Keeping Options (and Seeds) Alive: Common Ground Country Fair

When we moved to Maine full-time, I more than doubled the size of our garden. I’ve waxed poetic about it in other posts, so I’ll spare you that here.

But I want to say a few things about it in the context of having gone to the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine, this weekend. That fair brings together thousands of people (more than 50,000 were projected to attend, I think, this year) interested in various aspects of “country living.” That appellation doesn’t always feel like it settles well on my shoulders. I like hanging out in urban settings and am at best a country novice. But the ethos of the Fair is absolutely one I share. It’s about re-claiming our capacity to take care of ourselves well.

And that’s what I want to say in terms of the garden here. The point, for me, of growing our food is the same as that of most folks: great quality, good exercise with a delicious pay-off, local, sustainable, no fears about what is in or on our fruits and veggies.

And all that is celebrated at the fair, for sure. But it is done in the context of self-reliance, and about celebrating the fullness & richness of a self-sufficient life. When I think about self-reliance, I don’t think about it in terms of knowing how to make cheese and put up preserves. Those are fun, and can certainly be a part of a self-reliant life. But really, what I think it means, at core, is having the skills to meet life’s demands, and to do so in a way that maximizes your freedom. That’s a heady word. And I don’t mean it in a political sense; I mean it in a philosophical sense. Being free from the inability to take good care.

As that last probably suggests, I come to the Common Ground Fair and its celebration of self-reliance from a fairly cerebral rather than intuitive place. And because of that, my ideas of sufficiency have been informed not so much but what I think I need to eat or grow or wear as by what I think I need to do (or not do). And what I think I need to do, at least what I’ve thought for the last few years, is keep old seeds in production. Several years ago, I went to a talk by Gary Paul Nabhan about RAFT (Restoring America’s Food Traditions), where he gave out lists of foods that used to be prevalent in New England but that are now rare or endangered. So, I plant off that list as much as I can. (He has a downloadable copy on his website, which you can find at:

For me, the intersection between the idea of taking good care and preserving old seeds is about potential. When I was growing up, my dad used to always urge me to “keep your options open.” He wanted me to be sure that when an opportunity arose, I’d be ready to assess it and take it. I’m sure he gave me lots of other advice, but that’s the bit that rings in his voice in my head. In every seed, I literally see potential, literally see an option. And if they go extinct, those options are gone forever. I don’t know what those options might mean for me, for my community, for the ecology of the region, for our foodshed as the climate changes, and so I don’t want to take the chance of losing them before we know.

Keeping them in production keeps an option open a little longer. Maybe, possibly, long enough.

Collaborative Art-Making

The St. George peninsula is mid-coast Maine is an astonishingly artsy place.  Among the famous artists who’ve lived here or near are Andrew Wyeth and his son Jamie (who still lives here), Kenneth Noland, Greg Mort, and William Thon. And in addition to those better known names are dozens and dozens of full-time and summer-time makers, working in media as diverse as watercolors and stone, encaustic and rusted metal, digital photography and hand-made paper.  It’s a great place to be a maker.

Every summer, through an open studio program organized by the late, great Don McClain (no, not that one.  The other one), between 20 and 40 artists have opened their spaces to visitors for one or two weekends each summer.

I love such projects, but I started to feel bad for the artists because they couldn’t visit each other.  This celebration of the area’s creative community precluded the participation of many of its members.  I tried to figure out something I could do to bring us all into community?

chapbook-230x300And from that, the “progressive poetry project” was born.  Here’s what we did:

1.  I left a box of blank cards with each of the artists who was interested in participating, and instructions to the folks who visited the studio to write something on the card that was inspired by the work.  Not “this is so pretty,” but maybe something like “blackberries tinged with sea spray.”  Or whatever.  I tried really hard to keep it open and not prescriptive.

2.  I collected all the boxes, spent some time looking at the art work, and then used as many of the words on the cards as I could to make a poem that was responsive to the work or the words or both, one poem per studio.

3.  Then, I turned those into a little chapbook, illustrated with images by several of the artists, and shared with everyone who participated.

