earth reading writing

This FEELed Note is the sixth (and final) in a series written by Natalie Rice, the FEELed Lab Researcher in/of/on Place this year. Thank you, Natalie, for your inspiring contributions to the FEELed Lab this year!

Last week, a group of us gathered at Woodhaven to see how the earth reads writing. I talked about some of the research, reading, thinking, feeling, and writing I’ve been doing over the last six months around the Woodhaven library as an interface between nature and culture. Then, we went outside with copies of the poem, “Anti-Colonial Romance” by Norah Bowman, which is the same text the earth has been reading for the past several months.

We experimented with how the earth could erode and enter the text through water, fire, tree bark, mud, leaf, branch and even some deer scat.

A page sits on a rock, on top of a stick. Several dried pine needles criss-cross the page.

Dani and Therese redacted the poem first through fire and then by water.

The charred remains of a page lie on a block of stone. The words are glowing red.

By being burnt, the ink changed from black to red. The elemental redaction also seemed to prioritize the words “Land Back” in their experiment. At one point, the black singe of paper on the rock was indiscernible from a curve of black rock tripe. Book had become earth and earth had become book. 

Rebecca also redacted the poem by fire and was left with the word “burning” in red. Norah folded her poem around a branch, walloped it in the creek, and enclosed leaves inside, revealing a new erasure-by-tree-and-water poem.

A page is mostly burned, with only hte word 'burning' still legible.
A crumpled page has four dried leaves stuck to it. The page sits on a dry log on the grass.

After we experimented, we went to the fir tree by the creek and dug out Breath, Like Water.

Four people stand under a tree, gathered around a shovel stuck in the ground.
Fingers dig in the dirt, and the corner of a book is visible.

Yazdan said some respectful words before we exhumed the book. I didn’t think the text would be as eroded as some of the other decomposition projects I have been referencing, such as “Decomp” Stephen Collis and Jordan Scott where their text had been left to weather for a year. However, when we lifted it from the soil it was damp, mycelial, and encased with leaf and pinecone.

Two hands hold a book encrusted in dirt in open hands. Three pairs of legs stand in the background.

“slow trails around slopes”

A page is encrusted with dirt and other earthly matter!


“Government” [eroded] “red” 

“prisoners to orchards”


Time had made itself visible across the text. The text had been transformed with wet redactions and mycelial punctuation. Winter and then spring thaw had read, written, and re-written an anti-colonial romance of its own.

For now, we have reburied the book, and we will see what new poems emerge another six months. 

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