Indigenize!

Rekindle Your Wild Joy and sense of deep Belonging through spiritual ecopsychology and the arts, incl. bioregional awareness, animistic perspectives, strategies for simple living, & low/no-tech DIY fun.

It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood September 18, 2013

Filed under: Spiritual Ecopsychology — BrujaHa @ 1:05 am
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Look at this full-screen.

Really. It moved me to tears; perhaps it will you too.

What a beautiful planet we live in – our precious life-giving jewel, and this is a reminder that our whole world is only one small gem glinting amongst the universe’s vast, countless riches.

Please be kind to the people causing you small annoyances today. When we consider things on this scale, what does it matter if the waitress forgot to bring your mustard?

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R.I.P. Mandelbrot October 21, 2010

Benoit Mandelbrot died last week, of pancreatic cancer at the age of 85. While you may not have heard of him, you surely have not only heard of, but have taken enjoyment and even awe, from the mathematical model he invented.

“What?!” you may be thinking, “Are you off your nut? I hate math! I barely made it through high school geometry class!” But Mandelbrot coined the term “fractal” geometry, the structures of which, according to the math department at Princeton University, cannot be represented by classical geometry. And this math is accessible in a way that we all can see.

A fractal is a geometric pattern with geometrical and topographical features that are repeated in miniature on finer and finer scales. Such repetition independent of size or refinement level is called “self-similarity.”

The principle describes phenomena that we can all witness in nature.

Notice, for example, the similar inner branchings of a tree, a river valley, &  a human lung (the latter image composed entirely of fractal algorithms). The branching repeats in very similar ways, albeit at smaller and smaller levels: trunk, to roots below and large branches above, to twigs…

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Fractal patterns can also be seen to some degree in ferns, lightning, and more. Note how the fern coil repeats itself first in large size, then in each of the smaller coils. If we got closer, we’d see it repeating again in each of the tiny coils within the small coils, and the next and yet the next, down and down again.

While a research scientist at IBM, Benoit Mandelbrot began to look fluctuations in the contours of coastlines. He then branched out to look for instances of similar fluctuations in all sorts of phenomena, which to other minds might seem wholly unrelated and even tangential.

Through this interdisciplinary romp, he began to notice “self-similar” systems, and eventually came to the conclusion that such diverse occurrences as price trends of wheat in the stock market, the folds in mammalian brains as they grow, the clustering of galaxies, the structure of ferns, the shape of frost on your windows in winter, changes in barometric pressure over time, and (his original puzzle) the contours of coastlines and clouds, are related to one another.

Further, these patterns reveal an underlying force that pervade every aspect of life on earth.

It seems to me that Mandelbrot thought in terms of verbs rather than nouns; focusing on moving patterns rather than the solidified results of those patterns. Philosophically, fractals seem to echo the ancient Taoist principle of yin/yang.

Mandelbrot’s NYT obit implies that he had a rough time getting these ideas across at first: “In a seminal book, “The Fractal Geometry of Nature,” published in 1982, Dr. Mandelbrot defended mathematical objects that he said others had dismissed as “monstrous” and “pathological.”

‘Twas ever thus, eh? As Mahatma Gandhi observed, “First they ignore you; then they laugh at you; then they fight you; then you win.”

Close-up of a cauliflower

The “Mandelbrot Set” can be used to mathematically explain all sorts of crooked phenomena like those listed above. Such complex things were once considered unmeasurable, but no more. He taught us a new way to think in patterns.

Do fractals reflect some universal designing set of nature?

What if the study of fractal patterns could offer not only an understanding of repeating rhythms but also the meaning of large natural phenomena?

Such a key has long been sought. In the Middle Ages, for example, the Doctrine of Signatures (a.k.a. Law of Similarities) posited that a natural object’s shape offered clues about its medicinal use.

