Disaster area

bark study 2

It starts innocently enough: just a small rift, a discontinuity in the otherwise seamless joinery of our days. The pulse quickens. We feel a bit more… alive. Yes.

birch roots

We were always told such frightening things about courting disaster. But what do the old people know? Surely they are just jealous of our youth and energy — they want to deny us the heady pleasures they themselves are too worn down to handle.

bark study 1

And the pleasures now are nothing if not heady. Bark turns to bite; bony dinosaur hide splits open and lifts into feathers. Welcome to evolution, baby!

girdled birch

But each new opening only retains its brightness for a little while before it, too, turns dull. The body is continually subverting the mind’s best efforts to fly free, and returning us to our cages of solid matter.

Wolf Rocks

Nothing matters: that is our chant as we look for new chasms to outgrow, new eyeholes to peer out of, new mouths with which to whisper in disaster’s ear: save us.

Wolf Rocks 2

And so we become like snakes, slipping our skins, going belly to belly with our parent rock. Our tongues taste the wind in stereo. We tap into the simple on-or-off reptile brain.

Wolf Rocks 3

With our fellow heads we talk, we dance, we howl. Disaster possesses us in turn. We paint our headstones.

All photos taken at or near Wolf Rocks, a popular teen hang-out spot in the Gallitzin State Forest of Pennsylvania.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

9 Comments


  1. Damn, you should do something about the wilderness taggers over there.

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  2. Joel’s right, of course, but you’ve made a wild, bleak heady bit of poetry out of it all the same!

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  3. All the bark at the beginning reminds me that I want to take my biology class out to gather natural fibers. We’re going to make paper out of old junk mail and add interesting natural fibers to it. It’s a break for them from books. And it’s a seque between Ecology and The Molecules of the Body, since cellulose has a foot in both those camps.

    “Our tongues taste the wind in stereo”. sticks in my head as much as the poem bear you wrote of this summer past, producing a geyser of debris as he tore apart a hive.

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  4. Joel & Lucy: Graffiti goes back to prehistoric times… further if you count stuff like bear marks as “tags”. Personally, I’m happy enough if it can be limited to particular areas.

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  5. Let the marks remain!
    Like a Skoal ghost on a jean pocket, it is only right to emboss this bachanalia site.
    The disfiguring paint is their delinquent Stonehenge, a confession of dissipation.
    It’s a kind of honesty.

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  6. Yeah, but don’t you think it kind of ruins the place for everyone else? And I have to say that most prehistoric taggers whose work I’ve seen were quite a bit more creative than these yahoos.

    I thought the Fred Woods area I blogged about last spring — same geology, by the way — had a much more tasteful form of graffiti: it was all incised. Spray paint just makes it too easy.

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  7. You make graffiti feel like a force of nature, as natural as scats, tracks, and scent marks.

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  8. “Spray paint just makes it too easy.”

    Yeah, there is that, but still it’s a human universal. Notice how most of it is names (“I was here”). And the obscenities that form much of the rest, can easily be seen as verbalized scentmarks and scat — instead of shitting or pissing on the spot, they write “shit” or “piss”, and so on…. Not so different from the other animals!

    I imagine that eventually, some mold or the like will evolve an ability to eat the spray paint….

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  9. Me, I think those graffiti look terrific right there and then. No doubt time and tide will fade them and make them blend in more subtly.
    Funny thing is, if this photo was in a fancy museum catalogue and signed by one of the famous land-artists or graffiti artists, it would be revered and worth many $$

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