden, but might not really. After these dismal results in July, I started reading up on what plants like carrots and spinach might need to succeed in these beds. One thing emphasized for the carrots was a lot of water. This is when I started sticking my finger into the soil and realizing we weren’t nearly watering enough to make up for the the 95+ degree heat the past month, and the terrible water absorption capabilities of our amended soils.

In light of the lack of water, I wanted to mitigate the absorption issues by purchasing peat moss, so that the soil would have more spongey, organic material to absorb water further into the top soil. I also purchased more of the compost amendments with wood chips, so that the soil would be more aerated and less of a sand cake.

Lastly, I asked my girlfriend and landlord, who both water the garden while I’m away, to be much more aggressive with watering the plants. I let them know that the water wasn’t actually penetrating beneath the first quarter inch of sand, and that the carrots will have a hard time if they don’t get enough.

Within a week of these changes, my next round of seeded carrots succeeded in germinating, along with a few more eggplants and beets. I’ve also planted basil and onions, which have shown themselves recently as well. While not a full success story—I’d like to eat these veggies sooner or later, and it’ll be a bit before that—I am glad that a few basic changes, or adaptations, to the garden allowed it to at least start seeds much more effectively than a month ago. As a beginner gardener armed with only books and the hearsay of locals, every week of seeding and gardening has been a fundamental lesson in the caring of plants.

Thank the Spotify algorithmic gods, I have rekindled my love for Jungle and DnB, especially the 90s style where it seems like anything is still possible for the form. Since the 2000s, Jungle and DnB ossified into genre constraints rather than platforms for experimentation, with the strong exception of artists like Detboi or Burial, where mood and soundscape using “traditional” electronic instruments take precedence over familiarity and dance club optimizations.

D’Cruze’s Lonely (Spotify link), a 1994 Jungle classic, epitomizes what the genre can be. Spacey, warped vocals over a transcending synth. Punctuated by cut up and variated breaks, occasionally mangled in ways that our modern step sequencers tend to discourage, with sudden left and right stereo movements and glitchy skips and repeats.

Great Jungle/DnB tricks the listener into thinking that these tracks were not made on a computer, but a mysterious and beautifully crafted electronic music device that has an analog philosophy: The same sound shouldn’t really be the exact same sound.

Other recommendations:

Johnny Jungle – Johnny ‘94 (Dillinga Remix)

Detboi – Secret Venom

I met up with a couple in a Cancun hostel to head down to Tulum and find a free beach to camp on for a week or two. They were a huge asset: They knew a good amount of Spanish after bumming around South America for a few months. This was the last few weeks of their travels before going back to New Jersey.

We got into Tulum after dark and called up a taxi cab. The cab driver recommended we go to a local beach north of Tulum by a few miles. There are a lot of beaches taken up by resorts and private residences, but this was one of a few that was open to all. We arrived and it was a little windy, but the weather was still in the 70s, so even though we struggled to set up our tents, we were comfortable in our efforts (maybe I only think of this as I write during the winter, during which the Mojave Desert is cold and windy).

We stayed on the public beach for about 10 days. Every few days we would walk to a nearby grocery store a few miles down the street for food and wine. During these walks were when I am reminded that people like this couple are not just conduits for adventure, but their own people struggling with their own personal issues. After 6 months of traveling, they are wary to see it go; the stresses of coming back to “real life” were compounded by their tendency to take out their stresses on the other. The fights were not loud or extended, but quiet and short. I appreciated being an afterthought to their entire experience; they led me here on convenience coincidence, and I enjoy living life in serendipity rather than full intention.

On the 10th day, the local police guided us out of the public beach (kicked us out, but they were nice about it) to a paid tent camping spot not far at all. It was only 5 dollars a night, and had some fire-making amenities. So for a couple more days, we celebrated the new location and spoke with the owner, who had owned the land for decades and was finally getting some use out of it by charging tent campers.

The couple left, but I stayed. I moved on to a hostel in Tulum after a few days of aloneness on the beach. I don’t know how to make friends on a beach in a foreign country, especially one that is only populated by locals.

Overall, my trip to Cancun and Tulum was instigated by sadness but floated on the quiet beauties of nature and good-natured people. It was a pleasant experience to meet up with these New Jersey-ans and see a part of Tulum that I wouldn’t have if I stuck to my English-rooted rails of tourism. I wish I remembered your names! reporting on a University of Washington study:

… Yellow fever mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) fly toward specific colors, including red, orange, black and cyan, but they ignore other colors, such as green, purple, blue and white.

