Literature and the Environment
Water is everywhere in Tacoma. With this podcast we want to invite you to look beyond the rainy days and views of Commencement Bay and examine how water connects to a number of pressing environmental issues throughout our region.
This podcast was created by the students in Professor Bill Kupinse’s Literature and the Environment course at the University of Puget Sound during the spring semester of 2017. We created this podcast with the goal of achieving what our professor terms a substantial occasion of literary activism.
We chose to create a podcast because of the unique blend of intimacy and accessibility that the medium allows. We publish this with the hope of letting these stories reach, inspire, and inform a wide audience.
With this in mind, listen thoughtfully, share widely, and enjoy!
Listen to all three episodes below or take a look through the rest of this site to learn more about each one and read some of the student-authored creative pieces included in the episodes.
Episode 1: Water and Agriculture in the Puget Sound Region
Episode 2: Campus Water Issues
Episode 3: LNG and The Puyallup Tribe
Water and Agriculture in the Puget Sound Region
In this episode Sam, Colin, Abigail, and Hannah headed to Zestful Gardens, a thirty-five acre sustainable farm in the Puyallup Valley. They interviewed Valerie and Holly, the mother and daughter team that co-own the farm, to learn about the role water plays in agriculture in the Pacific Northwest.In addition to the interview, this podcast includes creative pieces written by each of the hosts in connection with this episode’s theme.
To find out more about Zestful Gardens, visit their website here!
To learn more about Washington’s water rights, get started by looking at the Washington State Department of Ecology’s water rights information page.
Creative Pieces and Additional Information
by Abigail Bidegain
I am the earth.
I am deep and wide and my appetite is endless
The more you feed me the more I have to offer
I am soft like the cradle of all things
I take in order to give.
I feel the cool life flowing through me,
In between all my cracks and crevices
It fills me up,
Yet I always want more
It nourishes me so I can nourish others.
I am blinded.
Filling me and ripping me apart
No longer nourishing, it’s suffocating
I am not deep or wide enough
I am choking.
Cool life has turned to cold death
The carcasses slide through me and out of me
I can’t sustain any longer,
It’s too much
And I wash away.
By Hannah Monsour
I long for my manicured nails to chip away
For the mud
Wedged between flesh and keratin
I long for my ears to be dry
Of infecting Escalades
And sitcom banter
And to be wet
With the hum of honest work
And the dance of rain
I long for my clothes be redistributed
For costly blouses to land in give-away bins
And heeled boots
To pierce through the floor
And never return
And at the sight of all I’ve done
My lungs will inflate
With a fullness only reached
I will bathe in the ran
Work in the mud
Dance with the lambs
And be set free
Little Water Vagabond
by Colin MacRae
Rain, rain, come back again
Bring all your jewel drop cloud gem friends
Sing to me of where you’ve been
Whisper on my windowsill
Fill the night with aqua trill
And chain across my windowpane
Kiss the glass door slow and soft
Or splatter hard, as you like
Just come back when the Golden Eye
By day stares you into the sky
The Life of a Farmer
by Sam Carp
Making our way from the open green field back to the car we had first arrived in.
The rain began to fall once more
The collie watches us as we pull away over the mud and potholes
Senses of comfort, relief, and childhood nostalgia wash through our minds
The life of a farmer, what does it hold in store?
Rolling over the freeway once again
I reflect with my peers about our conversation
The rain pelts the front windshield
We laugh and share our fondness for the simple things
Did we understand the life of a farmer?
The work seems hard
The rain was a pain
But the smiles on their faces were genuine
Their land was well cared for
Their puppy smelly but beautiful
It asks a lot, but it gives back ten fold, the life of a farmer
I feel better than I have in weeks
Papers, exams, thinking about the future
It’s been a lot of stress these past few months
I wonder, this life, how it compares to the life of a farmer?
We’ve parked the car
Making our way back to campus
The conversation has moved on from Zestful Gardens
Yet, as we walk down the sidewalk
I can’t help but continue to imagine
The possibility of my life becoming that of a farmer’s.
“Agricultural History in the Puyallup Valley.” PCC Farmland Trust. PCC Farmland Trust, 9 Dec. 2014. Web. 5 May 2017. <https://www.pccfarmlandtrust.org/agricultural-history-in-the-puyallup-valley/>.
Chesley, Frank. “Puyallup - Thumbnail History.” History Link. The State of Washington, 22 Jan. 2008. Web. 5 May 2017. <http://www.historylink.org/File/8447>.
Valerie, and Holly. “Interview with Val and Holly of Zestful Gardens.” Personal interview. 1 May 2017.
Campus Water Issues
In this episode Matt, Claire, Sophie, and Connor talk to students and faculty from the University of Puget Sound to find out how individual perceptions about campus water usage compare to the reality. In addition to interviews, the episode ends with a poem written by Claire Harbutt. A longer fictional companion piece to the episode titled “John and the Danger of Too Much Water” written and recorded by Connor McDaniel is included below.
