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Rite of Passage | Orion Magazine
"And at this moment, I wonder yet again why I brought Sasha to this wilderness place. Part of the answer is simple. I’ve traveled the world—the Amazon, the Serengeti, the Alps—and for me this is the most haunting and beautiful landscape on earth. We are in absolute backcountry: the Chihuahuan Desert canyons of “Big Bend Country,” literally that giant bend of the Rio Grande that separates west Texas from northern Mexico. The same sun washing over Sasha’s closed eyes is rousing the cliff swallows into song two hundred feet away. Around us, a million desert flowers go all electric in late-March bloom—red ocotillo, purple verbena, the magenta blossoms of cholla cacti. In the riverbank shallows, a longnose gar sloshes though the willow grass, hunting frogs.

Quietly, I slip out of the tent and catch a glimpse of a desert hawk winging hundreds of feet overhead, above the canyon. From up there, that hawk can see the nearby Chisos Mountains to the northwest, towering to nearly eight thousand feet with the deep-green cover of alpine woodlands. Below the peaks, that hawk can see the vast expanse of desert floor, all cactus and scrub, spreading north, south, east, west. And arching through it all is the pale green ribbon of the Rio Grande. But what that hawk doesn’t see are very many human beings.

I discovered the place fourteen years ago by accident. A newspaper editor asked me to visit Big Bend National Park, the twelve-hundred-square-mile jewel on the Texas side. The editor’s question: Why do so few Americans visit this most lovely of places? The reporter’s answer: It’s at the end of the earth, not on the way to anywhere, and surrounded on three sides by harsh and hostile Mexican desert.

But it’s beautiful. Shockingly so. And therein lies the problem in bringing my son—still-sleeping Sasha—to this place. It seems almost cruel. So many of the living things we’re here to celebrate, all across this landscape, are stressed out, dying, or migrating away from here. Like politics, all global warming is local. By roasting our common atmosphere with greenhouse gases, we bring chaotic change to regional ecosystems like the Big Bend region. Here scientists and fifth-generation ranchers and native people all tell the same story: unimaginable recent heat waves, freakish cold snaps and, above all, drought.

Just since I was last here—when Sasha was in diapers back home in Maryland—the place has changed. The pinyon pines in the Chisos range had not yet experienced “mass mortality” due to chronic lack of water. And the lechuguilla, a signature species of the desert, had not yet been flash frozen in huge numbers during the unheard-of cold spell of 2012. When Sasha is my age, fifty-one, this ecosystem will almost certainly be a distant memory, barring some global clean-energy miracle in the next few years, a rescue that seems less likely with each passing month of international inaction and domestic denial. So I struggle: Is this healthy? Is it right what I’m doing here, bringing Sasha to this place?"



"We finally land in El Paso, along the northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, and head southeast by car. Tiny ranch towns soon give way to nothing but creosote bush and towering yucca, dust devils and lost burros. When the two-lane state roads finally run out five hours later, we enter Big Bend National Park. And it’s everything I remember.

“Did I exaggerate? Did I exaggerate?” I ask my son. He’s too busy shooting photos to talk much. The camera spoke softly, click after click, as giant agave plants float into view in golden, brittle poses. Then come the arroyos, violently beautiful in the distance, carved by a million flash floods. Then the Chisos Mountains, phantomlike, forested, painted in shadows. Click. Click. Click. And then swaths of red-blooming Indian paintbrush, punctuated with javelina tracks and the den doors of a strange desert rat that miraculously never, ever, drinks water. “You did not exaggerate,” Sasha says.

The camera’s clicking is a memory cue for me, reminding me of a speech Bill McKibben gave in 2005, addressing a group of climate activists gathered at Middlebury College. “Fight like hell,” Bill told us. “But be a witness, too. Go see the whales, the rainforests. There’s no guarantee we’ll save them all. Memorize this great world, the one we were born into. Tell others in the future. Their mistakes might be fewer if they know the greatness we once saw.” This had always been a central if unspoken part of this trip to Texas, of course. And it explained most of the trips to the woods during Sasha’s childhood. Be a witness, my child. Don’t forget these things."



"SASHA IS A WONDERFUL son: honor student, junior varsity baseball pitcher, Eagle Scout. Best of all, right now, he’s totally into this intense and adventurous trip west with his dad. But he’s still a teenager. Ten months earlier, right before turning fifteen, he told his mom and me not to bother getting him a birthday present if it wasn’t an iPhone. If we loved him, he said, we’d get him one. So we got him an iPhone.