Hepatica leaf (photo: Frogdawn)

“And so we see in Plants and all of Nature the Word of God.  Like any Scripture, Earth’s Matter is subject to our Doubt.  But to the one who listens closely to its Cadence, it reveals the sweet hidden Truth.” — Reginald Johnson, On the Shapes of Leaves, 1697. 

So the Hepatica plant, which has leaves shaped like the human liver, was thought to contain a healing agent for liver ailments. In fact, it was given its very name due to this.

Contemplating these mysteries, amateur meteorologist Bill Felker charted the changing patterns in barometric pressure at his home over the past 25 years. He claims to now be able to use the observed trends to predict the weather on any given day of the coming year with pretty good accuracy. Believing the structure of his data is fractal in nature, Felker conjectures,

“Some analysts believe that fractals could hold the secret key to the universe, explain the causes not only of our personal decisions but also of the outside forces that influence them.  Science writer Mark Ward even conjectures that fate itself might be fractal.”

The examples of fractals usually given are visual ones like the classic fern coil. These are solid objects that we can point to, but I have a hunch that Mandelbrot’s math holds a key to understanding big patterns in motion as well. I’ve personally long been fascinated by the amazing way enormous flocks of birds can suddenly veer off in the same direction. How do they communicate? Are they watching some lead bird? If so, how? Can they do instantaneous group telepathy? Are they responding to a change in wind currents?

Maybe if we learn how to apply Mandelbrot’s principles further, we will figure out how to understand grand mysteries like that and also how to heal without violent intervention, how to make the best decisions, and how to avoid that crazy way that traffic seems to suddenly come to a stop on the freeway for no reason.

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Mandelbrot was a Lithuanian Jew whose family fled the Nazis in 1936. What a sobering reminder of how much could be lost if “ethnic cleansers” of any ilk get their way.

For those who did not suck up the toxic Barbie-doll story that attractive people must hate math, here’s how to DIY calculate a Mandelbrot set yourself.  Mandelbrot defined a fractal as “a set for which the Hausdorff Besicovitch dimension strictly exceeds the topological dimension.” Mitikoro describes how to draw one:

It’s a set of points. To draw the fractal, you must plot every point that is in the Mandelbrot set. The Mandelbrot set is defined using this formula :
z = z2 + c
|z| > 2

where z and c are complex numbers and c is the point you are testing, such as : c.real = x, c.imag = y.

If the condition is true, the point is in the set. If it isn’t true, you must iterate using the first formula. If, after a maximium number of iterations, the condition is still false, then the point isn’t in the set.

You can even model fractal patterns yourself through computers. In fact, according to the New York Times, Mandelbrot was one of the first mathematicians to use computer modeling to show mathematical principles. Witness the “Mandelbulb,” a 3-D representation based on algorithms by Daniel White and Paul Nylander.

Of course, especially for us ordinary mortals, the best way to experience these principles is to just go outside and pay attention. What Mandelbrot’s work really illustrates, in my mind, is the relationship between the large and the small; how patterns repeat at different levels and how these nested holonic relationships somehow form part of the vital matrix of life here.

Oh yes, and how, when we seek a glimpse of patterned perspective, we can see yet again how the inner workings of this planet and beyond are soul-upliftingly beautiful.

 

Beautiful Allergens June 21, 2010

Once I was camping on an offshore island in the Atlantic when we learned a big hurricane was due to hit. Being a westerner with experience in earthquakes but not in hurricanes, I felt great trepidation about this. We listened to emergency radio broadcasts so we could determine where our location was along its path, and decided to hunker down there rather than risk the ferry ride back over open sea to the mainland.

It turned out that the storm had begun to turn aside a few hundred miles below ours on its path out to sea, so we only got smacked by the tail end as it curled on by. But holy cow, even that was unbelievably windy and wet. I was sleeping outside in a zipped-up bivy sack, and at one point it felt like I was parked beneath a waterfall; like someone was standing directly over me and dumping buckets of water out right above my face. The hurricane’s power was awesome and the experience the fodder for some great complaining adventure tales. (As all travelers know, the most miserable experiences make the best stories – after they’re over.)

