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2 March 2015
Vol. V, No. 243

From The Editor: Dr. William Ramp, whose essays on The Great Plains we feature this week on Weekly Hubris, writes: “Over four previous columns, I’ve wandered the past and present of the vast plain at the center of the North American continent, weaving its natural and human worlds into the variegated dreams of its inhabitants: dreams realized or failed, for good or ill. This is a region of the mind and imagination, as well as home to realities sublime and brutal. It is so much more than a mere surface, or a gap between east and west coasts. But the first of these four columns was about an ominous silence spreading over these vast grasslands. This week, I return to matters of silence and noise; blindness and selective sight. Now, what emerges from the tapestry of my wanderings is a foreboding portrait of the ecological and economic crises that beset the world of the plains. And here, here under this Alberta sky, the portraitist is called to look into his own location and imaginings. My general column header is ‘Small Things Recollected,’ which speaks to my inborn inclination to the particular, the forgotten; the detritus bladed aside by what Bruno Latour calls the bulldozer of modernity. I persist in thinking that small things and places, fragments of forgotten speech or text or memory or experience, can be instructive. That remembering them can lift us from animus and engender hope in darkening times, even if that hope is forlorn. That remembrance – even nostalgia!—can be something other than a burden or an escape; that it can encourage; that it can speak to whatever reason we might still have, as a species marked by (and perhaps for) destruction, to persist in small acts of soul- and world-making. Of course, as a sociologist I am also called incessantly to deal with very large ‘structures,’ ‘processes,’ historical tendencies and constrictions, and issues. Of course, these rightly demand attention, and I attend to them below, as I have done in the past four columns. But I hope my readers of this, and one more column still to come, will see two things. First, that big issues arise out of a ‘cumulation’ of small acts, small words, and—dare I add a negative here—small minds drawn like moths to big dreams. But second, that responses to such issues can ‘cumulate’ also—from small acts of courage, in local places, by ordinary people, who attend to and care for the particulars of place and the small commonalities of their inhabitation.” Weekly Hubris is honored to publish Bill Ramp, to “re-collect” with him what we have lost, are losing, will lose (inevitably, now) but, with him, choosing not to forget or ignore or deny.E.B.-H.

Snow Geese, 2010.

Snow Geese, 2010.

Small Things Recollected

“Next Year’s Country, Last Year’s Dreams (Chapter 4: The Plains Series)” By William Ramp

LETHBRIDGE Alberta, Canada—(Weekly Hubris)—3/2/2015—As the featured contributor at Weekly Hubris this week, I’m taking a sobering look at some of the forces driving the economic and environmental crises that beset the vast interior plains of North America. They’ve been called the breadbasket for the world, and they’re home to one of the biggest oil booms in recent American history. But all is far from well here, and damage has been accumulating for some time. At the same time, I also want to reflect on what it means to write out of heartsickness or a sense of displacement, or from a commitment to past and future? What does it mean to pay attention, and to hope, in troubled times? (Read more . . .)

Bakken from space.

Bakken from space.

Small Things Recollected

Dreams in a Sliver of Time: Plains Songs (Chapter 1: The Plains Series))” By William Ramp

LETHBRIDGE Alberta, Canada—(Weekly Hubris)—3/2/2015—In my last column, I wrote about the population crisis of North American grassland birds, and how it might affect and be affected by our awareness of our environment. The issue seemed to creep up by stealth, but it is a crisis which derives from the past few hundred years of modernity. (Read more . . .)

Small buildings under a vast sky, adrift on a terrestrial sea.

Small buildings under a vast sky, adrift on a terrestrial sea.

Small Things Recollected

Reason’s Ghosts: The Settling & Unsettling of The Plains (Chapter 2: The Plains Series)” By William Ramp

LETHBRIDGE Alberta, Canada—(Weekly Hubris)—3/2/2015—Last month, I wrote about the thousands of years of cultural continuity which still bind past, present and future together for the first peoples of the North American plains, despite all the cultural and other damage visited on them over the past 200 years. This month, I will turn over that first thin shard of time during which Europeans pushed into the North American interior, looking at the light it casts, the figures it refracts, and the shadows it leaves. (Read more . . .)

Making light of rural drudgery: riding the clothesline.

Making light of rural drudgery: riding the clothesline.

Small Things Recollected

“Forgotten Commonwealths: Agrarian Legacies & Lessons (Chapter 3: The Plains Series)” By William Ramp

LETHBRIDGE Alberta, Canada—(Weekly Hubris)—3/2/2015—It seems that to be human in the modern era is to live in contradiction and to dream of transcendence. This month, I will tell a tale about dreams, visions, voices and acts which kindled these elements into a fire that blazed across the North American interior a hundred years ago. (Read more . . .)

“After the Blizzard of ‘78,” Eggshell Mosaic, 26” X 16” (1978).

“After the Blizzard of ‘78,” Eggshell Mosaic, 26” X 16” (1978).

The Disappearing Land

“Winter Freeze” By Meredith d’Ambrosio

I lived in Newton, Massachusetts in the 70s in a garret apartment with a ladder in the piano room which led to the roof. My mornings were spent on the roof eating breakfast. A towering, sprawling old copper beech tree covered the front yard, so huge that it almost hid the house from sight. The house was a graceful stucco Victorian mansion with green trim. From the housetop, I could step onto one of the branches of the beech. I could see the whole city of Boston from the roof, and named it my tree house. The great blizzard of 1978 hit Newton with five-foot-high snow mounds. Cars were forbidden to be on the streets in Newton for one week. I watched people below making tracks with their skis and snowshoes, which looked like tennis rackets. One day later, it began to snow again—a second storm! I ventured outside with plastic bags strapped to my boots and leggings, and plodded through the white-out to a steep winding downhill road, carrying a thick wooden board. I planned to sketch the barely discernible scene at the bottom of the road. Trudging back home in this treacherous storm was even more difficult, climbing the steep hill through the high drifts, but I was looking forward with excitement to beginning my next eggshell mosaic. The blizzard seems like yesterday. I shall never forget it. (Read more . . .)

“Verségères, Switzerland,” Watercolor, 28” X 22.5” (2000).

“Verségères, Switzerland,” Watercolor, 28” X 22.5” (2000).

The Disappearing Land

“Winter Abides (Abiding Yet)” By Meredith d’Ambrosio

After a concert tour in France and Holland with “Haydn” (Eddie Higgins, my late husband), we took a side trip to visit with my sister and family in Verbier, Switzerland. I asked her to take me back to the hamlet she had shown me on my previous visit. Here was an opportunity to keep a self-made promise to return one day to the quaint and fascinating village of Verségères, snuggled high in the Alps. We’d walked through the ancient streets the first time she took me. Everywhere I looked was a potential painting. The most compelling views were glimpsed through narrow spaces between the log houses where, peeking through, was the snow-covered valley; the alpine mountain above it disappearing into cloud. You have not seen the last of me yet, Verségères! (Read more . . .)

“Raging Blizzard,” Oil on Canvas, 20” X 30” (2006).

“Raging Blizzard,” Oil on Canvas, 20” X 30” (2006).

The Disappearing Land

“Deep Winter (Deeper Still)” By Meredith d’Ambrosio

This painting is the second of my three depictions of Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia. I love to walk in a heavy snow storm. Whenever I gaze at this painting, it draws me in; then transports me to another white-out, the great blizzard of 1978, when the snow was five feet high. People were walking in the blinding snow with wooden, tennis racket-like snow shoes. No cars were allowed on the streets of Newton, Massachusetts for five days. I shall never forget that storm. (Read more . . .)

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