After sunset, lying on our backs below a brilliant desert night sky, billions of stars above, the hallelujahs fill my ears as if from a choir. Sasha and I are side by side, stunned into silence by the celestial display. And his phone has no signal. None. Blessedly. For the entire week. Same with mine.

So we are able to float, undisturbed, into the infinity of outer space. That’s what it feels like on a moonless night in west Texas. It’s not stargazing here. A dense curtain of brilliant dots is pulled from horizon to horizon, each dot saying, “Touch me. Touch me.” At night, lying here on your back, you are in outer space. We spy a blinking satellite. We find Saturn, Orion’s belt, and Cancer. Ursa Major leads us to Polaris, the North Star. “Whoa!” I say, pointing to another impossibly long shooting star.

It’s midway through our journey, and this has always been part of the plan: to show Sasha the best star display in America and perhaps the world. It’s a counterweight—timeless, cosmic—to the earthbound challenges and intermittent sadness of this one desert expanse on a tiny planet in a lonely solar system. I can feel the cool sand against my back. “Is it bad,” Sasha asks, “that I wish I were watching March Madness basketball right now?” He pulls out his phone. “Don’t you wish we could know the scores?”"



"THE WEEK, too soon, roams to a close as we head back toward El Paso, our dusty tent and backpacks stuffed in the trunk. I feel a restlessness lift from me. I’ve finally done it. I’ve taken my son to this place. And now I’ll never come back here again. I know it. Not me. I have my memories. I love those memories. Why risk them with another return?

“What?!” Sasha exclaims when I tell him this. He’s appalled. “You’re crazy not to come back. I’m coming back. And I’m staying longer. As soon as I can.” From the passenger seat, he’s shooting some final desert photos.

And then I see it in his face. He has the same bug I’ve had for a decade and a half, but in a different way. He just finished touring a beautifully imperfect place. A place in transition. But he’s not sad. He’s not bummed out, perhaps despite my best efforts. He has a different starting point than I do. Born in 1997, all he’s known is a fast-changing, impermanent earth. So the world seems less fragile to him, I think. More elemental. Rock, sky, sand, life. It will all be here whenever he returns. And, if pressed, I think he would call that hope."
climatechange  parenting  time  nature  bigbend  2014  miketidwell  transition  westtexas  texas  nightsky  dark  night  billmckibben 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Moving Abu Dhabi
"Moving Abu Dhabi denotes the thirteenth manifestation of the Mappings project. For the first time in the series, video capture is employed to record the 1440 ephemeral moments in the 24-hour performance. Moving Abu Dhabi begins at midnight on January 23, 2014, on Electra Street in the heart of downtown Abu Dhabi. As the night trudges forward, an austere serenity envelops the city and all of its precious little things. Movement is rare and slight. With the changing light, the city’s denizens emerge for their cameos on the concrete stage. The frenetic cadence of modern life takes hold, and manic cars and trucks dwarf the landscape. The Capital Gardens near the Corniche provide but a few moments of green respite. Eventually the night falls and the city exhales a collective sigh and we see lights flash on and off and on and off …
— Roberto Lopardo

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Explore hours (horizontal) and minutes (vertical) by scrolling within your browser.

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Click on the + and - buttons to zoom in and out.

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On March 12, 2014, beginning at midnight, the videos will appear one minute at a time; you may access videos up until the current time in Abu Dhabi. Leave your browser window open to watch additional videos appear. After midnight on the 13th, the entire grid will appear each time that you visit."
2014  abudhabi  cities  night  nightime  video  robertolopardo  via:maxfenton  landscape  dark  urbanism  urban 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Tales From San Diego’s Dark Corners | Voice of San Diego
"From a young age, we’re conditioned to be afraid of the dark. It’s a fear of what we don’t know and what we can’t see. As we grow older and set out into the world for ourselves, the fear can become more pervasive. While we may no longer sleep with a night-light, we clutch our loved ones and cling to our belongings when we walk through the streets in darkness. As we set out to examine issues surrounding streetlights in the city, I tracked down seven San Diegans who have had some encounter or scare in a dark part of town. In some cases, these streets were virtually pitch black. In others, lights lined the street, but their problem occurred in the dark pockets between lights. But all of them make sure to watch their backs and their steps after dark."
sandiego  night  nighttime  dark  violence  fear  2013  samhodgson  stories 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Kage no Sekai | imgl
"We all have childhood experience of feeling there is "something" hiding in dark. This device expresses this perspective not by using existing media but in real world itself. The mechanism is concealed, giving device appearance of ordinary piece of furnit
children  childhood  newmedia  electronics  gadgets  fear  monsters  dark  shadows 
march 2008 by robertogreco

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