Gallery, Creative Works, and Additional Information
John and the Danger of Too Much Water
by Connor McDaniel
It was eleven pm, on Friday, May 6th, John and I had decided to go out to a party, celebrate the end of the school year, you know, it had been a hard semester, John’s girlfriend had cheated on him with our other roommate, and then the whole fallout from that...
I thought it might be nice, get out, have a few drinks, it was an unbelievable spring night, one of those nights when the sun lingers around for longer than you ever thought it would, and the golden rose light hits the sidewalks and tree tops and you think that if the world stayed this way you might not care about anything else ever again. John and I played a few games of Call of Duty on his Xbox, occasionally wandering out in the cooling evening for a cigarette.
We arrived at the house together, right as dark clouds began to gather above. Washington weather will do that, a storm can bloom out of nowhere and suddenly it’s hurricane-like winds and rain pounding you from all sides while you can barely stand upright on the trek back to the dorm. Well, we wandered into the dimly lit living room, filled with warm air generating from the rubbing of bodies in a cloud of weed smoke and old pop music, kids dancing wearing open button-down vests and seahawks jerseys and holding drinks moistened on the outsides with sweat and saliva. We hungout for a while, John was having a good time it seemed, always had a cup in his left hand, dragging along with him everywhere.
We got back to campus around 11:30, right as the drizzle picked up. Stopping outside of the dorm hall, we stood shoulder to shoulder, soldiers assessing a bloodied battlefield, looking out at the bright green field dark like black lava rock in the moonless night. In that silence, John asked me if he could have a few moments alone out there, he liked being alone, and I always respected that about him. I nodded, and stumbled into the dorm, it really had been a long night, I can’t say if it was the wine or exhaustion but when I got into bed I shut my eyes and immediately drifted off. I didn’t hear John come in, but figured he was having his time.
But John never came in. From what I have gathered over the past several weeks, he had decided to lay down in the middle of the field, he liked to do that, especially during a light spring rain, told me he imagined himself being inducted into the nature hall of fame with every drop that fell on his skin. The drizzle grew to rainfall, which grew to downpour. The temperature had been 74 degrees Fahrenheit that night, and knowing John, he probably decided to brace the weather as long as he could. The sprinkler system activated at midnight, as reported by the campus water management report, and ran for thirty minutes. The storm continued. John must have fallen asleep in the field, both he and I had had a lot to drink, looking back, more than usual, letting off the stress that comes at the end of another year.
Now here is my idea of what happened based on the information I have received over the last couple months. While John lay there, water pooled on his shirt in tiny circles, gathered in his eye sockets, dripped down his nose into the back of his throat, soaked him up. The sleep brought his heartbeat to a reduced pace, and his body went into full prune. From what I’ve been told, full prune is what results after being submerged in a bathtub for several days. The combination of the rain and sprinkler water created an unheard of chemical reaction, that, although not deadly, if exposed to over time, can lead to dissolution of any substance, aside from diamond. The human body can only sustain this kind of water combination for up to three hours, before the reversion begins. Slowly, John’s fingers and toes would have crawled back inside of their sockets, bones dissolving and ceasing to hold the structure together, like startled snails sinking into the warmth and comfort of their shells. Next to go would be hands and feet, in a similar fashion, defying the bounds of previously understood physiology, essentially being sucked up in the direction of the heart, limbs retracting into the chest and thighs, a stop-motion animation capturing the opposite of life, but not death, rather a deadly occurrence of returning to the source, as the Taoists call it. Now, at this point, John’s mind would have become lodged in a sleep-like state in order to protect itself from the trauma at hand, although the experts have informed me that this process would rather than being traumatic, be a kind of freeing experience, water is life, and therefore the death is not a cessation of life, but a reclamation by pure life (water) of life resulting from a specific structure of water. John would now lack limbs, possessing only a bald head, without any trace of hair on any part of his body, and an upper chest. The head would go next, layer by layer upper chest digesting the neck, finally, the head sucking down into the tunnel the neck had traveled while entering the dark depths of the chest, I have been told the pop of the head being sucked completely into the chest would be like the noise of a champagne bottle popping underwater, if this noise could be recorded and amplified times ten. I’m quite surprised no one reported hearing the sound, although it must have been about five in the morning this happened. The upper chest then consisted of all of John, his heart would still be beating, although at a zombie-like pace, enough only to continue the last bit of the process. From all four corners of the chest, shaped rectangularly now, a box made of flesh, the skin would have melted towards the beating heart, dissolving into itself, losing material form while gaining the essential essence of the flesh at the same time, the rain and sprinkler water lubricating the final moments of what could be called John’s life, down to the last drop. He would not have gone in an awe-inspiring explosion, or burst of color, but in a gurgling swirl like the suds washing down the bathtub drain, into the damp soil, the last gallon of life-juice, spreading out under the grassy field and feeding the insects and grass with surely the most bizarre tasting water they had ever come across. I like to think that last bit of John would have tasted sweet, like water with a pack of splenda.
