Note on Vegetality // Beginning a Month of Writing

Dianne Chisholm (2010:367) quoting Deleuze and Guattari in “Biophilia and the Ecological Future of Queer Desire,” her chapter of Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire

“A Thousand Plateaus conceptualizes desire as a force that is ontologically immanent to all life on earth, and that propels ‘earth moves’ across and between geological strata and biological orders.  By mapping the transversality of symbiogenesis across the vertical lines of genealogical descent, Deleuze and Guattari ask us to think rhizomatically like an earthbound desert nomad, and to not (or not only) think aborescently (transcendentally, linearly) like a European metaphysician.  Thinking, they say, should look to

the wisdom of the plants; even when they have roots, there is always an outside where they form a rhizome with something else – with wind, an animal, human beings (and there is also an aspect under which animals themselves form rhizomes, as do people, etc.). “Drunkenness as a triumphant irruption of the plant in us.”  Always follow the rhizome by rupture; lengthen, prolong, and relay the line of flight; make it vary, until you have produced the most abstract and tortuous lines of dimensions and broken directions.  Conjugate the deterritorialized flows.  Follow the plants…Write, form a rhizome. (D+G 1987, 11)

Joseph Paxton, Dryandria Longifolia (1834), Paxton’s Botanical Magazine (scan by author, courtesy U Toronto Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library)

When I’m writing plants, I’m writing aggregations; I’m writing milieus and interactions.  Same as any body, but vegetality makes the difference.  I want to ask phenomenological questions: How do they do what they do?  What is their desire?  What are they making?  I am not as concerned with how I will know what they do.  I’m following Jakob von Uexküll’s ambling methodology in “A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans” (2010 [1934]):

We begin such a stroll on a sunny day before a flowering meadow in which insects buzz and butterflies flutter, and we make a bubble around each of the animals living in the meadow.  The bubble represents each animal’s environment and contains all the features accessible to the subject.  As soon as we enter into one such bubble, the previous surroundings of the subject are completely reconfigured.  Many qualities of the colorful meadow vanish completely, others lose their coherence with one another, and new connections are created: A new world arises in each bubble. (43)

Joseph O’Neil notes in his “Translator’s Introduction” to Uexküll, “The complications of translating Jakob von Uexküll’s text begin with its title. The text describes itself as a series of Streifzüge, of forays, of rambles, a walk-through” (2010:35).  Rambling – as I so often do – is one way to find the thought bubble.  Intentional ambling or, more simply, cruising.  I am perhaps more immediately concerned not with the “animals living in the meadow” but with the livingness of the meadow, vibrating as it is with life in a series of layered ‘moments,’ as Uexküll goes on to explore them.  My imagining is not fully separable from the image of another person, the third (or second) element, bobbing in the bramble (if that’s the kind of space we’re in), hiding behind some foliage, part of a plumage.

As I enter October, I enter a month of rigorous writing, some of which I’ll share here in fragmentary, visualized, mediatized ways.  I’m following about four lines of desire in the next month:

1.  Finally writing past the High Line.

2.  Finding plants and figuring out how they live from the ground.

3.  Recalling my subjectivity as writer, queering it (again), getting into the dirt, doing.

4.  Realizing some connections and constellations in the handfuls of queer theory texts I’ve sifted through in the last 6 months.

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