Only the Kid

The child whose parent is giving me a tour of their house looks up at me to say, “Only little kids like butterflies,” in that tone reserved for children who have just heard their favorite thing mocked by their peers. For a moment, I wonder of the world in which this might be true, a world where the fluttering creatures flock only to small, open palms, a world where the smiles at these surprising pops of color are drawn across the faces of Crayola-marker-carrying, melted-square-of-chocolate-in-pocket kids, like this one. I wonder if it is cruelty that has made the non-little kids in this universe dislike butterflies. What other reasons would they have? They are too small to be important enough for me to care for. Why like them? They live such a short while. Shapeshifters — I only like things that stay the same!

“Do you like butterflies?” I ask the child.

“No,” they say. And I watch them stumble over a snag in the carpet. Then, as if their near tumble woke them up to something, “Only the yellow ones.”

Juliana Roth

When organic matter, like trees or plants or dirt, fossilizes, what remains is described as “petrified,” which means to turn to stone, but when applied to humans means to become so afraid that one is unable to move. Fear becomes so grand that we become stony, stuck, like a piece of wood whose organic parts were replaced with minerals. The shell of what was there fills instead with something else. Something hard, something frozen. A petrified stem can maintain the original structure down to its microscopic parts. The earth too refuses life to leave easily, erecting its own memorials. And this new crystal structure is more delicate and prone to collapse than what came before: a mold preserves what once was a leaf, iron fills tree rings. So when we become petrified, what is it that our fear does to us?

To become un-petrified is to become unstuck. To become unfrozen, to release ourselves from fear, all we need to do is to move. With this, we refuse our own deadening, we are without fear.

Juliana Roth
What I'm Trying to Say About Being Shy

A coywolf was recently spotted roaming the outskirts of New York City and parks in the Bronx. These events were called extraordinary as though we’re surprised that all animals are drawn to company. Sure, they were there to feed and scavenge, but they also found each other. Conservation groups claim coywolves are taking over North America, as in replacing other coyote and wolf populations. Now joined together, coywolves can do things one could not without the other: wolf enough to take down a deer, coyote enough to be wary of danger.

There are many facts to know about each animal and their behaviors and studies to study, I’m sure. Here is one: some wolves travel 500 miles to look for their mate. Another: most mate for life.

Before calling the police, a resident in one of the towns frequented by the creature studied a coywolf from the end of her drive.

Juliana Roth
Sleepy Lizard

There’s a lizard native to Australia who has a thick blue tongue. He feeds on slow-moving bugs, but mostly plants. When gliding through the brush, flattened, predators become afraid of him. They think he’s full of venom with his strange blue tongue. They think he’s going to coil their neck with his slithery body. Often, when he’s discovered in a backyard, he’s confused for a deadly snake. Animal control arrives to stroke his sweet lizard head. There is nothing to fear, nothing to fear.

Juliana Roth
Three Facts
  1. The bark of willow trees can be used as charcoal for sketches.

  2. Often, willows are referred to as weeping willows because of how the rain looks like tears as it rolls from their branches. To weep is to shed. Shedding leaves is how a tree moves through seasons.

  3. Willows can be processed to make a medicine similar to aspirin. Deer often rub painful spots on their bodies against willows for relief.

Juliana Roth
Some Thing Sweet on This Earth

Ultimately, I believe that environmental tenants (preservation, conservation, deep ecology, etc) make visible what is often seen as dispensable. What then can observing the earth reveal about ourselves? What future do we cultivate through our relationship with the environment? Who and what gets left out? I’m curious of how big unknowns and unfathomables (death, love, loss) might be cultivated through an imaginative exchange with the environment and nonhuman life, and how these relationships might demonstrate how language can or cannot connect us.

These short blog posts are meant to attend to sweet things on this earth as a way to preserve them, and so then to hope to grow them. The intention is not to avoid anthropomorphism or the pathetic fallacy, but to explore these as opportunities to remain open to the world in surprising ways. Through doing this, I hope to discover how dynamic the environmental relationship could be as a space for writers or other artists. I welcome observations and prompts from anyone who might encounter this project.

Juliana Roth