What I hoped was that the artists and visitors would consider us as all in “it” together, a community of collective appreciate and creation, and that those often firm lines between makers and viewers would blur.  And that did happen, at least a little.  But what also happened, delightfully, was that many of the artists felt that the poems really suited their work–even though they couldn’t control what folks said about their art, or what I did with the things that they said.  And I have to think that that’s due to more than serendipity, that the poems were the distillation of community being manifest.


So the past couple days, I took an ekphrastic poetry workshop at the Farnsworth Art Museum.  It was taught by the poet Arielle Greenberg, whose book someone gave me last year out of the blue.  So when I saw that she was leading it, and miraculously I was free all three afternoons, I figured it was fate.  Okay, not fate.  But a lovely opportunity.

Ekphrasis is fun.  Basically, it means using one artwork as inspiration for another artwork.  In our case, we were using paintings in the museum to inspire us to write poems.  It’s not translating–though I think it would be intriguing to imagine translating from paint to paper.  It’s more like the art is a springboard to think in a way you usually don’t think.

Ekphrasis is also funny, in the sense of being complicated, equivocal in some ways. On the one hand, I think of Elaine Scarry’s wonderful succinct insistence that “beauty begets,” that when we behold something beautiful, it encourages in us the impulse to create. Beauty wants to make more beauty–and sometimes we are the agents of its reproductive urges. On the other hand, I think of Mark Doty’s lovely observations about still lives, his emphasis on their capacity to remind us of the strangeness and singularity of every thing. Which doesn’t mitigate AGAINST being inspired, of course, but does suggest that the thing created might bear very little link, finally, to the thing that did the inspiring.

I wish I could insert a little jpeg here of the painting I was using, but alas, that cannot be.  My springboard painting was by Alex Katz, and is called “Wildflowers #2″ (1956), so if you spot a legal-to-use jpeg of it and want to send it my way, I’d be grateful.

In the meantime, here’s his website so you can get an idea of what it might look like:

And here’s the poem:

Long Distance

The summer I learned how to swim far,
I followed my mother each morning
across Lake Ellis—she in a gray
rowboat (it had been cornflower blue,
once, way back before we kids were born),
and me in the tannin-pickled pond.
We’d rise at dawn and wriggle into
the black racing suits we reserved for
real swimming. Easing the screen door shut,

creeping free of the squat brown cottage,
we’d sneak away before the others
woke. Even on fog-blankened mornings,
when towels hung limply on the line,
our bare feet were thick with dust before
we reached the beach—the flaking dory
and rough oars always exactly where
we’d left them, tucked behind some gangly
alders in a nest of wild mint.

Wasting no time, we’d head for the far
shore. She faced backward, my mother, and
pulled hard. Her tanned arms drew the oars close.
As she eased them free for each next stroke,
their tips would scar the surface, roiling
everything. I swam for the eddying
rings, cupped fingers straining to reach them
before they faded back to flat. “Pace
yourself,” she’d intone, and drive harder.

One morning, out past Davin’s dock, loud
splashing snapped our tethered attention—
too big for loon, too clumsy for trout.
Soon, the turbulence settled into
the shuh, shuh, shuh of seasoned swimming.
And minutes later, we spied its source:
broad shouldered, black-capped, a lithe stranger
shuttling smoothly toward the dory.
My mother tacked, easing us away;

the man deftly followed suit. Drawing
alongside, he fell in to my pace.
My mother dug her blades deep, deftly
sliced the watery slab, gathering
too much speed. Brusquely torqueing the boat
about, she signaled me to tumble
in. “Your lips are blue,” she muttered and
tossed me her towel, before rowing
us back toward shore, the lesson over.


Not too terrible, but so fascinatingly unfamiliar to me, its ostensible maker. We made a poem a day, each with a different piece as a springboard, each with a different poetic flavor. Looking at them together, it’s hard to believe the same writer made them within 72 hours of one another. Ekphrasis unsettles old habits, set me meandering down new paths. Whether I stick with any of them, I don’t know. But it was a blast to wander.

Total Synergy!


As you know, this blog is about art, environment, the places those two hang out together, and a bunch of things that are somewhat peripheral that I try to squeeze into that rubric anyway.

It doesn’t take ANY squeezing to get ORION to fit.  This magazine has been around for like 30 years, bringing us some of the most beautiful and significant nature and environmental writing and art that’s out there.