Later, back in a town, someone pulled up satellite images of the hurricane. The point I’m getting to is that when we got to see the storm from the perspective of above instead of in the middle of it, my attitude toward it changed. When seen as a whole entity, this hurricane was an enormous creamy white and blue moving spiral, like a galaxy made of water. I was awestruck. If I had to die young, I thought, a person could do worse than to be done in by such glorious beauty.

Yep, this is the one! Hurricane Dennis, 1999. (Image: Wikimedia commons)

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As above, so below; in the small the great. Relatively few of us get smacked by hurricanes, but many of us suffer from allergies.

Now the magic of electron microscopy can show us the beauty in this as well.

Sailing the tiny seas, “Micronaut” Martin Oeggerli has found a way to capture these gorgeous photos of pollens, showing us a glimpse into one of the remotest ecosystems left to explore.

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Forget-me-not pollen (Image: micronaut.ch)

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Daisy pollen (Bellis perennis). (Image: micronaut.ch)

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What is pollen exactly?

To put it in simple terms, pollen is a seed plant’s equivalent of pre-ejaculate and sperm. (If you’re shocked, go further and ponder Loren Eiseley’s mind-blowing notion that flowers invented sexual desire as we know it! But I digress.)

Pollen consists of powdery grains and a hard shell that holds them; you can imagine it as being sort of like a capsule vitamin. The pollen grains (microgametophytes) produce the male gametes or sperm cells, and the pollen shell protects the sperm cells while they’re being transported from flower to flower. The pollen grows on a flower’s stamen (the part in the flower’s center that sticks out like a penis, capped by the anther), and are taken by bugs, birds, winds & sniffing noses to another flower’s pistil or carpel, the the equivalent of a yoni with its ovary buried deep inside.

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As nature loves to experiment, pollen grains show as much diversity in their sizes and shapes as mammalian penises. Some pollen grains are equivalents of whale or horse penises, large and smooth; others like cats’, small and barbed. Some pollens are shaped like balls; others like coffee beans, dragonfly heads, or doughnuts, all of which can be witnessed below:

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Petunia pollen grain (Image: micronaut.ch)

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Babiana (S. African plant) pollen grains on an anther. (Image: micronaut.ch)

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Pine tree pollen

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Pollen grain from an Akazia or Myrtle Wattle (Photo: micronaut.ch)

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You might think that the prickery looking ones would cause the worst allergies, irritating the sinuses. But surprisingly, some of the smooth ones are terrifically allergenic to humans. Witness the Alder tree’s pollen:

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Oeggerli’s photographs, more of which can be seen at his site, www.micronaut.ch, offer this small consolation:

Pollens might make our noses miserable, but hey, at least they’re beautiful.

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Birch pollen grain (Image: micronaut.ch)

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post-perspective April 5, 2010

Writing these posts about perspective is reminding me to attend, attend, attend.

The implications are so far-reaching.

Today’s example:  I like to read while eating, but today I’m realizing how insulting my lack of attention is to the beings whose bodies make this food; who gave their lives so that mine might continue. Also, this multitasking likely contributes to my being not so skinny, since when we’re unconsciously shoveling it in, we don’t notice we’re satisfied. And to top it off, I’m also not giving proper attention to the wonderful gift of words from the minds of my favorite writers.

So this afternoon, just now, I ate outside and put down my book. Instead, I felt the sun and looked at the clouds while smelling and tasting and feeling the textures of the good vegies and rice and tempeh and garlic pickle as I ate, feeling all of this invigorate me.

Lots of ‘ands’ here!

Wait, here’s one more: And as I was eating, this crazy bird kept looking at me from atop a nearby roof. Then she flew over and landed on the fence right by my head, peered down, and deliberately gazed into my eyes. I tell you, I doubt that would have happened were I still in the world of my book; and even if it had, I would not have noticed.

