Photographs

I don’t take pictures. The uninformed might attribute this to the fact that I don’t have a smartphone, and so the only camera that is ever with me is 1998’s worst, but even when I had a smartphone I didn’t take pictures. This fall, in Stratford, I had to switch back to an iPhone for travel purposes, and I took about one picture: the first day my mother asked me for a picture of the house I was living in. After that there was nada. For many people, pictures preserve — a quick shot of your two best friends in front of the Eiffel tower will keep a part of you there forever. Some people take pictures incessantly in an effort to preserve everything, others take pictures for only the most special of moments, and some take none at all. I’m the latter. If no one ever took a picture of me, my own visual existence would go undocumented. When asked why I don’t take any pictures, the question is usually posed something like don’t you want to remember this moment forever? I think that would be nice, but a picture isn’t me remembering it, exactly. Looking at one jogs my memory, sure. But it isn’t the same as my memory. Studies have shown that memory changes as a memory is accessed again and again, oftentimes altering to fit the scene that the rememberer likes best. In this way easily comes nostalgia, and positive memories of things you may not have altogether enjoyed. I want my memory to be my memory. I don’t disrespect photographers at all, but for me a photograph is not mine. A photo never has had the power to represent the succulent taste of that expensive dessert, or the fleeting smile on the lips of a best friend. Even though it might help me recall the feelings, they’re never full. I would rather have a fog of memory, where the past emerges with striking unpredictability. Without pictures, I’m constantly encouraged to find the fleeting beauty in now.

-Quinn Hickey

CAD Followup

I grew up in Indonesia. It’s bustling with the fourth largest population of any country in the world. Its economy is growing rapidly, mostly due to its rich natural resources. While I lived there, many of my best friend’s parents worked in oil. Katie’s dad worked for Exxon Mobil. Sebi’s dad worked for BP. Chanel’s dad worked for Halliburton. My dad’s childhood best friend, Vivek, worked for Schlumberger. Fossil fuels surrounded me. Not only were they pumped into the tank of our Volkswagon, but they paid the salaries and supported the livelihoods of people close to me.

I first learned about climate change in elementary school in New Hampshire. I was astonished that global leaders could allow something so horrible and dangerous to occur. I took it upon myself to reduce, reuse, and recycle. I turned off the water when I brushed my teeth. I shut off the lights when I left the room. I did the things our teachers told us would make a difference.

Nothing happened. In fact, things got worse.

Since I moved to New Hampshire in August 2004, NOAA measurements show that atmospheric carbon dioxide has grown from 376 ppm to 404 ppm in February 2016. These numbers are unprecedented. Our planet’s normal changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide cannot explain the massive increase.

I don’t know what we can do about it.

I took Earth Systems, our school’s only earth science class, this fall. We covered a wide variety of subject material. We started the term with plate tectonics and sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rock. We passed through earthquakes, natural disasters, and global weather patterns. At the end of the term we reached natural resources and climate change. We started with the basics. How do coal, oil, and natural gas form? Where do we find them? How do we get them out?

All of these questions were straightforward. We looked at diagrams that showed how oil moved through porous source rock and rose until a dense cap rock kept it pooled below the surface. We looked at photos of Venezuelan oil shale and Canadian tar sands. I researched enhanced oil recovery and presented my findings to the class.

Our questions changed once our teacher assigned us one of the most important articles ever written about the oil industry: “The End of Cheap Oil” by Campbell and Laherrère. This 1998 article written by two men in the oil industry outlined their reasons for believing that conventional oil would be on the decline in less than ten years. This article made me begin to question who was responsible not only for our oil crisis, but also for climate change.

The oil industry is an international money making machine. In many countries, the US included, oil companies receive heavy government subsidies to find, extract, and refine oil. Our taxpayer dollars, whether we want them to or not, are paying for the destruction of our planet. Even if we cut down on our individual carbon footprint, we cannot stop supporting oil companies. We cannot blame the oil companies or the people working for them. They’re simply doing their jobs. Yes, every person should do what they can to decrease their own carbon footprint, but what can we do if our tax money is going to subsidize oil production? I do not know how to answer this question.

I realize I am biased. I have grown up too close to fossil fuels.

Since 2012, commodity export in Indonesia has decreased, and with it, the economic growth of the country has slowed down.