And (woohoo) today was my first meeting as a member of their Board.  I’d like to think  this blog prompted the invite.  Yeah, wishful.  But check it out.  You’ll see that the art and articles are the kind of things you’ve read here–okay, so the ones at ORION are by famous people who are really, really good at what they do.  But you get my drift.

Foraging, Part Two

I realize that I forgot to say what we ate the other day. We found (and for the most part tried):

grape leaves
wild carrot
evening primrose
elderberry (the flowers, no berries yet)
wild roses (petals)
curly dock
purple clover
Japanese knotweed
wild lettuce
ox-eye daisy leaves
violet leaves
wood sorrel
pineapple weed
wild garlic
water lily
white pine
anise hyssop

We skipped a few that needed to be cooked to be safe to eat. But check out that list. All those edible plants. In a fairly small place. In June.

Bountiful as it seems, we probably burned more calories finding them than we consumed. Despite enabling earlier humans to meet many of their nutritional needs prior to the emergence of agriculture, despite its continued importance in the diets of many rural peoples around the world to this day, despite being restaurant-chic in wealthy nations now, it’s not an easy way to eat.

When I posted the last entry, I promised that this time I would share some ideas about why it’s so popular right now. One forager, a guy named Hank Shaw who I heard on NPR a while ago (his cookbook is listed in the last post) said he suspects part of the reason foraging is gaining ground is that some people want to give up a little of their comfort and convenience in eating, that they see foraging as a novel and delicious alternative to consuming mainstream food. He likens the satisfaction to that had in eating a fish you’ve caught yourself: “it’s the effort that you’re tasting.”

I asked a few of my friends why they find it appealing, and their answers were different than that, but not inconsistent with it. Barbara described being filled with a sense of hope at beholding such abundance. Our friend Toni, who is in yoga training, said it was one more indication that what we see depends on perspective: what had been weeds yesterday were great sources of free and healthy food today. And Matt, who’s a Marxist, stressed the fact of foraging being free, with an impromptu and impassioned polemic about reclaiming our food from “the clutches of Big Ag.” Given how hungry we were when we left, I doubt “Big Ag” has much to worry about. Yet.

I want to add a few more possibilities into the mix. I think that foraging reconnects us to the visceral experience of eating, as home gardening and farming do, but maybe even more so. And it gives us access to flavors that are too particular to make it in the marketplace. And also to foods that won’t survive transport in a cargo container. In those ways, Mr. Marxist is right about them being anti-Big Ag.

Which doesn’t make it a totally exemplary experience. Foraging is not for everyone and not for everywhere. David is an urban forager, and he eats stuff he finds in the city, which I find that very, very nervous-making. I think about how many cars and trucks go by, belching exhaust that the plants inhale. That can’t be good for you. And since foraging requires a fair amount of time effort, it is only for those with knowledge and time, or those who can pay for foraged goods. I’m not suggesting that that is inherently bad. But it does mean that foraged goods are getting commodified, and that does seem ironic, to say the least.

Foraging for My Dinner

A few days ago, on Bloomsday to be exact, Barbara and I went foraging in a meadow and adjacent woods in Carlisle with David Craft–an urban forager based in Cambridge–and a few other friends.  I like that we did it on Bloomsday, in the sense of it seeming fitting to spend the day walking and eating and walking and eating.  But mid-June is not an optimal time to forage in Massachusetts.  We ended our trek hungry, albeit with lots on interesting new flavors lingering on our tongues. Not all of them, to be honest, were good. There were definitely some foods that I can only imagine eating in desperation. Some, though, could be really awesome: milkweed was a BIG surprise.

But even though this was a new thing for us, we apparently jumped onto a pretty raucous bandwagon.  Look at all the cookbooks for foragers that have come out in the last three years!

Food For Free, by Richard Mabey, publ by Collins (240 pages); 40th anniversary REPUB of 1972 edition.

