To Marsh

To Marsh is a collaborative project between the Marsh (currently known as Cootes Paradise) and their living beings, Andrea Vela Alarcón and Nicholas Hernández-Brown. This web-based project acts as a space for nurturing the difference of meaning, experiences and creative expressions resulting from our visits to the Marsh. This project contains written and audio-visual responses, as well as propositions for the visitor to take with them and activate wherever in collectivity.

To Marsh, parts from a recognition of the interdependencies between human and other-than-human beings, and the re-imagining of colonial ways of knowing that foreground human hierarchy and exceptionality (Betasamosake Simpson, 2014; Wall Kimmerer, 2013). The project took shape under Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Learning the Grammar of Animacy” (2013), a text where she prompts us to shift English’s strategic objectification of the Land through nouns, by turning them into verbs, for example “to be a bay” (p. 50).
This seemingly simple transformation has the potential to unravel otherwise ways of speaking not about, but with the Land. Thus, letting language recognize the world as a space where everything is alive (p. 53).

Guided by Wall Kimmerer’s proposition of engaging with the grammar of animacy, we went on various walks around the land colonially known as Cootes Paradise. There, we each attuned our body and moved towards those who called us. For Nick, it was the Birds and the Bark, for Andrea it was the Sapling and the Cattails, for both it was the Marsh. These calls became verbs and we tried to respond to them beyond the mediated knowledge we had about them. As Laura Westling (2011) explains through her work on Merleau-Ponty’s eco-phenomenology, language is a response of what we lived while in the place, not just the thought about the place. Thus, our responses stem from the affective and embodied experience felt during and beyond our visit to the Marsh.