Suggestion for foraging toolkit


A foraging workshop for plants would involve story-telling and identifying plants at river’s bank. It can also be our research result about some spots along the river. We can launch it online and place them in our greenhouse.

Things that can be included:
-Names, characteristics of the plants;
-Usage, recipes, crafts (It can be a workshop including foraging, making, and teaching);
– The relationship with the environment (Natural? Urban? Half? Novel eco-system?);
-The relationship with human activity (Plants that move with a certain group of people, i.e.: Broadleaf Plantain is considered “white man’s footprint”; plants that brought by farming and gardening; personal memories, etc.)

Suggestion for starting our work:
-Take a picture of a spot, identify as many plants as we can based on pictures.
-Search for the information and materials in relation to the above categories.
-Group and analysis of our materials.

Readings and reference:

  1. Novel ecosystems-
  2. Novel Ecosystems: Intervening in the New Ecological World Order by Richard J. Hobbs,Eric S. Higgs,Carol Hall-
  3. Plants in CT-
  4. Water treatment related projects, and the idea of turning ‘problems’, ‘invasive’ into  resources, it also relates to the idea of novel ecosystems –
  5. Good example for physical tools and presentation-
  6. Another good example for foraging, and the concern about the relationship between humans and the environment-




Jacob Paul’s Encounter with the Park River

So, I had this previous relationship to Hartford for this very simple reason, which is that the first woman I dated seriously after college was eight years my senior, and I was very naive because I got out of college when I was twenty, but also because I grew up an ultra Orthodox Jew who went to boarding schools until I got to school, so I stopped wearing a Yarmulke and started wearing a Portland Trail Blazers hat. And then a year after that I intentionally stopped dating. I had a bad dating experience my last year of college and I just wanted some space and I was working for a public theatre and we were at this bar across the street called Toast. We had an opening night party for this play called the Venus Hottentot, and I saw a woman I found very attractive. A short, pugnacious blonde woman was at the bar, and we started chatting. She gave me three ways to contact her, and so I got in touch with her. I also didn’t know what a relationship was at that age. This relationship became real after we went to the south of France together. She hated my writing, and thought it was offensive and said so, and I thought that was how relationships were supposed to be because I just didn’t know any better. She had huge anger problems. So when we came back, we moved in together in an apartment in Inwood.

We used to visit my Dad up in Boston, and he wouldn’t let us sleep in the same bed, which she wasn’t having because I was 23 and she was 31. At this point, I want to get out of this relationship. I’m depressed about my mother’s recent death, she’s taking care of me, she has anger problems. My landlord said to her one day, “Three wives! I’ve never hit any of them. If I hear more noise like that, you let me know and I’ll talk to him.” And then she came to me and said, “It’s so funny! He thinks you’re the one making the noise!” Which should have been my sign to flee. So, anyhow, my Dad on a good day is an awful cook, and on a bad day, he’s worse. So we would eat horrible food, and half-way home from Boston would be Hartford, and we found this restaurant (which is still open to this day and looks identical to what it did twenty years ago which is terrifying). So we would stop there and eat and we really fell in love with this place. It became our place because we were probably the only ones eating there mid-week other than insurance executives. We would sometimes rent a fancy hotel room and drink fancy wine. We had a strange relationship with Hartford.

Eventually, I came out of the depression around my mother’s death, and she wants me to move to Jakarta with her for her job. I thought, don’t worry, you’ll just write and she’ll take care of you. And then I thought, wait, I’m going to move to Jakarta right after the fall of Suharto to become a kept boy of this woman with a rage problem where I’ll know no other people. Fuck. I’m out. So I flew to France to break up with her and that was a whole big thing. She would call me from Jakarta to make fights. But, in all of this, the one thing I remember loving is the really nice restaurant in Hartford.