Last summer, I visited the Kaltim Prima Coal mine in in Sangatta, Kalimantan. KPC is one of the largest open pit coal mining companies in the world. I visited one of the largest of their 12 pits: the Bintang Pit. The Bintang Pit goes about 300 meters below ground level and is about 2 kilometers wide. The machinery used to remove dirt and coal is massive, and their system for exporting coal involved a 13 kilometer long conveyer belt, a loading area that could hold over a million tons of coal, and another system of conveyer belts that could load ships, docked at the end of a 2 kilometer long jetty, at the rate of 7,000 tons of coal per hour. The ship I watched being loaded would take about 20 hours to fill, and that’s considered a medium sized vessel.

Indonesia requires coal companies to reclaim the land they excavate, and the tour guides took us to visit the reclamation sites. They included a lake full of fish, dragon fruit gardens, and a cow farm used to teach local children about animals and farming. The town of Sangatta was flourishing. There were schools, places to play paintball, driving ranges, soccer fields, tennis courts and many other amenities I did not expect to find. Eighty percent of Sangatta’s population of 70,000 people are somehow connected to KPC. Most of KPC’s 30,000 employees are Indonesian, and a surprising number of them are women. I had the chance to meet and talk with a female mining engineer who happened to be Muslim. One of our tour guides told me that his wife, and lots of other local women, operate the dump trucks on the site. It’s thanks to KPC that these jobs exist, and I think that’s a wonderful thing.

My visit to KPC brought me even closer to the fossil fuels industry, and it made me wonder how I can bridge my relationship with people to my relationship with the earth. On one hand, I want to decimate fossil fuels. One the other, I realize how many people depend on it for a living. There are men and women in developing countries, and in well developed country, whose lives will be turned upside down if fossil fuel production stops. Can I put the importance of sustainability over the importance of millions of people employed by fossil fuels? Is there a feasible way to transfer these people into eco friendly jobs? Do I want to support divestment and ending subsidy if there are so many lives at stake?

I’ve watched Indonesia grow at an alarmingly fast rate, and I wonder what will happen if commodity export slows to a halt. How will the Indonesian economy find a new source to grow? Will the country I call home continue to grow its middle class? Like I’ve said, I have no answers to any of the questions I pose, and I fear that any efforts to stop producing and using fossil fuels will be too little too late.

-Emma Kim

My Climate Action Day! My History with E-Waste

For Climate Action Day I helped lead the PLAN/Exeter sustainability initiative workshop. PLAN (Post Land Fill Action Network) is a sustainability consulting group that travels across the country to universities to help student leaders create effective sustainability plans that recycle and resell thrown out items. Most often, these items (e-waste, clothes, plastic, furniture) are dumped together in large trash collectors or left outside. Here at Exeter, we have identified that our current end of year clean out period deals with those exact problems. Although the mandatory clean out is effective at cleaning the rooms, preventing students from leaving the dorm until they are done has stressed students into indiscriminately chucki ng away items into large trash containers outside their dorms. With this current method we spend large sums of money for these bins and end up actually doing more harm than good.

Of the recyclable or even reusable items that individuals throw out, electronic waste (e-waste) is perhaps the most problematic item because of the rare metals and toxic elements that are in its circuit boards. In a land fill, lead and mercury penetrate the soil and groundwater and gold and silver go to waste. Who has to deal with the bulk of this? Ghettos in Nigeria and India. The bad news for you and me? It’s ending up in our ocean and consequently seafood. We are all suffering for e-waste.

My interest in e-waste is actually how I got involved with PLAN and Exeter’s budding sustainable clean out initiative. This past summer, I attended the Global Citizens Initiative, which is a week long conference in Cambridge, MA where 24 scholars from around the world discuss global issues and develop independent projects focused on an array of our world’s most pressing needs. I was one of two Exonians admitted to this program and I befriended other high schoolers hailing from Iraq to Somalia to Brazil to Japan. The weeklong conference was an incredible opportunity for me to discover the striking commonalities between me and my global peers as well as the serious cultural and political differences. Under the staffing of several notable Exeter faculty I engaged in Harkness conversations with my peers to discuss topics ranging from the UN human rights list to exploring the definition of “engagement.” I left the program conscious of the political ailments of my friend, Aziza, in Afghanistan and Abdi from Somalia. I suddenly engaged with the world in a capacity I didn’t know I could reach. All of us had thought we were already cultured, but we had now reached a new level of global empathy and an awareness for different issues that were now bound to real faces. I returned with a strong conviction that whatever I did as an adult needed to be done in a global sphere where I could have these same interactions. I knew that I would have to do something that made a positive impact. The greatest thing? The week had convinced us all that we were future leaders in each of our respective countries and that we could get together and learn from each other. Would Aziza be the president of Afghanistan like she proclaimed she would so boldly? I now had numerous outlets into all corners of the world through my GCI friends. Taking on the world felt tangible and real. It wasn’t an unattainable dream.

