Memories that I’m trying to unearth and document, things of unquantifiable significance that feel important to write down.

River Eden at sunrise, Appleby-in-Westmoreland

10 years ago today, I spent a few days at a very hospitable couple’s house in Appleby-in-Westmoreland, Cumbria. I was about two weeks in to a six-month stint studying illustration at Glasgow School of Art. This is the River Eden at sunrise when we walked in to town to pick up the paper.

They had a beautiful stone house on Battlebarrow and kept chickens in the backyard. I’d never seen a house quite like it, you just don’t get places that old in most of the US. They put a hot water bottle in my bed at night and introduced me to QI, both firsts for me. I was only there for a couple nights, and they made me feel very welcome in the UK during a time when I felt pretty untethered.

light blue stucco
navy blue shutters
kitchen window like a fishbowl, or a porthole
one floor, mostly

mom splitting her knee open on the brick stairs up to the front door

pots & pans band

dad’s lime green motorcycle, briefly

agapanthus & jade plants
bougainvillea
the scariest palm tree

garage always full, but never the car

where did mom keep her drawing board?

huge glass sliding door at the back
games through the wicker rocking chair
cinder blocks and chain link

ice plant covering the hill to the creek behind the house

sliding closet doors, the paint would stick

neighbors with the scary Halloween ghost
Zeke & Aileen, and the toys they made for us

white painted brick surrounding the fireplace that we rarely used

– – –

blue stucco and blue shutters again,
but this time with white wrought iron
two floors now
wisteria taking over at the back

parents’ brass bed frame, with ceramic decorations on the spindles

mom and her study, wooden artboard and captain’s chair
endless stacks of continuous form paper
tins of colored pencils, meticulously organized by hue
AOL and computer games

the oven that went baroom

Sega Genesis behind the couch
Brett was way better

possom in the wood pile under the lemon and lime trees

the water main broke, water gushing down the street
jumping over the water to get to school

Mr. and Mrs. Redlitz next door
the not-so-nice lady on the other side
Teddy & Dmitri

games barefoot on the berm
until I stepped on a bee, and dog poo
Cassiopeia, Pleiades, Big & Little Dippers

Pleiades was mine, my little tornado

people jumped off that cliff sometimes, but we didn’t hear much about it; probably on purpose

falling about 5 feet on to my back on the rocks after trying to climb the cliff instead of using the path
I was lucky, it was one of the first times I really felt lucky
it could have been so much further
the grass at the top felt incredible

there’s an edible plant that grows on the cliffs and tastes sour, dewy and pink
and mustard, and fennel

owls, sometimes; gulls, always

still dream about walking down the storm drain, through the rocks and down to the bay
not sure it’s possible

we were always told to keep well back from the cliff edge, it could be soft even when it’s been dry
it was usually dry

the road leading to a friend’s house near the school fell in to the sea not long before we moved away
the rollercoaster road near the best tidepools was always changing
we didn’t go there often

countless tadpoles in the storm drain
one day we weren’t allowed to play in the storm drain
it didn’t seem like anything had changed in the little tadpole pools

never once saw the green flash

running my fingers through the sand just after the wave recedes, feeling millions of sandcrabs

mile swims around the buoys
mile runs in blistering, soft sand
Neil, a first crush
his real name is Donald
he was the only faster swimmer

a ray in the shallow water, briefly, before I can show anyone
a vivid purple jellyfish
dolphins in the bay, rarely

don’t dive in head first, always wade out and check the levels first
how to brace someone’s neck if you’re waiting for first aid
don’t touch a seal, it’s probably sick
don’t step on kelp bulbs barefoot, there might be something sharp inside
don’t step on the black “rocks”, they’re chunks of hot tar

cold water didn’t hurt my ears


On saguaros and an old dirt road

Another plant-related fact I learned from Techentin’s essay in “Edges of the Experiment” (see previous): saguaros are frequently chipped by park rangers to deter plant poaching.

