Windy days, broken off, cut or diseased, branches fall from trees finding their way to the ground becoming sticks. Belt loops, pockets and hands grasp, carry, abandon and pick-up again. “Engarde!” sticks become swords, bridges over fast flowing creeks, forts protecting from heavy rains and hiking poles guiding through deep water and up hills. We recognize, “this stick’s alive!” as we crouch down carefully petting moss or examining mushrooms rooted within. “It’s not a hole, it’s a home!” we discover termites and wood bugs weaving their way through, leaving us to wonder who else might inhabit these homes. What microorganisms are we not seeing as we grasp, carry, abandon, bridge, fort and hike? We struggle to leave sticks behind. We ask ourselves uneasily answered questions proposed by Ingold (2014), “What is tree [stick] and what is not tree [stick]? Where does the tree [stick] end and the rest of the world begin?… Have you not joined with the birds [moss], squirrels [mushrooms], and insects [termites, wood bugs, microorganisms] into tree [stick]-life (p.57)?” Are these sticks-branches-trees-homes our own or are we a complex meshwork of past, present and future encounters?
Stick pedagogies are messy and imperfect. They remind us, “[l]ife is a meshwork” (Ingold, 2014, p. 57) requiring us to acknowledge as Haraway (2016) writes, “[i]t matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what descriptions describe descriptions, what ties tie ties (p. 12). They require us to stay woven in our stick-y knots, dropping threads, failing but sometimes finding something consequential and asking, how can we be response-able with/to all that sticks may entail while grappling with connections that matter, extending our immediate contact zones, disrupting our habitual ways for engaging with politics of forest places?
Haraway, D. (2016). Staying with the Trouble: Making kin in the chthulucene. Durham and London: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822373780
Ingold, T. (2014). Crafting landscapes: In conversation with Tim Ingold. Journal of Landscape Architecture, 9(2), 50-53.