Whole Larder Love: Grow Gather Hunt Cook, by Rohan Anderson, publ. by powerHouse Books (240 pages)

The Joy of Foraging: Gary Lincoff’s Illustrated Guide to Finding, Harvesting, and Enjoying a World of Wild Food by Gary Lincoff, publ. by Quarry Books (192 pages)

Foraged Flavor: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer’s Market, with 88 Recipes, Tama Matsuoka Wong and Eddy Leroux, with a foreword by Daniel Boulud, publ. by Clarkson Potter (224 pages)

Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast, by Hank Shaw, publ. by Rodale (336 pages)

The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40 a week) by Robin Mather, publ. by Ten Speed Press (272 pages)

The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes, by Connie Green and Sarah Scott, publ. by Studio Publ. (368 pages)

Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods From Dirt To Plate (The Wild Food Adventure Series, Book 1) by John Callas, publ. by Gibbs Smith (416 pages)

Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants, by Samuel Thayer, publ. by Forager’s Harvest Press (512 pages)

Pacific Feast: A Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging and Cuisine, by Jennifer Hahn, publ. by Mountaineers Books (256 pages)

The Wild Vegan Cookbook: A Forager’s Culinary Guide (in the Field or in the Supermarket) to Preparing and Savoring Wild (and Not So Wild) Natural Foods by Steve Brill

That’s just the list of the ones available via amazon here in the US! And we’re LATE to the foraging craze.

Next time, I’ll add some thoughts on why this is so appealing to folks right now. Or at least some guesses.

In the meantime, I think I’ll make some nettle tea and dandelion greens.

Back in Maine / Back in the Ether

If you’ve checked in lately, you know I was gone for a while.  Early in 2011, I became the Interim Director of the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts.  (yep, a mouthful)  We say “IDSVA” and save our breath. And by the time I headed for Spannocchia Castle (about which I wrote the last entry, more than a year ago!), I was totally immersed in all things IDSVA, which meant thinking about art all the time, but the environment considerably less often than I had been.

We’ve hired a fabulous new Director, and so my stint as the Interim is over. I am hoping to spend some of my free time writing and making art and reconnecting with some of the people and organizations I had to kind of snub while I was scrambling to learn to do that job well. But I’m not complaining: IDSVA is full of amazing people doing really remarkable work.

I am determined to re-start this blog and use it to chronicle not only other people’s forays into art and environment, but also a few of my own. Thanks for your patience, and please do come visit soon.

Barbara Bosworth at PEM

My former teacher, current collaborator, and now super friend is having a really lovely show at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.  The work is mostly black-and-white, taken with a large-format camera.  Some images are solo, while others are panoramas made by taking 2, 3, or (as in the case above) 4 images in a sweeping succession.

Among the things that I love about the work is that it blends the precision allowed by the very cumbersome (and slow!) 8×10 camera with a sense of deep intimacy and connectedness.  An image like the one above must have taken at least 1/2 hour, probably a good bit more, just to set up the camera and make the negatives, but it reads as a moment apprehended and shared.  Not that the arduousness is what matters.  I’m just saying that it’s striking that Barbara Bosworth is able to incorporate people really seamlessly into images that take a lot longer to make than your average cell phone selfie.

Included in the exhibit are artifacts from Barbara’s life–an egg collection and the pencilled effort she made as a child to identify them reveal that her passion for looking carefully at the natural world began when she was very young.  And it persists in her family, as is clear in the images that look back to her parents and forward to young nieces and nephews.  The Bosworth world seems to be, in Heidegger’s words, one of being-there.

The show is up for a while, as part of PEM’s “year of photography.”

Castles in the /Real World/

The tag line for this blog is “on art, the environment, and what might suffice.”  And, earnest girl that I am, I meant it pretty precisely.  Which is why being in Italy this month, at a place called Castello di Spannocchia, is both a fabulous and congruous opportunity, and also an occasion for some soul-searching.

The castle and surrounding hundreds of acres are the extraordinary remnant of a tenuta—an agricultural estate that once was home to more than a hundred tenant farmers (and the landowner).  The egalitarian disposition of the present owners and some mid-century changes in Italian law both contributed to the end of sharecropping here.  However, a desire to keep alive the traditional methods of working the land persists.  Now, that work is done by a staff whose numbers swell each season with interns and WWOOFers.  These young apprentices learn about age-old agricultural practices, and bring those insights home.  The recent explosion of interest in sustainability, and in organic and artisanal foods, has contributed to creating a fantastic pool of candidates for these physically demanding (and usually volunteer) jobs.

The current owner has both a keen sense of the architectural and cultural history of the castle, and of its significance within the system of social life in the region.  He understands the links between the agricultural production of the Tuscan countryside and the rise of banking culture and hence of a commodity-rich culture in nearby Florence.  And he knows what that has meant to the consolidation of an arts culture dating back centuries here.