As I mentioned, our time at the summit was also dedicated to developing independent projects in teams of four. Pursuing the question of how we (my team) could reduce e-waste became a topic we all felt strongly about. The plan would be that we would research and develop a project, pitch it to the rest of the students as well as our professional mentors individually assigned to us, and then go back to each of our communities and spend the next year implementing it. For me that meant my partners would go back to Hong Kong, England, and Connecticut. I have to admit, before the summit I wouldn’t be able to explain what E-waste was, but in a matter of days I had developed a deep concern for its implications.

With the stress of college decisions and senior fall, I decided to postpone working on my project. In January after I had been accepted ED to Columbia I finally began making my first moves. I reached out to Mr. Bre, the new sustainability coordinator, and was ecstatic when I found out that I would not be alone in this endeavor. PLAN was coming to work with students at Exeter to develop a project that would focus on all recyclable items! I worked closely with Mr. Bre to prepare for this initiative and I joined the student board where I was appointed co-project manager. Today’s workshop brought together the student board and 20 excited student volunteers to finalize our plan for the end of the year. As project manager, I will satisfy my project’s goal of reducing e-waste while also having the opportunity to manage the big picture aspects of this initiative which include the recycling of clothes, plastic, and furniture. While I would have honestly preferred to spend CAD outside at one of the many incredible workshops, today’s meeting was not just necessary but ended up being exciting for me to see how engaged and helpful our volunteers were. It was worth listening to volunteers come with energy and brainstorm new ideas for the three hours we worked with PLAN. Having held several different leadership positions, I have come to realize the great power in leaders that can maintain direction while also allowing the rest of the team to take a stake in the mission. Empowering our volunteers to hold impactful jobs has added energy and innovation to our project. Stay tuned because soon the whole school will be involved with our initiative Trash 2 Treasure!

Reach out to me if you are interested in learning about the specific steps we have outlined for our project or if you are interested in serving as  a team volunteer.

-David Shepley

Shepley 1

Muslima and I outside our boarding house. She is from Tajikistan and goes to boarding school in Mombassa

From Grace…

et lacrimis turbavit aquas, obscuraque moto

reddita forma lacu est

-Ovid (The Metamorphoses, Book III, lines 475-476)

 

As we walk to our observation spots, the rain begins to splash onto the surface of the water, and the disturbance, manifested in a multitude of concentric ripples, reminds me of this passage describing Narcissus’ panic as his tears disturb his reflection, with which he’s fallen in love due to a curse. As the date of graduation and my subsequent departure approach, I see the figurative reflection of my musings in his story. The sadness and nostalgia blurs my view of my surroundings, as I try to ponder my history with Exeter, to appreciate the present, and have confidence in my future. I’m panicking as I begin to see my presence in these places become obscure.

I don’t know anything about the specific species of trees present in New England forests, except that pines and oaks are common. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” so I’ve never really believed that memorizing the exact types of trees and which ones have which bark type or leaf shape would add to my appreciation at all. The forest in which I sit is similar to the ones surrounding my house, with the horses a few hundred feet away, the tricky cover of leaves on the uneven ground, and the evergreens solemnly framing the grey sky. However, I can’t call any of the trees by any specific name, and I feel like I should be embarrassed that I forgot to learn their names. As the bus left the Fiumicino airport in Rome on the first day of my term abroad, I remember looking at the oddly shaped umbrella pines and Cypress trees lining the road, and I missed the broad shade of the trees arching over the roads to my house in Exeter.

-Grace Stinson

The River…

The River is life and death. Just six words that encompass deep thought and creativity. The sun is caught and reflected by a spinning red leaf. Quickening its pace downward on a journey to new life as well as its own demise. As it gets closer and closer to its birth into the life waters of the Exeter River it catches more and more sun and throws it in all the surrounding directions. Its light mass makes the tiniest of ripples as the smooth face of the fallen leaf collides with the still surface of the slowly moving murky water. The moment the leaf meets the surface it is carried away by the swift but steady current.