That moment felt like a gift; a pat on the head from the universe, training me.  Good girl! Nice job!

Meta-observation: I think I’m finally learning how to blog. Short is okay! Man, it’s rough overcoming the learned tyranny of academia, where everything must be perfect; never show anything until at least the third draft, etc. Some of the stuff I’ll post here will indeed be very well-thought-out; I care about craft and beauty. But it’s also very cool to just say something quickly, like a conversation with you, O mysterious one who is reading this now, in my future. (Twilight Zone music here.)

You’ll know the difference and will be able to find what you desire.

And everything will still be spelled right.

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Molecular Dancing with Water April 4, 2010

 

SAC Medusa logo (art by Tina Fields)

My Animistic Architecture post showed you the venue for the conference I recently attended, the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness, aka SAC. This is a group I’ve been part of for the last 15 years or so (omg!) This one will give you a taste of what it’s like to be there.

SAC conferences are much more fun than ordinary academic conferences. It’s an interdisciplinary group interested in exploring issues of consciousness – in other words, a collection of really interesting people looking at weird topics in a rigorous way, a task requiring both imagination and bravery. There is also often a lot of laughter.

Besides papers, SAC always includes hands-on experientials so we can play with each other’s ideas. Among those I attended was biophysicist Beverly Rubik’s session on changing the molecular structure of water with our intentions and emotions.

Beverly Rubik. (Photo: QuantumTantra@blogspot)

It was fascinating. Rubik began by putting an eyedropper full of tap water into her GDV (Gas Discharge Visualization) machine that can digitally illustrate water molecules.  (We all wanted one afterwards, of course. You too? Start saving: they cost $10,500.) She then digitized the image and projected it on a screen, showing us the various aspects you can examine. These include shape, area or size, brightness, density, uniformity, and dimension. The images were simpler than Masaru Emoto’s, being more of a computer model or kirlian photography than a snowflake-like photo, but striking nevertheless. (I wish I had a picture to show you, but I don’t.) “Water carries information via its microstructure,” Beverly informed us. “Tears of joy are different from tears of grief.

Beverly also showed us images of other types of fluids, including blood. This was an eye-opener. Since our bodies are mostly water, and the blood most of all, it can also be looked at in this way – as another form of water. She said we are much better off drinking fresh water and eating living foods, no surprise here – but one reason is that water tends to cluster together, and therefore it gets big when stagnant (like when it’s been bottled); so big at times that it can’t enter our cells. And if we’re dehydrated, we’re compromised in many ways, including loss of the ability to regulate subtle energy.

It turns out that old Weston A. Price was totally right with his take on how a non-indigenous diet alters the physical structure of our bodies. The molecular structure of the blood of a person who ate according to those standards was beautiful and clean and strong, even though he was in his 80s. The blood of a much younger woman who drank Coke at every meal for the past 30 years (I am not making this up!) was laden with anomalies, like little microbes swimming around in there and the cells clustering together for dear life, forming snakes. I was reminded of those old maps showing dangerous territory on the edge of the known: Here there be dragons. Apparently, the blood of teenagers who visit fast food joints a lot exhibits the twisted degeneration usually seen only in a much older person. Yeesh. I went out the next day and bought a lot of fresh vegetables.

Fujiwara Dam water, before prayer. (Photo by Masaru Emoto)

Fujiwara Dam water, before prayer. (Photo: Masaru Emoto)

Then came the fun. As a group, we brainstormed ideas of how we might attempt to alter this information, and then conducted three experiments. First, we put love into it, doing so by gathering in a circle round the water, holding our hands out to it, and chanting “aum.”  (I know: how California can you get, eh? <g>) Many of us reported feeling tingly fingers and “seeing” tendrils of light move from the water to each person and back again.