So, on my 26th birthday, I had ended this extremely dysfunctional relationship. Then we get back together. Then 9/11 happens and I work in the World Trade Center, which is an important to my re-encounter with Hartford, Connecticut. I was working for Oppenheimer Funds while doing a low-residency MFA. I had bought a bicycle, and would ride the greenway to work. I left early that day, so I could shower on the 34th floor. It’s 8:45, before anything has happened, and I’m showering. The other tower gets hit first, and I have no idea what’s happening because I’m in a shower in a cinderblock thing in the center of the building. I was naked for the biggest terrorist attack in America. I’m drying off and the alarm comes on and the emergency PA says, “There’s been an incident involving an airplane and tower 1. Tower 2 is a secure area, there is no need to evacuate tower 2, tower 2 is secure”. So I dry off, and I put my book and my cell phone in a locker and I walk calmly to my desk. I notice it looks like a ticker-tape parade outside, but I can’t see up to see what’s going on. None of my co-workers are there, and I’m not too concerned. Our floor’s fire warden, Phil Whitgower, says I should probably evacuate. “Cool”, I say, nonchalantly.  And I’m walking down the staircase making bad jokes while people are crying. I didn’t realize what was going on. All my co-workers had been there in ’93, so they knew how to evacuate, which is why they weren’t there. When I’m on the 28th floor, our tower gets hit. There was a tremendous sense of impact and an explosion sound, and we couldn’t tell if it was above or below us. The foundation shook and dust rose up. We didn’t know if there was a bomb below us and if we should go down. Anyhow, pretty much everyone below the impact floors survived. It’s amazing, right? In our building, the plane hit in the 60s. When we got above ground, we were pretty far north. This is where people were freaking out. When you watch the videos, and you see our tower get hit from the south, you see a thing shoot across and hit the building on Church Street, and then land. That’s actually a jet engine. And the turbine minus the cowling landed on the corner underneath some scaffolding. And there was a cop wrapping caution tape around it. To me, that will forever be the image of a man who knows he’s supposed to do something, but has no idea what could possibly be done and is out of ideas.

So police barricades are set up just north of where we have gone out. So I walk up to them, and my lawyer and my boss are there. All the trains are stopped. We walked north together, up to Houston Street, and we heard a huge gasp and we turned around and saw a huge column of smoke. Our building was gone and the other one was still burning.

I finally get to my grandparents’ and get in touch with people, and walked up to Harlem, took the train the rest of the way home, and got wasted with Mick. The dot-com collapse happened simultaneously, and my girlfriend lost her job. She went back to California. I started working in my company up in Hartford where they had excess office space. The following week after 9/11, they send us to Hartford to go live in the Hilton and work four tens. This isn’t boding well for my relationship because it’s bad to begin with. That was the hard thing for all of us. We were so radically separated from anybody that could have offered us support. We had an enormous per diem and most of it went to booze. What I did to try to mitigate that was to go bike shopping. I had locked up my red bike next to tower 2, and it was obviously destroyed. And one way I thought I could reclaim some sort of agency was to buy a new bicycle. My friend Steve Gainer was super into cycling and knew a bunch about bikes. We would drive around in his fancy BMW looking at bike shops, which meant that we’d be in downtown Hartford which was dead after dark, and insurance people were walking around drunk. And then you’d have the band of incredible poverty. And then you get to the suburbs, which is all gated communities for insurance executives who don’t pay any taxes into the city, and there you would find the bike shops, super insane, high-end bike shops. Really expensive. On one of these trips we go past the courthouse, and we suddenly realize that there’s a park just past it, and you can see over the edge a river emerge from underground. So I begin to become sort of obsessed with this river. I think this must have been the time I was just finishing up graduate school and I was working on my first novel project which is never to be mentioned. During that time, my co-worker had given me a subscription to National Geographic Adventure, which no longer exists, and in there, this guy John Waterman (who ended up blurbing my first book) had written this article about his circumnavigation of the Arctic Circle, and he had kayaked the portion that was the Northwest Passage. So I had read that, and I had kayaking on the mind and so I became obsessed. I started asking these guys at the bike shops if people did anything in the river, and they were like, “that’s disgusting.” And in the end what happened was that we found a bike shop that told us we could kayak a section of the river underground. So that was my first kayaking trip. We put in a little bit above town, and we float into these tunnels, and it’s fucking petrifying. But it’s too early after my last great trauma to have any kind of panic or fear of anything. I felt resilient as a motherfucker. I’ve been going to therapy. I’m fine.

So we floated through this long dark thing. Completely dark with occasionally a little light coming through storm grates. It was about 20 minutes until we came out. It wasn’t really legal, but there was nothing really blocking it because they didn’t think anybody would want to because it’s gross and it’s a rarely managed city. So we had our head lamps, and it’s quiet and silent, and I think it was probably safer because we were going in the end of September. So, at any rate, we had this uneventful float through these tunnels, and it was this kind of moment in which I expected to be able to attach all kinds of crazy things to, but really in the end, it was just a thing on the way to buying a bicycle on the way to writing a book about kayaking, and then I came out the other end.

