Date Posted:
Sep 19, 2022, 04:24 PM

I make it to Eureka and stay with a couple named Chris and Siri. Siri was really knowledgeable about local plants — she knew where several milkweed patches were in the area! And get this: Siri is a librarian and said that she’d see about making monarch waystation in front of the Eureka branch library. I gave her some showy seeds for that project.

She recommended I plant some seeds at the rails to trails path near downtown. The city doesn’t spray there and it’s next to a great water source: the Tobacco River. Riverbanks are prime monarch corridors – and milkweed tends to flourish in these places too.

The recording features what’s called a geophone mic. It’s a microphone that picks up subtle vibrations in soil, water, rock, metal, glass – you name it. I nestled the mic in some rocks at the edge of the river. Those low frequency plunks are the sounds of the river’s currents against the rocks. Riparian rhythms, you might call them. I sat listening through headphones. These sounds are nearly imperceptible otherwise. I noticed the irregularity of the rhythm mirrors the meandering quality of the river itself. A river does not flow in a straight line; it falls, swirls, and collects according to its environment.

Anthropologist Anna Tsing writes about what she calls the ‘arts of noticing’ in her book Mushrooms at the End of the World:

Progress is a forward march, drawing other kinds of time into its rhythms. Without that driving beat, we might notice other temporal patterns. Each living thing remakes the world through seasonal pulses of growth, lifetime reproductive patterns, and geographies of expansion… (Tsing 2016 p. 21)

The ‘arts of noticing’ involves a naturalistic attentiveness to the “wider rhythms and histories of landscapes.” Monarchs do this already. They’re highly attuned to the change in season, which is their cue to begin migrating (happy fall equinox by the way!). I’m interested in what kinds of rhythms I can notice and uncover on this cycling trip too. Anything from shifting weather patterns to a morning bird call to the rhythms of a river current as heard by the rocks.

A geophone mic nestled in the rocks of the Tobacco River.