I also now know this because I am currently one of more than a dozen guests staying in his castle.  Our group will be here for just under three weeks, as part of a doctoral program in art and philosophy.  The program, IDSVA, blends short residencies with distance education.  The five year program includes time spent at a range of locations.  The lucky first and second year students start each new academic year here, a location chosen in part for the immersive opportunity it affords, away from family and the distractions of everyday life, and in part because the castle is a hop and a skip from where the Renaissance began.  During their stay, the students read and discuss philosophy and art theory, travel to Florence and Siena to see artworks, and forge an understanding of the ways in which even seemingly “straightforward” artworks evidence thoughts and beliefs and ideological commitments that are worth noting.

Amazing art and art conversations.

An extraordinarily beautiful location, and hosts whose commitment to the environment is manifest through sustainable agricultural practices and lifestyle decisions.

I should feel like I’m in heaven.

And I do.


When I went to NYC in conjunction with an IDSVA residency last January, I could not help but wonder whether the now-common claim that urban areas are models for sustainability took all relevant factors into account.  I’ve come to believe that they actually do not.  Here, again, I cannot help but engage that question.

Our hosts certainly seem to be living and working sustainably.  It is we, their guests, about whom I wonder.  Most of the interns and WWOOFers are from the United States.  And while I think WWOOFing is amazing, I question whether it is, in and of itself, truly sustainable.  Tonight at dinner, I was talking with two WWOOFers who have spent time at five farms this season.  They are from the states, and the farms where they worked were Spannocchia, two others in Tuscany, one in Sicily, and one in Switzerland.  No doubt they’ve learned a ton.  And they’ve been of real help to the farmers.  But they are doing this as a gap year, rather than as preparation for future farming careers.  So I wonder whether the amount they’ve contributed balances the amount they’ve used in resources in order to have this experience.  And similarly, I wonder who “foots the carbon bill” when we calculate the sustainability of this system—is it the farmer who employs the WWOOFers, the WWOOFers themselves, or has it been left unregarded?

But perhaps even with imported, short-term labor, this system really is ecologically sustainable.  And even if not literally ecologically sustainable, perhaps the social benefits and possibilities for personal transformation are its carbon offset.

It is more when I am forced to think about us—art and philosophy appreciators who have come all this way—that the question really takes shape.  Like nearly everyone else who works for or participates in IDSVA, I traveled here from the U.S.  And that was no small feat.  I left my home 100 miles from Portland, Maine, and drove to the airport there, then flew to Philadelphia, then flew to Rome, then rode by chartered bus (with the others in the program) to the castle, which is not too far from Chiusdino, in the Tuscan countryside.  So much transit, as you know, gives me pause—not because of the jetlag, unpleasant and illustrative as that is, but because of the tacit presumption that it’s appropriate to expend that much fuel for a non-extraordinary circumstance.

With those gallons of crude starting to weigh heavily, I have tried to take a step back, and look at the program from a bird’s-eye (jet plane’s?) perspective.  Seen as a whole, this program probably carries a very modest carbon footprint.  Without a bricks-and-mortar infrastructure to maintain, without a daily commute for students and faculty and administrators, we are not burning fossil fuels to do our work most days.  True, we have travelled far, as have our guest speakers, but any given group of students makes just four flights a year (to and from two residencies), while the faculty and administrators make six, occasionally eight.  And once we reach a locale, we tend to stay put or to use public transportation.

I’m pretty sure that our carbon load is less than that of the average graduate program.  But what the WWOOFers and we bring to the fore, beyond all my fancy justifying footwork, is the real question:  what reasons do we (should we) deem legitimate for such grand expenditures of energy?  I don’t mean our own energies, which are (supposedly!) renewable, but those non-renewables that can only, in truth, be said to belong to us all collectively?  How do we decide which potentially transformative experiences are, a priori, worth the collective cost to the commons?

While I don’t presume to know the answer, I do feel sure that among our sundry jobs here at the castle—whether we’ve come as advocates of sustainability or as philosophers—is to formulate precisely this sort of question.  And to face even an uncomfortable answer with open eyes.

