Sunday March 22nd was World Water Day, and for Water City Bristol an opportunity to collaborate with our partnership project Bristol Loves Tides (BLT!) in a fun event down by the tidal Avon. To coordinate with the high tides (time and tide wait for no one!) we had a very early morning start - particularly for a Sunday! The Water City Bristol team met up with the ten young presenters (more about this later) employed by Bristol Loves Tides as well as the other BLT team members from the organisation My Future - My Choice, Rough Glory Films and the Desperate Men. 

The morning began for us at 6:30am in the Lockside Cafe where we donned our BLT hoodies, placed the ten cardboard replicas of the famous Bristol ship the Matthew on the tables, and prepared to meet our first guests at 7am. It was a brisk morning and a high pressure system was in action - with implications for the super high tide (the high pressure system suppresses the water levels), but the atmosphere in the cafe was warm and friendly. Eighty guests were served BLT sandwiches (or a vegetarian version), and short speeches were given by the Chair of Bristol Green Capital, one of the young presenters from BLT (Jade) and our own Rowan Matthiessen on behalf of Water City Bristol. After this, each table had some time to think about and talk about why water and the tides are important, and comments were written on paper discs and inserted into the ships. 

At 8:15 the young presenters ushered us all out to the side of Cumberland Basin where we noticed some strangely clad fellows dragging a heavy-looking suitcase! In their barnacle-encrusted coats, Proxi and Peri, the tides made flesh, washed up to where we were gathered. They were greeted by the lord Mayor of the city but wanted to talk to the 'future!' (i.e. the young presenters). One by one objects were taken out of the suitcases and the bright young things went forward to collect them, and to say a short piece standing atop a podium about the different themes relating to tides. These were: heritage and future; the water cycle; biodiversity; hydropoetics and tidal energy. 

Following these thought-provoking pronunciations we were invited to participate in an oath. Dipping one hand into wonderful gloopy Avon mud and raising it into the air, we repeated our oath to love the water in every way we could think of - a video of this is available here: 

What interactive performance would be complete without a bit of singing? This is what came next, as we were instructed as three groups to take up one line of this little ditty: 

We are the tides we ebb and flow
Tuned to the moon we come and go
Ebb and flow and come and go and ebb and flow...

Once we had learned our section, we sang them all together, while weaving in an out of the group, causing the harmony to continually change as we moved through. 

Our next flow led us to 'the point' - a view of the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, and a great place to observe the height of the tide. As mentioned, the high pressure system meant that in fact, the tide was not spectacularly high - in fact it was lower in effect than the high tides we had in February. In some ways this was a blessing for the organisation of the event as it meant that we were able to all walk comfortably by the water, which had not come over the edge as it might have done. Milling and chatting in this space, watching Peri and Proxi's antics there was one last ritual to come. 

A heart shape chalked on the otherwise graffiti-covered wall behind provided a place for us to show some muddy love. The buckets of mud made the rounds again and squelching in we filled in the heart with hand prints, and covered the white space with more of these too. The wonderful soft squigdy sensation of the mud was a great way to connect with the surroundings and the ritual aspect felt both light-hearted and significant. 

From here the majority of the group filtered off, while the young presenters, Water City Bristol team members and a few others boarded a boat by the Nova Scotia pub and headed to the Balmoral to watch the first instalment of the Proxi and Peri film, which will be used in schools tours in June and July. The film is fantastic and we hope to share it here very soon. 

Feb 09

The Heart of the Gila: Wilderness and Water in the West, ASLE off-year symposium

by Amy McIntyre

Call for Papers
The Heart of the Gila: Wilderness and Water in the West
Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) 2016 Off-Year Symposium

June 8-11, 2016, Western New Mexico University, Silver City, NM


Deadline Extended to March 15, 2016

Letting our location be our guide in focusing the theme, the Gila Wilderness was established as the nation’s first wilderness area 91 years ago and continues to define our regional identity. The Gila River remains the last free-flowing river in the Southwest, but there is a current proposal in the state legislature to dam the river; local activists have been organizing to fight the proposal. Drought, compounded by climate change, has greatly affected our area, with the largest fire in New Mexico state history occurring in the Gila during 2012. The Gila was the northernmost region of the Mogollon People a millennium ago, and our region remains very culturally diverse with its close proximity to the Mexican-U.S. border.

