At first, I was surprised by the synchronicities I would notice across the years on Facebook “On This Day” feature: on three or five separate years, posts about dramatic rains, budding flowers, tornado warnings, lightening, pollen-induced exhaustion, all in two cities roughly four hours away from each other, where I have lived for the past fifteen years. How could these events be marked with such regularity when, simultaneously, climate change is so dramatically shifts the seasons? Then, when a friend shared that she and her sisters keep a spreadsheet documenting the year’s first blooms, I started to think about ways of marking weather, climate, and seasons. I became interested in the details of micro-climates, urban-rural differences, and regional climate events.
Climate change in the anthropocene is an intellectual and personal concern, but I honestly know very little about climate science. I follow the indigenous activists, climate scientists, artists, anthropologists, and others who document the melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and catastrophic storms. I follow the materials engineers, architects, and building industry folks trying to reduce emissions and pollution. Having grown up in a part of Texas that sits under a giant ozone hole, my body recognizes the sun’s growing intensity here in Tennessee. As a gardener, I feel climate change in my immediate environment, in the differential growth of plants, the ebbs and flows of insect activity, in the widely varied ranges of precipitation from year to year.
This growing season, I began tracking these changes (and asking friends to do so) on social media because I want to remember and notice the weather, the plants, the shifting timetables and embodied experiences of them. This feels like an important, albeit smallscale, companion to projects like Data Refuge, which archive federal climate data, and the Global Seed Vault, which preserves crop diversity.
When I started learning about biodynamic agriculture, though, I started to think about how while human-induced climate change is a relatively new disaster, humans have been using timescales other than those dictated by global capitalist agricultural production to track the weather, decipher the patterns in the seasons, and plan the growing season. Traces of these temporalities have been passed down to me from both sides of my family: my grandparents, the professional farmers and orchardists, as well as the city folk who took up grafting and gardening as hobbies,–the first generation born into a world with standardized clocks and timetables–both intuitively planted and gardened by the moon cycles. They were born in a country that marked time by these cycles, where the words for “month” and “moon” are the same. When I read Maria Thun’s Biodynamic Calendar, honestly my most cherished garden tool, I think about how my great and great great-grandparents would have told time, the constellations they could see in the sky from remote Iranian villages or from atop mountain ridges or from the shores of the Caspian sea.
Could they have imagined the current state of the world? Did they see it in the stars? My uncle, a soybean farmer, tells me of how generations of practical seed-saving have been destroyed by new GMO seeds, destroying their already-minimal profits. He worries about the soil and its loss of vitality.
A month ago, I started two mushroom beds in my garden, layered with wood chips, cardboard, and Stropharia rugosoannulata spawn from Henosis. Unlike my shiitake log, designed for fruiting and harvesting, these beds will be “mothers” from which future wood chip paths could be inoculated. Their placement is an investment in soil futures. When I periodically peel back the layers to check the mycelium, looking for stringy white matter, I imagine the beds three months, six months, five years, sixty years, one hundred years into the future, when the surrounding blueberry bushes and ferns will either be massive and productive, providing food for future gardeners, or removed and paved over to build a condo building. I wonder what it means to mark the temporalities of this tiny sixth of an acre when its futures are so uncertain. Still, everyday I document and leave traces for the future.