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In Conversation

Three Case Studies for Your Inspection

Case 1: The City of San Francisco: Here there are so few dead.

Headstones exist only in our national recreation area. Land left for the active and the living. And yet. the Presidio lined with so many dead bodies. Lost under heaped soil and then a surprise:  Woven over it all, rows of white tombstones, so many wax teeth pushing up from green hills.

Do you think it’s easy to get those lines to look so fine? To look like there is intent in how we bury our dead. And what would those dead folk say, if they had teeth and tongues and soft palettes. Would they find their fate ironic? Would they find their fate even mildly amusing? That here, right now, right down the hill from their final resting place we have a building called House of Air and in this place, children trampoline on fabric stretched tight. Jump. Scream. Twist. So many cinders hurled aloft towards a fossil sky.

Case 2: These events took place the day you were born.                                                                 Trees felled to open land to sunshine and air. There you were, a monk with no order, forced to hold rocks in your mouth, the bitter serpentinite with its pleasing metallic edge, its menacing hint of poison. The rocks were meant to keep bitter words out, to help you listen to all you needed to hear. Here, you heard it first said, there are no shrines or churches or abbeys, only fallen trees in a forest, rings of yellow sand along the shore, rough rock lined with silver lichens, and where, for a moment we are allowed to rest.

Case 3:  The gun emplacements buried in the mist.
The smell of fog a mix of smoke and decay and water keeps the people away. When the rains come the path will melt into slick mud but for today, the sand is dry and covered with fine gravel and all is brittle. Merely lost in the fog.. You cannot see the blue-tailed skink or the red-winged hawk or the mole. All lost to the tangle of grey air. The fog is a sort of miracle, the sort of effect you wouldn’t really believe if you did not live in it, feel it, walk into it. When did you first see the fog? On television, as men emerged from graveyards with black hats and coats and canes or umbrellas. How they got it all wrong! Those men in their tall hats and with their bent heads. No, the fog feels like God, everywhere and all places and wrapped around you like so much hair.

Presidio at Sunset


About Leslie Carol Roberts

Leslie Carol Roberts is the author of Here Is Where I Walk: Episodes from a Life in the Forest (Nevada, 2019) and The Entire Earth and Sky: Views on Antarctica, (Nebraska, 2008; Bison Books, 2012.) Recent work includes the The Gigaton Ice Theatre (Performing Ice anthology, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020); the Eco-Thoughts column in The Believer magazine (2019-ongoing), and the Late, Great Golden State, published by The Bellingham Review. In 2018, she founded the ECOPOESIS project with two architects, Adam Marcus and Christopher Falliers, which creates messaging and forms around climate change. They hosted ECOPO 1 in SF in 2019, with the philosopher Timothy Morton as their invited guest and discussant; in the summer of 2019, Leslie was on the road in France and the Maldives conducting research and interviews around ecologies as part of the Architectural Ecologies Lab, of which she is a member. In 2020-21 Leslie is a Resident Artist with the Al Balad Fellowship in the Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, enacting ECOPOESIS around desert landscapes. She gives talks and workshops in the US and abroad around writing and form-making around ecologies --with ecologies being defined broadly to include the instantiated systems of neo-liberal capitalism that allow for the destructive, cruel, and disastrous environmental systems of these times -- from extraction technologies to instantiated racism, misogyny, and income disparities. Over her international career in journalism and creative writing, Leslie has written hundreds of news stories, features, and essays for newspapers, magazines, and journals, in the U.S. and abroad, including The Christian Science Monitor, The Bangkok Post, The St. Petersburg Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, the Iowa Review online, Ascent, and The Bellevue Literary Review. Roberts, a Fulbright Fellow, is Professor and Chair of MFA Writing at California College of the Arts. An avid outdoors-human and traveler, she is at work on two books -- one continues her work in the Antarctic humanities and the other is a gothic feminist horror novel. You can reach Leslie at leslier7@gmail.com


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