The leaf flares up with all of its might out of the water as the wind begins to pick up in an effort to fight the current of its new found life. The wind is only brief and not strong enough to fight the persistent current and carry the leaf away. So it continues on the course set by the new life that it has begun. 

As the leaf is exposed to the water for longer periods of time and begins soaking up the water that it has floated upon it becomes in a sense wiser. The water loosens the tension in the leaf and it stretches out slowly to lay flat on the water. It no longer tries to fight the course it is being taken on with such a fury as it did in its youth. It moves quicker on this path now with ease and with every minute the absorption of water increases until it starts to dip under the surface. Its decline begins slowly until its whole surface in underwater at which point it then begins the long journey down to the depths of the river. Out of the currents where it will spend the rest of its days. 

-Sean Geary

Spinach – and other things you don’t think you like until you try them

This past week our class field trip was to Willow Pond Farm, a community farm just down the road in Brentwood, NH. When we arrived it was about eight o’clock and the newly sprouted grass was still covered in dew. Soon, as the sun warmed our backs and the flies swarmed our faces, it really began to feel like spring. After we chatted with Emma and Joanie, two women who are currently working on and organizing the farm, we got to work helping transplant spinach into the ground. The twelve of us worked quickly, some people dug small holes in the soil while others watered the ground as we replanted each clump of spinach. After each pod of spinach was in the ground we watered them with a nutritious and smelly slurry of liquid-seaweed fertilizer. The soil was light and fluffy and the little spinach plants were hardy – “just rip their roots up a little bit before you put them into the ground” Emma instructed us – so the work was relatively undemanding. 

I can imagine that almost none of us “Lit and the Landers” woke up that morning thinking, “Man I’d love to go out and get dirty and bug bitten and plant spinach this morning” but I’ve noticed that once you get going with something, it’s pretty easy to enjoy it. I’m reminded of all the times my parents have asked me to help with chores around the house. In the winter we constantly have to bring in firewood for our woodstove, and thus “guys can you each carry in two loads of wood please?” is a common request to me and my two siblings. I usually grumble and put it off as long as I can, preferring to stay curled on the couch. The hardest part is making myself get up and put on boots, a coat and, of course, finding both a right and a left hand glove. Our woodpile is only on the other side of the driveway, so it’s really not that far or hard. I load up my arms with a couple of logs and trudge back inside, balancing the stack carefully when I reach to open and close the back door. I’m not sure if it’s the fresh air, the physical activity or just the feeling of being helpful, but by the time I fulfilled my quota and dropped my second armful of wood inside, I end going out for more. Sometimes it’s just one more trip; sometimes it’s four or five. Once I get going I realize that “hey, that wasn’t so bad” and that I actually enjoy doing these jobs.

There’s something about working outside with your hands that is so satisfying. I think almost everyone felt it after we patted the last baby spinach plant into the ground and gazed down the row at our progress. When we finished we looked around for more work, but it was time to head back to campus and so we all piled into the red dragon with muddy shoes, seaweed smelling hands and big smiles on our faces. 

-Anna Barnes

From Rex

Rex 2

A photo I took at my observation spot along the Exeter River.

Recently, I wrote about Annie Dillard’s piece, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and how she commented on the little pennies of life. The piece had another dazzling portion — detailing how patients cured of cataracts saw the world for the first time.

She references Marius von Senden’s book, Space and Sight, which says that such people had “no idea of space whatsoever.” The patients could not tell what a cube or pyramid looked like, and one patient indicated that she thought her mother was only a few inches big.

Dillard claims that “for the newly sighted, vision is pure sensation unencumbered by meaning.” To the formerly blind, vision is “an extensive field of light, in which everything appeared dull, confused, and in motion,” or “nothing but a confusion of forms and colors.”

These people “see the world as a dazzle of color-patches.” Only with time do they start to realize that these color-patches have form and substance. Only with time do they start to understand the meaning of depth.

To me, this was mind-boggling. “Form is condemned to an eternal dance macabre with meaning,” says Dillard. Indeed, it was. Everything I have seen, everything I am seeing, is being edited and interpreted by my mind. A football flying toward my head is just a football flying toward my head, not an increasingly large dark splotch. A field of flowers is a field of flowers, not a dazzling collage of bright colors. It is still hard to believe that people cured of cataracts, however temporarily, could see so purely.

