Watersheds and Bioregions

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The Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River, map 6/15, Army Corps of Engineers, 1944, Harold Fisk, chief cartographer

Documenting the seasonal cycles over the past few months (see my Week in Bloom postings) has me thinking a lot about bioregions and watersheds as the most appropriate scale for human interaction with the natural world and with each other. I think of vernacular forms in the built environment- domestic architecture, traditional craft- as the most consistent, universal kind of natural/cultural expression of any bioregion. In many ways, my activities designing and making things, and the general thrust of this site, are attempts to model a contemporary, bioregional credo. My ideas for projects typically stem directly from the inherent natural/cultural attributes of a place, beginning with straight-up observation.

I continue to look at maps and data related to the upper Delaware River and Lower Catskills¬† bioregion as I prepare to test my Deepcraft approach as a resident artist at Mildred’s Lane next month. In the course of my research, a friend sent a link to a website dedicated to experimental geography, called Radical Cartography, that includes a series of beautiful watershed maps of the entire Mississippi River¬† (see above) made by the Army Corps of Engineers in the early 1940’s (exactly when Harlan and Anna Hubbard were drifting down its length in their home-made Shanty Boat). Called Mississippi Meanders, the series of 15 maps details drainage patterns of the river’s basin from Southern Illinois to Southern Louisiana, where it drains into the Gulf of Mexico. I hope to make a very small scale map of the watershed comprising Mildred’s Lane and its surroundings, with layers reflecting plant life and material provenance.

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