Re-Memories of Warming


Memories are translations. We gather much and miss more. I originally compiled this archive in spring of 2022 for a final project in a course on environmental histories and values. I did it mostly for myself. I wanted to attend to what I had picked up throughout the pandemic — people, places, poems, photographs. These fragments are re-memories of ecosystems and relational nests. I needed an excuse to collect and arrange them into a landscape from which I could derive meaning and questions. Contained in this landscape, you will discover bioregions and memories in dialogical hocket. These are not fixed. They move and warp and invert along with this archive. I pass these edited eco re-memories to you with hope they will remind you of the fragments you hold most sacred as a person of culture in lockstep with a responsive environment.


Home is tucked between two cheap duffle bags and a box of shells. Leaving is no longer an illusion. I am transient. Migrating East, I am learning names of birds and soils. Black-capped Chickadee. Entisols. Seeds have re-homed with me. The perennials are budding, almost. New Haven greeted me with a storm. I ran right through it to the Divinity School farm. Placing a blackberry to my lips, I recognized this foreign plot as a kind of home. Tomorrow, I will consume wilted cabbage and tofu with strangers. I will wander through bookshops and falafel spots. Maybe, I will fall in love without taxonomy, and remember the edge of Lake Erie, oceanic and turbulent.


This is the season of my birth. Warming spices, ciders, slow walks, and long-fermented sourdoughs are familiar tonics. This is the time I feel most rooted, nostalgic, and sensual. Myself. I love the swoosh and squelch leaves make under my not-quite waterproof boots. This is decomposition’s magic. These dying leaves sigh and return nutrients to the soil, providing mulch for the wintering ahead. Place-making in this season looks like table-setting, records spinning, poetry reading, fire-tending, and pickling roots and shoots. In autumn, I kneel. Who knew I would grieve, and belly-laugh, and celebrate, and weep? Cherish every moment?


Wintering is crucible. Days are short and darkness long. Me and the biting winds are in call and response. Fickle snowmelt and garden plots. I put them to bed. I gather the last of kale and herbs and make a hearty meal with their leaves and stems. My wrist is broken and with it, my courage. Everything is at rest and at risk. Liturgical seasons are rood screens and root me. I am intimate with the waiting and entombment.


Daffodils peek from snow tufts. Lows warm. The wind still stings, but my toes no longer feel at risk. Bird song is returning. It’s lifting me out of my winter arbor. Still, I am tender and tired. Soon, rehearsals will intensify for “This Place is a Message” with the Schwartzman Center. Yesterday, we got acquainted with our site, the Landscape Lab, for the first time. It poured rain for all six hours as we tried on voices and shapes. Storied, it is unapologetically beautiful and apocalyptic. I was surprised to feel hope caught in my throat as I mimicked the calls of Chickadee Fee-bees and Zebra Finches. I will close my semester here in this tangle of mugwort, knotweed, echinacea, skunk cabbage, wolf trees, snakes, and ticks. All these, persons. Even here, the apricot tree blooms. I know now we become an étude of birdsong as we turn, not towards barns that enclose, but towards fire, which burns and re-embers.


Warming makes us feel… porous and windswept. Compressed under the weight and consoled by coalitions that resist. I am in love with the risk. The body is a marvel. It absorbs touch. Sometimes, I wonder if we will be able to survive at these interstices or if we will be able to persuade anyone that this place is a message. I long for courage to turn around. To take apart structures that are not in service to lemon balm, birdsong, creaturely beings (human and non), bees, and apricot blooms. Community keeps me going, and so does the motherwort, that survives despite pandemics, weeds, and neglect. These plant-beings remind me that continuance is possible. As I weed the mugwort that threatens to choke out its roots, I remember that I am a part of this matted mess. That it’s all holiness. My breath falls in, my breath flows out, and for a moment nothing happens.

Kaley Casenhiser

Kaley Casenhiser is a second-year joint degree candidate at Yale School of the Environment (MEM) and Yale Divinity School (M.Div.). A scholar-activist, she specializes in ethics, political ecology, and the arts. Their work and activism counter-maps body-land relations and traces the interstices of environmental racism, sacred ecologies, and land sovereignty. Kaley practices critical participatory action research (CPAR) so their work originates with the lived experiences of communities most impacted by land loss and the climate crisis. She views the repertoire and archival materiality of the lives of those dispossessed by colonialism and racism as critical sources for environmental ethics, participatory action, climate resiliency. Kaley also works as a performance artist where she explores how bodies and lands are shaped by memory and place in motion. Across each of these mediums, Kaley excavates gendered and raced geographies and epistemologies believing this multi-media work will deepen the capacity of all persons to witness one another and advocate for environmental, economic, and cultural justice in their home-places.

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