Rex1

The Lit and the Land Gang hiking along the green trail.

On a recent hike through the Green Trail with the class, we each sat down, alone, at periodic points along the trail. It was a chilly day with few clouds in the sky. It had snowed the day before, and the balmy sun caused a rhythmic drip of melting snow from the trees. With each light breeze, tiny flakes swayed down from the trees, dusting my jacket and the ground around me. At first, the woods were mostly silent, but overtime, more and more birds began to sing in one beautiful symphony. As I sat, journaling and still, the woods around me had begun to wake up from its snowy slumber.

Once I had written enough notes, I wanted to see purely, the way Dillard described. I wanted to forget shape and shed meaning, and just see the color patches (it just so happened that taking off my glasses to rid at least some precision was helpful). In the ten minutes that I sat focusing on my sight, I found glimmers of hope. For a second here, or a second there, I saw the color-patches. In front of me appeared a thin, horizontal, shimmering white sliver, with a thick, dark, horizontal band beneath it, and then many black, roughly-vertical lines shooting through the foreground. But, just as soon as I had seen the patches, they were gone again. Better luck next time.

-Rex Tercek

put down your hand-binoculars

tun·nel vi·sion

noun

  1. defective sight in which objects cannot be properly seen if not close to the center of the field of view.
    Synonyms: narrow focus, concentration, fixation, narrow-mindedness, single-mindedness, close-mindedness

    “without the tunnel vision that exasperated their friends and family, this team of inventors would never have made their mark in history”

    • informal
      the tendency to focus exclusively on a single or limited goal or point of view.

You’re laying down. It’s a beautiful spring day, and you’re laying down in a small, circular meadow. The perimeter of the meadow is lined with a old, simple wooden fence. Outside the fence there are trees, and songbirds and a mirror-like river. There are things you don’t know too. There are species you can’t identify, insects and and burrows and rolling mud piles. A separate world. You lay down on your back. The sky is a blue that reminds you of summer and chocolate chip pancakes and your dad and watching planes take off from the airstrip in Rye. The sun is bright. You cup your eyes like binoculars. Much better. You watch the world above through your hand-binoculars. You’re happy. The sun beats down on your bluejeans and your thighs feel warm. You feel comfortable. You think: this is what I know, this blue sky and green grass. You see one thing and one thing only. That blue. You keep your hand-binoculars pressed against your face. You fall into a daze, remembering the days you spent with your neighbors climbing trees. Or the days at the beach under a blue sky fading to black. You’re pulled from your daydream by the whistles of the songbirds outside that old, simple wooden fence. A hawk flies above you and for a split second you catch it swooping into then out of your line of vision. Tunnel vision. The songbirds continue to sing, the wind, you notice, makes the trees shiver and shake. The pines are speaking. The hawk circles again but this time you can’t see it, your hand-binoculars are keeping your eyes stuck on that blue. You want to see the hawk. Come back! you think, come back! But the sun is too bright. You can’t move your hands. You know that if you move your hands you’ll lose that perfect spot in the sky. That blue. You try to ignore the songbirds, the wind. That stupid hawk.

You’re cold. You’re standing in the shade, you’re surrounded by pines. It doesn’t make sense why you’re cold because it’t spring. The sun is out. The sky is blue. A beautiful blue. You’re walking though the trees. The wind makes the trees shiver and shake. The pines are speaking. You stop walking and turn, slowly, 360 degrees. You hear the songbirds. You see one too. The river is still. A hawk weaves its way through the hemlocks and perches on a branch to your right. It looks at you, cocks its head, then takes off again. The limb is left slightly bouncing, dancing and moving in the breeze. As you walk you notice the leaves under your feet and for a second you spot a couple of ants, no, beetles, making their way towards a secret underground kingdom. You notice everything. You can see it all. Though the pines you see a meadow, a small, circular opening with a old, simple wooden fence. It looks warm, comfortable. You want to lay down in that meadow. The goosebumps on your arms rise and the breeze picks up. You want to feel the sun on your thighs through your bluejeans and watch the blue in the sky fade to black. There’s too much here, the bugs and birds and pines and water, you think. I’m cold, you think. What do you want? You find the sky though the canopy of green. You want that blue, like tunnel vision.