The second round, we reminded the water of its original perfect nature, and expressed gratitude to it. This was my idea. I felt very sorry for the water at this moment, a bit ashamed about the dissing way we’d been speaking about it right there in front of it. I mean yes, it is city tap water and does indeed have pollutants in it, but really!  Would you like all of your flaws to be magnified like that by a group? If it were me, I’d start to shrink away, forgetting that I had any good qualities at all. I wanted this water to glow, knowing it was appreciated. So I suggested that we remind it of its original pure state; how beautiful it is, and how grateful we are to partake of its essence and be given life by it. This time, we held hands in a ring and one by one, following the suggestion from my linguist friend Matthew Bronson, we spoke aloud our gratitude. I went first, and sort of went into a bardic trance, invoking its Beauty in what someone later called “a breathtaking prayer from the heart.” It did feel good. There’s something right about opening one’s throat to spontaneously sing the praises of that which gives us life! Other spoke similarly in turn. The room grew hushed and the atmosphere in the room felt rarefied, uplifted. And afterward, I knew that water was holy.

Fujiwara Dam water after prayer. (Photo: Masaru Emoto)

The third round, we did what Beverly had been setting us up for all along: to try and turn this water into wine. The blasphemy angle alone tickled the heck out of me. She showed us graphic representations of the molecular structure of Chardonnay, and we tried to replicate it in this water using our minds.  The group asked if I would start with another imaginal invocation. So I verbally led them through the path the water takes to become wine: its arising to the surface through a spring high in the Sierra Nevada mountains and also simultaneously falling as rain, then the way it burbled down through the groundwater and traveled aboveground down through the various river tributaries, eventually making its way to the Eel River, down the Russian River, and into the fertile soil of Sonoma County, where young grapevines eagerly sucked it up, growing tendrils and leaves and fragile blossoms that are visited by eager bees and insects and eventually ripen into ever-growing, ever sweetening fruit, warmed by the sun and watched over by the moon, cycle upon cycle, until each grape is perfectly juicy plump and tart and is picked and crushed by loving hands, then laid to bed cradled by oak, until ahhh! finally tasted, here, by us. Well, you get the idea. Eeny meeny chili-beanie, presto change-o zap! Heeeere’s wine.

We sat back down as Beverly digitized the images and then showed us the corresponding data for each of our experiments. We had indeed changed the molecular structure of every sample of water we had “touched.” The wine was about halfway there: not as big or bright as Chardonnay, but much more than the original tap water.

Since thoughts and emotions are actually changing the molecular structure here, and this is precisely what was being tested, Beverly was concerned that during the experiment nobody was present who came with intent to prove their extreme skepticism. Despite extreme rigor of execution and documentation, this type of experiment is routinely shut down in university settings by people in positions of power with such a mindset, effectively trading fascinating inquiry for the maintenance of “turfdom and serfdom.” I couldn’t help thinking of Emoto’s images paired with Rubik’s observations about the effects of water on our health. It would be fun to show such people these images with the caveat, “This is what your snotty attitude is doing to your cells!”

Then she suggested we conduct an addendum to the experiment which had never been done before: to see if we could taste the difference between the waters. Physically, remember, it was all the same stuff: tap water from the sink in that building. There was only enough charged water in the test tubes for two tasters. Matthew and I volunteered. (I did it mostly because I really wanted that second water in my body!) We turned our backs as Beverly and her partner Harry Jabs rigged up tasting cups of each of the three and then administered them to us in random order. Matthew and I might get the same kind at the same time or we might not. All we knew is that we would each receive one sample of each experiment, three in total, with no duplication.

My strategy was to ask the water to reveal itself to me, then open up as much as possible to it in my subtle bodies – like when attempting to see/feel in diagnosis for shamanic healing – before tasting it. Each water did seem to have its own unique quality. For example, one had a tart-and-sweet taste to me, and was sort of light too, not unlike sauvignon blanc. So I guessed this was the wine. Matthew and I both reported “sweetness” in that round of samples. These turned out to be the wine for me, and for him, the sweet taste was love. Awww!

