Sunday, June 22, 2008

First Steps on The Piste

I thought of this blog name driving back from the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture conference in February 2008. There was a lot of talk there that was train related. A lot of allusion to getting off the runaway train that is our food culture, our agricultural policy, our very economy. A lot of talk of getting off track. I thought of my favorite sci-fi author, Kim Stanley Robinson, who wrote a trilogy about the colonization of Mars (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars) and he called the trains that ran around the colonized and terraformed red planet the "piste." The name derives from French and has an interesting etymology which continues to intrigue me as I think about it more. It is pronounced in English with a long E sound and a silent e at the end, so that is sounds like the cartoon character Ren getting pissed off at Stimpy with his hispanic chihuahuan accent. "I am so Peest off at you for being soo stoopid, Steempy." I thought this pronunciation, with the cartoon dog echoing in my head, also was appropriate to the feeling expressed in at the conference. I desire a separate track, a parallel path, and I am peest off about the track we are on. The word, on further investigation mainly refers to the track of a wild animal. While I could never claim to be much of a wild animal, I do at times wish to be wild, to be freely crashing through uncharted, untrammeled territory and part of my thoughts retreat to those paths that I have not yet taken and may never travel. Incidentally, piste is also used to describe ski trails, which I cannot come up with a good metaphor to incorporate yet(give me time) and can only say that I come from Colorado and am writing this in Vermont, both of which at least can lay claim to a few ski pistes, different though they may be. I have no idea where this path leads. I have no confidence that a blog can serve in any way as a parallel path. I only think that a synonym for the word "piste" is the word "spoor" and a homonym for that synonym is the word "spore," which may be all that a blog can be. These words are simply part of a spore, a small propagule by which information is spread. It may fall on fertile or infertile ground, but the power of the blog may be only in the volume of propugules spread, rather than in the impact of the individual seed. In any event, there are many paths in the wilderness and we usually don't know where they lead until we decide to follow them.

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