I’ll consider this when purchasing shelter gear. I’m planning to use a white heavy duty tarp for rain protection because darker colors only exacerbates desert heats. This helps seal the deal.

Dramatic photo of Tuesday, the dog.

Dramatic photo of Tuesday, the dog.

Sosa at the valley of Alcove Spring Trail.

Sosa at the valley of Alcove Spring Trail.

Cady Hill in Vermont.

Cady Hill in Vermont.

We have left land and have embarked. We have burned our bridges behind us—indeed, we have gone farther and destroyed the land behind us. Now, little ship, look out! Beside you is the ocean: to be sure, it does not always roar, and at times it lies spread out like silk and gold and reveries of graciousness. But hours will come when you realize that it is infinite and there is nothing more awesome than infinity. Oh, the poor bird that felt free and now strikes the walls of this cage! Woe, when you feel homesick for the land as if it had offered more freedom—and there is no longer any “land.”

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, The Gay Science (Book 3, 124)

In late-2020, I spoke with a mother and daughter from Wisconsin. The daughter, Shelly, is in her early early-twenties and about to leave with an undergraduate degree in hospital administration with an emphasis on ecologically-focused management. Shelly is eager to enter the workforce, but anxious about what good she can do in her line of work. With her minor in this ecological mindset, she worried that her idealisms of environmental-consciousness won’t translate into her work. Shelly couldn’t be “like everyone else”. She remained at an impasse, feeling as though the rails she started upon will only lead her to a path of mediocrity without ideals.

Her mother previously worried that Shelly was carrying all of this environmental responsibility on her shoulders, causing undue stress on the undergraduate since she switched majors from engineering into this hospital administration career path. Angela reassured Shelly that she’ll find a good job that will make a good impact on the earth. But! Shelly should not stress out about changing the whole world, because no single person is able to do that.

“Sometimes you just need to make sure that your family and friends are healthy and safe, which is most important of all,” the mother said. Shelly didn’t respond.

I added to this. “I agree with your mother, family and friends do need to be taken care of. But if you do see environmental injustices in the world—even if you can’t directly change it all right now, you can still contribute to the larger conversation. So the least you can do is write and talk about it, and use whatever expertise you have to forward the conversation on what is wrong right now and what can be changed for the better. I’d say that to really know that your family and friends are safe, you can work closely together to guarantee a healthy future for everyone in the family and local community. You have to write and talk first, or else there’s nothing for family, friends, and others to stand on.”

I didn’t expect much of a response. Shelly is testing the waters of life right now, and providing her the keys to a small but potent kingdom of local action can be overwhelming for someone that never grew up to believe in action. I believe that Shelly—like many of us—hope that there’s some organization that already exists that’s trying to do exactly what we want, thus making us redundant, able to wash our hands of a responsibility to organize action ourselves. It’s not out of laziness, but it is out of a shying away from any kind of boldness that needs to exist to enact change. Shelly muttered a bit and went to bed. Angela stayed at the kitchen table and we spoke for a bit longer.

“You know,” Angela said, “I guess when we get older we tend to lose those idealisms. That’s why I just say “stick to friends and family”, because it’s something we know we can do. After a while, we see the people who are most active fail or just mellow out. So we mellow out as well. But maybe that’s not what Shelly wants right now.”

Angela’s observation gave me another: We are living in a decades-long age without parents. Yes, everyone has biological parents. But these biological parents share little to nothing with their children on how to experience life beyond navigating institutions set long before they were ever born. Hospital bills, taxes, real estate, stocks. These are the abstracted realities that our parents can provide light guidance on before we then pass those skills on to the next generation. But on experiencing a good life? They hope that college, a well-paid job, long, global vacations and a fruitful retirement will be the Frankenstein-ian recipe for a spiritually well-lived life.

I ask you: Do you envy your parents in any way? Maybe as a child: I remember my dad’s old girlfriend worked in a post office and at first it felt like an adventure: mail coming from all over the world, right here in Mount Vernon. Even all the office supplies felt like toys. Paper clips could become anything you desired. There was a rubber band ball that I could bounce and take apart. Paper was a canvas to draw anything I wanted. There was a time in childhood when work, no matter how mundane, appeared like play. Smiling, playful people all having fun enacting these roles as mailmen, clerks, sorters.

But then you grow up a bit more and you find that this isn’t pay: This is survival. These people are doing all of this to eat. And they may have been smiling at a child, but they’re not smiling anymore when they’re alone in a post office, and they can’t find someone’s requested parcel. Even the smallest pressures of mundanity feel like the world is ending—because in the scope of this job, it is beginning and ending of the world. Serving the Mount Vernon U.S. Post Service enables you to eat, sleep under a roof, and buy entertainment.