We also received “plain” tap water to cleanse our palates in between tastings. We found this delightfully amusing. But you know what? We experienced something remarkable here. The first tap water seemed quite neutral, as one would expect, but the ones in between the charged waters actually tasted bad to us. Wild, eh? I thought that phenomenon could be my mind playing tricks, so drank the third sample with that in mind. And indeed, it did not taste bad to me at first – but then it developed an aftertaste!

In the end, Matthew got one right and I got all three. Statistically, this is unlikely but not hugely significant. The wildest, most interesting thing of all was that we actually could taste differences in these waters.

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Rubik’s experiment speaks volumes about how the quality of our attention matters.

We all know this and experience it every day, yet we forget. We fall into the tyranny of multitasking instead of offering our full attention to whatever presents itself. Are we listening to one another deeply, or with half our minds somewhere else – perhaps even planning what we’re going to say in return instead of hearing the original idea?

Another aspect: Objects created with full loving attention carry that special energy with it forever. Compare, for example, a handmade journal vs. one that was mass-produced by sweatshop labor and machines. Even if the former’s materials are not the finest, the personal energy and love put into its creation infuses it, conferring a subtle quality that makes it far more valuable.

When we touch a lover or small child or someone in pain, the way in which we do it; the consciousness behind the act, seriously impacts the way the touchee will experience it. A touch with deliberately concentrated love behind it can be instantly healing, soothing, invigorating; like a drink of cool water or a warm fire in winter.

Such attention can mean survival, too – for example, noticing the colors and scents of our food. Get hold of a bad fish and don’t notice that until it’s half eaten? Too late! Pay more attention next life.

Cultivating the ability to attend can also lead to terrific fun, because it means we notice things that nearly nobody else does: Gargoyles gazing down from the second floor corners; the different iridescent colors on street pigeons, now suddenly recognized as beautiful; the funny way your friend says “wool.” The world is so rich with weird and interesting things to enjoy, and beauty to be found in the most unexpected places. Auntie Mame had it right: “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

Of course, when playing with perspective and really looking for a different angle on things, one sometimes gets more than one bargains for…

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The other side of Mt. Rushmore 

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Happy looking!

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Perspective March 25, 2010

I love it when my perspective suddenly gets shifted. You know? This is the basis of all good jokes; the aha! that surprises us into delighted laughter. You expect one thing, but quite another pops up.

The teaching tales of Mulla Nasruddin (likely dating from the 1200s!) exemplify this sudden destabilization of normal consciousness, using it to lead listeners toward enlightenment.

A neighbor comes upon Mullah Nasruddin frantically searching for something under the light of a lamp post in the dusty street outside his home.

“Mullah, what have you lost?” he asks.

Nasruddin replies, “Oh, it’s terrible. I have lost my keys.”

The neighbor, being the kind person he is, gets down on his hands and knees and begins to search with Nasruddin through the dust. After a long time, the neighbor asks Nasruddin, “Mullah, are you sure you lost your keys right here in this exact part of the street?”

“Oh no!” says Nasruddin, “I lost them somewhere in my house.”

“What?!” exclaims the neighbor, getting up creakily. “If you lost them in the house, then why are we wasting our time looking for them under this lamp post?”

Nasruddin replies, “The light is better here.”

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I imagine that the ability to shift perspective also forms the basis of real communication; when we suddenly “get” what the other person means.

The first example, the joke, was an aha; this one is an ohhhhh! Now I get it.

Both are basic seed syllables that Hindu wisdom say are the core of “ah” and “om,” the breathing in and out mantras that make up the living universe.

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It feels enlivening to notice the potential for animated engagement everywhere.

I find it especially fun to be reminded that the world is looking back.

Everything from hairpins to hinges…

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Cute animistic window hinge

Animistic hinges in their original context. Can you find them?

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…not to mention the more-than-human world, which is always watching.

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And I feel, from experience, that the more we respond to these beings, objects & processes surrounding us, the more they will respond back in kind.

Free play in an animate universe.

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