18/09/2023: Lee Moor, Devon

I sit waiting for the camera to capture the passage of time, trying to acclimatise my perception to a different temporality. I watch the ripples on the surfce of the lake and the clouds drift across the sky, the gorse rustle and the distant diggers scurrying: the things that all move in my time. But what I am trying to see is beyond the time of my presence here, beyond the ability of the timelapse function I am using to gesture towards it. I am looking for how this landscape has been and is, was and will be, transforming imperceptibly. Trying to look for rather than looking at.

The diagonal cuts in the spoil-scree slopes opposite have been repurposed by sheep and wild ponies to feed on the scrub. Ingesting and excreting in the service of the soilless land. Moss, grass and ruminant, persistant pondweed photosynthesis. Fungi sprouting from faeces. All this patient toil, just visible, beneath a mountain of quarried spoil, a man-made future moorland-to-be.

Today, for the first time, a rock steadies my tripod, anchoring its spikes into the mud. The camera’s stability is provided by the land – its carbon fibres, once drawn from rocks, now pulled back pendulous down to rock. I sit at the edge of the moor, and the edge of the pit. Fungi grow in faeces at my feet. The moor spills over the previously barren benches of machine hewn, or digger dumped stone. Slowing my perception I watch the gorse rolling annually further down the slopes, trying to perceptually timelapse the decade advance of lichen into moss into grass into gorse.

I see the rain-cut rivulets in the scree, eroding familiar patterns of flow in the shovel-flattened embankments. The warning signs proclaim this to be the destabilising force of subsidence, but it’s actaully returning structural stability to the precarious mounds of spoil. Coagulating finer particles washed through gravel, cohereing granular particles, the gradual carbonation of gaps among the aggregate, securing footings, spreading weight. Fungi cultivated in faeces. How does the crust remediate itself following such comprehensive disturbance? Will these vast banks of ground granite solidify again having been blasted apart, dug and crushed? What are the forces that conjoin pebbles into rocks in the way that molelcules form covalent bonds by sharing electrons? Do those processes scale? While writing, grey clouds have rolled away and returned, the sun momentarily baked the scree and dried the dew. Precipitation, evaporation, precipitation, evaporation, precipitation, evaporation. Sedimentation.

On the drive down I listened again to the excellent Geopoetics episode of the Future Ecologies podcast. An unnamed participant asked: “At what point do the molecules of apple become molecules of me?”. Since I started writing this I have eaten two apples: one russet, one cox. I cast the core of the second aside: at what point do the molecules of apple become molecules of the ground? A couple of minutes later I watch a small fly, whose emerald thorax catches the light, alight on the apple: at what point do the molecules of apple become molecules of fly? What then is the difference between fly, ground, apple, and I, when molecules of apple are simultaneuosly becoming all of us in the same place? Faeces becoming fungi.

My camera has been beeping incessantly all the while, marking out the seconds obsessively, out of sync with the reversing tipper trunks on the western horizon whose diesel chug flutters to and from my ears. In front of me now, a cream-grey waste of recently bulldozed dust. At its edges brave pioneer grasses gather nutrients from the puddles among tyre tracks, whose chaotic patterns cross-hatch the bare bed of a future open-cast lake. What organic life will first force a toehold in these mechanised striations of soilless surface? How do the catepillar track tracks of industry become a matrix within which remediation begins?

At my feet, in the triangle marked out by the tripod’s legs, this process is well underway. In places glistening pebbles the size of coarse salt belie the mechanically ground nature of this ground. Away to the right the moor’s spillage over the edge is perhaps only a single solar orbit underway. I count the species that have carved a niche, whose roots bind scree for larger roots to dig among, find poise and reach up to cast their seeds down the ravine, to hold the stones and channel the rain among them, incrementally replacing that which has been blasted from them. Everywhere fungi are germinating from faeces.

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