It seems like I’m the only one who didn’t choose a school for sports. I’m surrounded by athletes, it seems, all day everyday. I mean, I’m an athlete myself. Not a college athlete, just an athlete. High school. Tunnel vision was the cool thing to have. I mean, at the time the term tunnel vision was by no means used for the recruiting process or the ultimate goal of being recruited to play on the collegiate level. Hindsight is always 20/20 and here I am sitting, writing, with perfect vision. But a year ago I was still blind and so was everyone else. Yes, I could have done it too. I could have tried to be recruited to play division III sports if I had committed myself to it. I didn’t and, while originally applying to college, I regretted this. Sometimes. I knew I didn’t actually want to play college sports. I had never be molded or shaped by coaches and my parents to be that girl who chose a college that wanted her. I was never built around tunnel vision. But from where I was standing at the time, I wanted to be that girl in the meadow, I wanted to feel the sun and watch the sky with nothing to worry about, nothing to look at but just that magical blue. But now that it’s over and graduation is in seven weeks and I’m nearing the end of this chapter of my life, I’m fearful for my friends and their addiction to that blue. That tunnel vision. I’m proud of my peers who have committed to a school, I really am, I’m just nervous they committed themselves prematurely. It’s important to stand in the shade, feel that breeze and see those bugs. I just hope that if the tunnel vision ever recedes, the view is still nice and the sun not too bright.

Tunnel Vision

-Noa Siegel

Night Hike

Night Hike

The night hike is a great distance from me now, about two weeks into the past, but the colors of the light polluted sky still can line the walls of my shut eyelids. The coat of clouds which began as a yellowing navy churned into a too-bright-for-night grayish purple, darkening toward the edges of the horizon line. The startling ease with which I could see felt almost electric; I could faintly see, or maybe just fancy, a glowing ring of light around each of us walking through the open field, much like the glow from behind the silhouetted and barren trees against the clouds. It seemed necessary to step cautiously, slowly, and deliberately. I placed my heel against grass. Then, I attempted to press the rest of my sole flat against the muddy earth but the curve in my foot would not flatten against it, not even against the bottom of my shoe, and though this happens every step I take, this time I could feel the empty space below my skin. My toes finally connected with the grass — slowly, of course, as Mr. Bre-Miller had suggested — and as I pushed myself forward off the ground, I imagined it was the ground that propelled me forward, melding to the shape of my foot till it sprung back as the flat mud it was, sending my flying past footstep after footstep. We continued walking to the edge of forest, separated from the field with a small stream of rainwater from earlier that day. Behind my shoulder, the field was a haze, lit only by the pollution and warm yellow dots of homes in the distance. Ahead was not visible, for any hint of light was blocked by tall trees reaching above the path to embrace each other with their branches, entangling leaves and pine needles over our heads.

-Megan Smith

From Lucy

treeeeI watch hemlocks stretch into the sun and dip their branches in the water, I’d like to think some boy’s been swinging them. They tip to grow ever taller, reaching for the extra square foot of sunlight. A warm spring breeze combs through the tops of riverside conifers and paper-dry beech leaves resurface from a winter light on snow. The hemlock roots, covered in moss and wintergreen, tangle deep below the riverbank—but trunks aren’t so invincible. Some are tipped or toppled by a storm, bent down to stay as ice-storms do, some victim to an ambiguous deadfall snap, as if the inner dome of heaven had fallen, yet the best trunks,bowed so low for long, are most tempting for swinging. Did ambition make the trees lean taller? Did greed make the trees fall farther? The low branches of these hemlocks dip into the water, evergreen needles weighing them down. Dead needles of near hemlocks and further pines are scattered across the riverside—a steep bank that encourages these tilted trunks. Perhaps then, the tree was ought to grow crooked.

But just a few yards away I next notice a colonial granite fencepost, the type that only a minister could likely earn, the type that was extracted, chiseled, and lowered into the earth here centuries ago by some sensible mason. He likely lowered several slabs as vertical support for the marking of a boundary. The fencepost now sits in the riverbank sunken, not straight like a cemetery stone, but tipping alongside the trees. Centuries of current have sunken the stone’s balance, tipping it out over the river like one of those precarious hemlocks.

At first saplings shoot up straight. They soon begin growing limbs to compete with others around. Sunlight becomes scarce. The river catches twigs in its teeth and pushes on its corridors. I age the hemlocks upwards of 80 years and wonder what will make them snap.

-Lucy Knox