Before I went down to Washington St. for the Providence International Arts Festival, I took a picture of the whiteboard map that’s part of the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth. Adorned with a map of Rhode Island (carried out in electrical tape by James Kuo), it invites, “Put your worries on the map,” and asks, “Is there a place in RI you love?” and is equipped with dry-erase markers.
That’s an Illuminati pyramid at the bottom. Like all opportunities to write on a vertical surface in public, it gathered its share of apparent irrelevancies that were in fact important (or at least appealing) to the writer at the time of writing.
People also accepted the first invitation (for worries) …
… and the second (for beloved places).
When I explain the booth, which is usually the first part of an interaction with a stranger, I often refer to Rhode Island as “on the coast” as a way of talking about sea level rise and its relationship with storms. It’s just as true to say that the coast is in us–if you look at a more detailed map of the state, you see land and water interlaced like the fingers of two hands.
For the Providence International Arts Festival, special guests Thompson Webb III and S. Hollis Mickey helped design a timeline of notable storms, to which we invited passersby to add storms they remember and storms they fear.
Resilient Rhode Island, among others, stresses the interaction between storms, sea level rise and flooding as major ways Rhode Island is likely to suffer from a warming climate and its effects. Tom brought and showed a picture of post-hurricane flooding on Dorrance Street, a block away from where we were standing.
Visitors to the booth also marked the map.
They drew two kinds of ticks, WBRU (?), a nuclear research site, and ponds they love.
They marked more abstract fears and frustrations, too.
In the right-hand image above, you can see the Biltmore Hotel reflected–the same place that the hurricane image showed with water up to its knees. On the maps, love and fear, preoccupation and distraction interlace, like the water and the land, like the fingers of hands.