Category : Walk

When Hybrid Making and Local Knowledge Collide

Megan Kaminski and L. Ann Wheeler’s piece from our Practices of Hope issue of About Place Journal reads:

“The practice of divination has been and continues to be used by cultures throughout the world to help people navigate difficult futures. The Prairie Divination Deck turns to the plants and animals of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem as a source for knowledge and inspiration as to how to live in the world (and to re-align thinking towards kinship and sustainability). How might thinking with plants and animals allow us a different lens through which to see our present world and histories–and help to imagine futures?”

The Deck


The divination deck manifests local knowledge in wonderful ways.

Collaboration, Community, & Local Knowledge

After I hiked the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland several years ago, I landed in St. John’s, and there, at their wonderful museum The Rooms, I stumbled upon (in that serendipitous way one does) Pam Hall’s An Encyclopedia of Local Knowledge, a collaborative art-science-local knowledge book and art exhibit about the people from the north coast of Newfoundland.

The Plates

1) Twine and rope, both important for these fishing people. A lot of her knowledge sources knew about twine and rope and nets – and these were also metaphors for stories—the thread—so this one is on splicing.

2) But there were also important local and more “objective” or scientific collaborations. In one, local knowledge experts collaborated with Department of Fisheries and Ocean about fish species, marine mammals, historic sites, waterfowl, and ecological reserves. LEK is Local Knowledge Experts and FEK is Fisheries Ecological Knowledge.

3) In another display, a local woman, Elva Spence, kept intricate track of the weather for forty years morning, and afternoon. Her records are now part of Environment Canada.

4) Many are quirky and intimate, like “What Fred Cave knows about Vamps,” a certain kind of sock. The same idea of weaving stories runs through Fred Cave’s unravelling, making, and remaking. But his is also very practical, handed down, a way to keep the feet dry in the mud, rain, and snow, and to make some money.


Abandon Binaries

“[My project] is a view of knowledge that, while respectful of disciplinary traditions, calls urgently for the abandonment of binaries, whether based on philosophical foundations or economic ones. It calls also for more trans-disciplinary dialogues, partnerships, and research initiatives and for inclusive and experimental forms of collective decision-making about our communities, environments, and ecosystems.” 

The goals of local knowledge is to expand how we think about what knowledge is and who is invited to participate in its production. Like Hall, I believe that new forms, means, or modes for making, moving, and representing knowledge are urgently needed for us to forge knew, hopeful, energizing, and playful ways of being together for the future.

The Future

Predictions, telling the future, fortunes, art, randomness and synchronicity (of drawing a card or finding a book), magic, local knowledge, who has power to know what. These are inherent in the Prairie Divination Deck and the Encyclopedia of Local Knowledge.

What kind of local knowledge do you have? Will you share?


How to Make (simple) Plant-dyes

Gathered Triteleia grandiflora, Larkspur, and Siberian peashrub on our long walk in the Palouse hills. When I got home, I crushed the petals to make watercolor, and tried to paint a camas on handmade paper. Camas is the plant I was looking for but never found. But making plant-dyes made me feel so grounded and yet buoyed by their lovely fragrances as I smashed them and then streaked the paper.

You can do this, too, with just about any plant or vegetable, making it as simple or complex as you’d like. Follow these links for more: Compost and Cava and Atlas Obscura.


Run Your Hands Down the Bark

During the virus lockdown, Myron and I have been taking long walks in the Palouse hills near Moscow, Idaho. But even then, I’m restless, find myself wanting to make things, to turn the moments into something more touchable and stable and–though impossible–contained. Yesterday I took with me some rubbing paper and amber wax. I thought I might rub pieces of sidewalk or rocks. Instead I started documenting the trees along Pine Cone Road. I was at this for hours, running hands down the bark, pressed the paper against the tree trunk, so intimately, creating patterns. Trees share so much with us human beings – they have limbs and skin and little portals shaped like eyes. I only made images of the species I knew because right now it feels good to be able to name things.

You can do this! All you need is a piece of paper, a pencil or crayon, and a tree. And if you can’t identify the species, all the better. Get to know it without naming it.

Near Julietta, Idaho, May 2, 2020


Marine Algae

Kelp on Kilve Beach, South coast of England

This article on marine algae has a couple of fascinating ideas: oxygen comes from slime; kelp is not a single plant but a group individuals; there are 7,000 species of algae, and they produce 330 billion tons of oxygen per year.

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