Systems Theory, in Surround-Sound

My afternoon was book-ended by watching the healthcare summit streamed onto the home page of the New York Times (thank you, NYT!).  In the middle, though, I was having a great conversation with a friend and colleague who is currently working on building an environmental art program at Unity College in Maine.

One of things we were puzzling through was how to help people learn about systems theory.  Not necessarily in a formal sense (although that would certainly be great), but at least in a way that helps them to appreciate the intricate interconnections among species or actions or bodies of thought, as well as the relationship between those entities and the environments in which they arise.  Systems theory is integral to environmental education, and is increasingly important for understanding the fine arts and for arts education.

But as powerful a tool as systems thinking is, it can be surprisingly difficult to teach.  At first glance, this makes no sense.  We live in a world of natural and social systems.  And we humans have evolved to be remarkably adept at reading the world in order to survive.  Yet, we are apparently not always particularly adroit at appreciating the relationships between elements at two or more remove from one another, or at understanding the ways that feedback loops build upon one another, or the role of sensitive dependence in a system, or the importance of emergent phenomena.

I suppose it could be that we are still very short term thinkers—great at sussing out immediate danger or pleasure, but not so great at discerning the larger picture.  That approach certainly affords immediate survival advantages, and those are, well, essential.  But if one looks at the parallels between systems theory and a range of indigenous belief systems, it’s clear that plenty of other systems also emphasize holistic approaches, emergence, and profound interconnectivity.  In a paper on systems theory that they delivered in 1999, James J. Kay and Jason A. Foster, both then at the University of Waterloo, argued for an explanation that resonates with my colleague’s observation that her (predominantly American) students struggle with these concepts.  They proposed that students have such a hard time with systems theory because it runs counter to the implicit and explicit beliefs that undergird Western science.  “Generally,” they wrote, “these behaviours [emergence, self-organization, etc.] are not intuitive to students, as they do not conform to the Newtonian linear causality mode of reasoning that is a cornerstone of our culture” (5).  And, they point out, even students who are not well-versed in the sciences have absorbed the beliefs about cause and effect that shaped Western science for the first few hundred years.

Which brings me to the health care debate part of my afternoon.  As you likely know, there are a host of disagreements between Democrats and Republicans about health care reform.  One that was stressed this afternoon was between incremental versus comprehensive reform.  Basically, the Democratic position was that the ills of our current health care system are so intertwined that to effect change requires tackling everything at once.  And the Republican position was that such an approach is foolhardy and that we’d be fiscally and socially wiser to move in a step-by-step fashion.  This one sentence summary ignores some important ideological differences, but it highlights a difference that isn’t getting any coverage in the traditional media, and that I bet isn’t going to get any attention:  if we set aside the specific content of the argument for a moment (hard as that may be) this is, in part, a conflict between a Newtonian vision and a Systems theory view.  The Republicans proffer a Newtonian view, one that emphasizes straightforward cause and effect links and linear relationships.  The Democrats present a systems view that acknowledges feedback loops and complexity.

I have opinions about which position is wiser in this case.  But much more important than what I might think is whether or not the people who are living inside the U.S. health care system, and who are ostensibly voting for the kind of system we should adopt, have the tools to understand both positions.  If, as Kay and Foster claim, it is hard for people to learn systems thinking, then that implies many, many people don’t have the tools to evaluate the two positions on their own merits.  Without an understanding of feedback loops, the Democrats’ insistence on insuring more people as a means of reducing individual insurance costs very likely won’t make sense.

As a citizen, this realization frightened me.

But as a thinker, I found this moment of crystallization kind of amazing.   Naturally, that made me want to share this sense that systems theory itself was the thread that bound my superficially discrete afternoon experiences (because that’s kinda cool), and that divergent ideas about systems theory are part—quite possibly a rather large part—of the health care impasse (because who knew!?).  Yet I could not help but wonder:  does the health care summit really belong on this blog?  If I write about it, am I being political instead of artistic and environmental?  Asking the questions in that way forced me to realize that excluding these observations would deny the importance of systems thinking.  I would be creating artificial barriers between one arena of thinking and living and another.  It might be convenient, but it would force me to disregard a host of subtle interpenetrations that shape not simply an afternoon but a life.

Or, as I not-so-secretly believe, not a life, but life.