We invite papers, roundtables, presentations, creative work, video presentations, and discussions from a range of disciplines and academic backgrounds that explore the past present, and future of wilderness, mythology of the West, Old West, New West, water, drought, climate change, desert, wastelands, atomic testing sites, military and western space, rivers, dams, tourism, fire, forest management, native cultures, migrant cultures, borders, activism, rhetoric of place, writers of place, writers of the West and Southwest (Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, too many to name), wilderness philosophy, and diversity in the West. We invite participants to interpret the theme broadly. We especially welcome creative writers, activists, graduate students, and academics working in the humanities and beyond to consider submitting to the symposium.

Symposium sessions will be 90-minutes long. Both scholarly and creative submissions are welcome. Pre-formed panels are encouraged.

  • proposals for pre-formed panels must include at least four presentations (papers, readings, provocations, responses, etc.), 15 minutes-max each, plus a chair; panel organizers must submit the proposal on behalf of all panelists (500 word abstract for the panel outlining topic, format, participants' roles; 300 word abstract for each contribution as relevant to the format; all contact information)
  • proposals for panels may also include roundtables (five or six 10 minute-max presentations plus discussion)
  • individual paper/reading/performance submissions are for 15 minute presentations; 300 word abstracts should describe both form and content and include all contact information

Please submit your proposal by March 15, 2016 on-line at asle.wnmu.edu. We will notify you of its final status by March 21, 2016.

For questions about submissions, the program, the symposium site, or field trips, please contact the symposium organizer Dr. Michaelann Nelson at Michaelann.Nelson@wnmu.edu.

Plenary Speakers
Our list of invited speakers includes writers and scholars that are inspired by the people, culture, and landscape of our region in the Southwest.

David Gessner is the author of nine books, including All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West, as well as My Green Manifesto and The Tarball Chronicles, which won the 2012 Reed Award for Best Book on the Southern Environment and ASLE’s award for best book of creative writing in 2011 and 2012.

Sharman Russell, author of Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World (WILLA Award Winner), as well as a dozen other books, writes primarily about nature and the southwest. She makes her home in the Gila.

Dave Foreman, founder of the direct action environmental group EarthFirst!, has written several books, including Confessions of an Eco-Warrior and Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching. He is currently the director of the Rewilding Institute, a think tank dedicated to promoting conservation and species extinction.

Lucy Tapahonso, Navajo Nation Poet Laureate, and author of several books of poetry, including The Women are Singing and Blue Horses Rush In. Her poetry is inspired by the idea that the feminine is a source of balance and power in the world.

Priscilla Ybarra, author of The Good Life: Mexican American Writing and the Environment. Dr. Ybarra’s work investigates Mexican American literature and environmental issues. She is a professor of English at the University of North Texas.

Phillip Connors, author of Fire Season: Field Notes From a Wilderness Lookout (National Outdoor Book Award, Sigurd Olsen Nature Writing Award), has spent the last decade as a fire lookout in the Gila National Forest. He previously was an editor at the Wall Street Journal.

Travel Awards
We will offer ten awards of $250 each to graduate students and independent scholars to help defray the cost of attending the symposium. Information on how to apply can be found on the website.

Symposium Location
Western New Mexico University is a diverse, public, regional university with about 3,500 students. Silver City is located in southwestern New Mexico at 6,000 feet elevation. It is the gateway to the Gila National Wilderness Area, the United States’ first wilderness area, as well as Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument. It is known for its vibrant art community, locavore food scene, and all-around funky downtown. It has been recently named one of the top 20 small towns to visit by Smithsonian Magazine.

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