That morning, security knocked on the door, presenting a bundle to me, of John’s clothes, room key and cell phone, the room empty, early sun beginning to trace outlines of the desks and bed frames that would be familiar come late morning. He was reported missing shortly after, and I spent the remainder of the weekend, and early part of the week driving across town, several times a day, searching for John. Other kids who had known him from the school helped out, his family and a few of his friends from Phoenix joined in the search, and after the better part of two weeks, the conclusion had been reached, in part by the extensive research done by the university’s geology professors, who spent countless hours testing the level of the pH of the soil where John’s belongings had been discovered. They published their findings in a scientific journal a month or so after, but the name is slipping my mind right now. On a happy note, this event has made me interested in pursuing geology as a major at the school, but that is beside the point, I just think it would make John happy, he really inspired me, both in life and death.
But most importantly, let the story of John serve as a cautionary tale. Excess water really can bring about irreversible damage. Speak out, to politicians, community members, family, let them know about John, and the effects of water in excess.
LNG and The Puyallup Tribe
This episode is called “What is Puget Sound Energy Hiding; A Deeper Look into the LNG Plant.” In this episode Puget Sound students, Karen Cheney, Rachel Bakke, Miranda Kraus, Olivia Langen and Grace Maniglia will discuss what they have collected regarding the information that PSE has neglected to share with the public. The goal of this Podcast is to bring attention to the possible effects of the construction of an LNG plant on the Puget Sound. Group members interviewed Dorothy Walker with the Sierra Club, Sara Morken with Tacoma Direct Action, David Bean with the Puyallup Tribe, and received a written statement from PSE after attempting to schedule an interview.The podcast also includes a poem written by Grace Maniglia.
Gallery, Creative Works, and Additional Information
Images from the Port of Tacoma
by Grace Maniglia
Eggs It’s very dark and the only sounds I hear are muffled. I feel compressed. Close to everything. There’s a lot of pressure that I feel from time to time. Inside this dark safe space I know I’m not alone. Thousands of others that look and feel just like me are in here too. Though I myself can’t move, I know we are moving forward. Upward. We have all been moving this way, forward, for what feels like an eternity.
Then it’s like a wave. I push out. I move forward. I’m not alone, but the feeling isn’t the same. We’ve lost some. As I push out I’m met by a fog and it completely envelops me. Still I’m not alone as only some of the thousands of us sink. I sink into another safe spot while I’m showered with gravel. This is where I wait comfortably. The feeling is familiar and I’d be okay if I stayed this way forever, but I don’t think I can. The space is getting smaller. Maybe I’m getting bigger.
Alevin The pressure that I used to feel has let up, but I still feel cramped. There are new parts of me that keep me alive. A sac of yolk hangs from my neck as it nourishes my belly. I am safe.
Fry I have left the safe space. The yolk has been all used up and now I am searching for food. I’m much bigger than I used to be, but surrounding me are things unlike anything I’ve seen before. I’m not alone, but the numbers are dwindling. We all look for a safe place like the ones we used to have. Dark. Quite. We settle for spot behind a log. I’m hungry and driven to find food. I spot something small so I dart for it! I’m always looking for something else to get me. I’ve spent some time in this dark spot that I settled for and watched as the numbers continue to slowly diminish. Some are eaten, some get stuck, and some get sick and die. I start to think that I have spent too much time here. I feel an urge to leave this dark space and move forward.
Smolts I’m changing again. This time it feels different. I hadn’t thought about the water that I spent so much time in. It wasn’t like this. I can taste remnants of the old water when I drink this new water. More than anything I taste salt. I can taste it and I can feel it leaving my body. Now it feels like I need it. I know I’ll need it if I want to keep moving forward, so I keep drinking it and it keeps leaving. The more I drink, the less that comes out. This water is changing me. I used to be dark with green and brown colors and now I’m bright like silver. The dark safe spot that used to be apart of would exile me because of my new skin. Now I belong to the surface of the sea as I blend in with its light color.
Adult There is no trace of the water that I once knew. There is no trace of the dark safe space that I settled for. This water is open and cold. I’m always watching for the bigger things that have lowered the numbers one by one. The seals, the whales and the nets. I swim and swim for thousands of miles always watching. As time goes on I have an urge to get back to the water I once knew. To get back, I have to move forward. When I reach familiar waters, something is different. The water is fresh but it isn’t clean. My pores and gills that were once used to sort the salt in and out, now struggle with the most basic functions. Breathing is hard but finding my dark safe spot is harder. The spot I settled for is gone. The spots that are left that resemble anything like my dark safe place still don’t feel right. There are things in this water that don’t belong. I haven’t seen anything like it before, but I know that it wasn’t born here. The water feels like it’s been through something to make different. Colder. It’s almost unrecognizable. The pressure in my belly tells me that I have no more time. I don’t get the chance to settle. I am forced to quickly find a deep dark place, but it isn’t safe. I reach it and I let go. I leave my eggs in water that doesn’t feel like home. In water that’s been crowded with things I don’t recognize, I leave my eggs to move forward.
Puget Sound River History Project, University of Washington. http://riverhistory.ess.washington.edu
Puyallup River Watershed Council. Puyallup River Watershed Assessment (Draft) February 2014.