When you find out that your parents haven’t been playing this whole time, and merely surviving a system that they can barely comprehend, you lose that pride you had. No wonder why adolescents are so moody: They are falling out of love with the reality they’ve been given.

Right now, during this pandemic, I see predominantly white-collar parents trapped in their home, interacting with digital faces on Zoom and taking crackling phone calls on speaker phone. How could I ever envy this life? What examples should I follow from these parents? That the desk, the couch, the bedroom is the place to be for most of my life, except when I spend money for global and domestic vacations? That life is mostly boredom with fits of pain and happiness?

We are living in an age without ideological parents. We are raised by biological parents, obligated to feed, clothe, and house us. But very, very few of these biological parents feel as if their child can do better in experiencing life than them. So these parents are okay when their children accept the same routines, because it at least worked for this generation. Lacking any idealisms of what things should be, and without living the life to make it so, these parents provide children the basest minimum of spiritual fulfillment. I thank my parents for the okay childhood that I had, but boy would I never wish it upon my worst enemy; for I want my enemies to be spiritual equals, even if ideological foes.

I see on forums and news articles that people in China call their president “Daddy Xi”. In the United States some ultra-conservatives also call Donald Trump “Daddy”. In the Philippines there is a sense of patriarchal comfort with Duterte, even as he rounds up “lawbreakers” for executions.

In an increasingly global society, our biological parents feel more and more neutered. They appear as shambling, grumbling, complaining zombies all on a slow stampede toward lives mediated by institutions and systems that existed before them. Once a child questions these institutions and systems, they get riled up, for the child is questioning that which appears to keep the world intact. So the children attempt to find new, ideological parents like Trump and Duterte and Xi Jinping.

These generations of children without parents so desperately want a father and a mother that will lead by example. And lead by examples that are not held up by increasingly de-humanizing institutions and systems. Unfortunately, it appears only grifters and authoritarians have discovered this vulnerability in global society. These new “daddies” seem to act for themselves, their iron-grip starts to look attractive, because the children know the alternative: grumbling, shambling.

There needs to be third way, or a thousand ways, one that doesn’t concede to the authoritarianism of the few or to the meaningless toil of de-humanizing institutions and systems. Once we can encourage ourselves and our children to take charge again, and not just repeat tautologies and falsities like “life isn’t fair!”, “you have to because I said so!”, “no single person can change the world”, we may just make ourselves more than biological fathers and mothers again.

I think that a given culture is a product of the prevailing spirit of the time—the zeitgeist. However, when I consider culture in this context, I’m not thinking about the product cultures of the 1980s versus the 2010s. I think that the greater culture we are enacting right now is over 10,000 years old; it is a culture that felt spited by a land that did not provide when needed, so humans had to take survival into their hands by manipulating the earth to ensure food security. Thus, we have a food culture that exists in spite of the forces of Nature: We employ new chemicals and genetic innovations so that even the most desolate land can bear crops. The fruits of our labors come in the form of being able to buy bananas at any Wal-Mart in America; almost no fruit or vegetable is ever out of season because the supply chain doesn’t even consider physical geography anymore. The whole world is now a potential grounds for massive industrial agriculture because the limitations of natural ecosystems were worth overriding. In other words, the spirit of our culture does not have to go out of its way to give up clean air, land and water for its desire to expand.

Zeitgeist is not composed of the individual actions by singular people or groups: it reveals itself by the aggregate effects of all these actions, and is up to the interpretation of those who discover its current form. This means that while great movements have risen up against the exploitation and pollution of air, land, and water, their effect on the aggregate result—an increasingly polluted earth—is evidently negligible. This is because these environmental movements have never integrated themselves into the spiritual level of the culture.

By spiritual, I mean the essential will of individuals and people. This can mean religion, but that’s not my focus. I do notice that the more popular religions, Christianity and Islam, have little to nothing about conceiving earth as anything but a resource to be exploited; in fact, the Christian bible’s god encourages one to “take dominion over the earth”. You can use religion to detect what has become dogmatic in our 10,000 year-old culture. To abstract the spiritual into the will of individuals and people is to

To believe that the land and water is anything but a resource is an exceptional perspective, and not the rule. Thus, the defaults of human action will enact the current cultural belief that Nature is a resource.

In another sense, I don’t think that the Agricultural Revolution has even ended yet.

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