Saguaros only grow in the Sonoran desert, the bulk of which lies in the southwest corner of Arizona and in Mexico. Arizona State Route 88 is near the northeastern edge of the Sonoran desert, so saguaros feature in much of the landscape alongside the road. The AZ SR88 runs from Roosevelt Dam along the Salt River to Apache Junction. It is mainly unpaved between the dam and Tortilla Flat. I had the pleasure of driving this road with my grandparents on my mom’s side a little while back.

Satellite view of Arizona State Route 88, imagery and map data copyright Google 2016

Satellite view of Arizona SR 88. Imagery and map data © 2016 Google.

Satellite view of saguaros along Arizona State Route 88, imagery copyright Google 2016

Satellite view of a particularly saguaro-laden hill just east of Fish Creek grade along Arizona SR 88. Imagery © 2016 Google.

One notably narrow section of the road is about halfway through the unpaved portion of AZ SR88. A steep grade culminates in a sharp blind turn that wraps around Fish Creek Hill, with a sandy wall on one side and a steep dropoff on the other.

For the most part, the narrowness of the road isn’t a problem. Drivers don’t use it to get anywhere quickly, so it’s a lonely route.

Most of the traffic flows east with good reason. If you drive west on this route late in the day, you end up driving straight in to the sun. You also end up driving on the outer edge of the sharp turn mentioned above, and it’s a little nerve wracking looking down the long drop just beyond the low barrier.

That said, the westbound trip on AZ SR88 has a pretty spectacular finale. If you time it properly you’re rewarded with a desert sunset over the Superstition Mountains near Canyon Lake before descending in to Apache Junction.

On palm trees, one in particular

Photo of RAT beach taken by Piper Haywood in 2009

RAT Beach in 2009. RAT = Right After Torrance

When I was very young, I developed a sustained, irrational fear of the palm tree that stood near the southwest corner of Deelane Street and Anza Avenue in Torrance, CA.

This fear is one of my earliest memories. The palm was cartoonish and stereotypical. It was spindly and swayed even on very still days. I lost my four-year-old mind every time we passed it on foot, convinced that it would fall over and pile drive me in to the ground.

The palm tree no longer exists. It was probably removed just after we moved away in 1993.

Satellite view of Deelane Street and Anza Avenue (Torrance, CA) in 1980 and 1994

Satellite view of the corner of Deelane Street and Anza Avenue in Torrance, CA. Left image was captured in 1980, right image was captured in 1994. Source for both images is USGS via historicalaerials.com

I picked up “Edges of the Experiment – The Making of the American Landscape” from the Fw:Books table at Offprint a couple of weekends ago. It is a two-volume publication designed and edited by Hans Gremmen focusing on the landscape of the American West. The first volume features photographs by Marie-José Jongerius and is punctuated with essays. The second is more text-based and includes a curated selection of media; historical photographs, anecdotes, facsimiles, essays, etc. The photos by Jongerius are what originally drew me to the publication. They are incredibly true to the place.

Last weekend I started reading volume two, including an essay titled “The infrastructure of trees in Los Angeles” by architect Warren Techentin. I learned that the palm tree is a disappearing southern Californian icon:

Considering that the average lifespan of a palm tree is 70 to 100 years, and that most of the palms visible now were planted to beautify the city for the 1932 Olympics, the bulk of Los Angeles’s palm trees will disappear within a decade or two.

Warren Techentin, “The Infrastructure of Trees in Los Angeles”, Edges of the Experiment: The Making of the American Landscape, Vol. 2, Netherlands: FW:Books [2015], p74.

The city isn’t replacing most palms that are removed. Apparently they were never a great ecological or economical choice.

So my childhood nemesis was likely removed due to old age. It’s kind of sad. I haven’t found any photos of that particular palm tree.

I can’t emphasise enough how much I have enjoyed “Edges of the Experiment”. One particularly lovely spread includes the first page of Techentin’s essay alongside one of Hans Gremmen’s graphics illustrating water usage in California. Water is touched upon in many if not most of the texts in “Edges of the Experiment”, and its presence (or lack thereof) is notable in many of Jongerius’s photos.