Peeking at the Wildlife Near the Park River-

The private school next to the University of Hartford (the Watkinson School), maintains a nature-cam near the Park River.

Mary Rickel Pelletier graciously shared the url for the nature cam with me today, so I am sharing it with all of you. Enjoy!

(Copy and paste the text above into your browser.)

Park River: The Underground River

What if…

There was an underground art party in an underground river?

There were tours on the history of the Park River (also known as the Hog River)?

Would graffiti artists give artists talks on how to tag the tunnels of the river?

Could there be science class for children on canoes?

Below are some accounts on canoeing the Park River:

Canoeing the Park River

Paddling Hartford

The Hog River Revival 

Sad City Hartford Takes On The Park River

Artists Canoe Underground

How To Become A River


  1. Go to your nearest river
  2. Stand as close as you can
  3. Close your eyes
  4. Smell the river
  5. Breathe the river with your open mouth (don’t drink the water-it’s probably not safe)
  6. Touch the river (If you can)
  7. Listen to the sounds of the river
  8. Think about how corporations are killing you (you as person and as a river) with the commodification of water
  9. Water the river with your tears
  10. Kiss yourself is like kissing the river…we are all water

Interview questions for Hartford Residents.

Born in Hartford, I wanted to gain a different perspective of the Park River in Hartford as I believe that the miss-education of some will provide consequences for the environment around us as well as people who directly interact with the environment.

I came up with these questions to create a very different narrative of the relationship between water and people. My goal is to have people understand the gaps of understanding around water. I will share different  Hartford residents and their understanding of Park River.

How important to humans is water?

Do you know Hartford was built on a body of water?

Have you heard of Park River before?

If I told you everything you did that included water is contaminating that same body of water you live on would you find it to be an important to change your habits?

Would you let your child play in the river? Why/why not?

Would you allow your child to drink river water?

Do you drink tap water in Hartford?

Do you think the river water directly effects tap water in Hartford?

How often does the city flood?

Free Bottled River: An Interview On Art, Water, and Commodity

ParkRiver1.JPGReflections on making art at the Park River.

An artist interviews herself.

A work of art is a gift, not a commodity…Every modern artist who has chosen to labor with a gift must sooner or later wonder how he or she is to survive in a society dominated by market exchange. And if the fruits of a gift are gifts themselves, how is the artist to nourish himself, spiritually as well as materially, in an age whose values are market values and whose commerce consists almost exclusively in the purchase and sale of commodities?   -Lewis Hyde, The Gift

In 2016, artist and activist Desiree Duell did a performance piece, Free Bottled River about the commodification of water using the Park River as a site. Duell based in Flint, MI has spent the last three years creating work around the Flint Water Crisis using art as a tool for activism to create awareness around environmental injustice. She came to Hartford, CT for a graduate residency in the Nomad9/MFA program in Sustainable Culture. Every day, she walked over the Park River to attend class at the University of Hartford. She eventually spent some time contemplating at the Park River on the commodification of water.


Can you explain the impetus behind Free Bottle River? What was your relationship with the Park River when you performed Free Bottled River?

The performance was to examine my own relationship to rivers. Even though I grew up in Flint that has the Flint River running through the city-it never was a part of my existence until the Flint Water Crisis. Most cities in America have been built near rivers, but now it seems like they don’t exist within our built environment. When I was in school last year, I kept walking over the Park River then decided to really spend some time with it. What I realized is that a river is much more than just water-it’s an entire ecosystem of dirt, plants, wildlife, and water. Then thinking about how we consume water, bottled water, and the privatization of water in its relation to both environmental injustice on both humans and landscape. I thought by bottling the river as raw material and giving it away to the public by river was to show the absurdity of commodity in our culture.

You gave away the bottled river for free. Do you think the meaning of the performance would change if you sold the bottled Park River?

It’s been suggested to me on several occasions to sell Flint River water as art many times. Although, I don’t find that interesting as art because its just reenacting the same paradigm that lead to the Flint Water Crisis. Water has already become a commodity through the bottled water industry that making it into art seems to condone and support that industry which is dangerous for both the environment and humans.

How do you live with the tension of creating art as a commodity and sustaining yourself as an artist?

Well, water and art are not that different that we need both to survive. Humans need water for our physical existence and art for our psychological well-being. My work is about unveiling the injustice created by our capitalist society, which is rooted in commodity. So, I have to live with the contradiction of selling or funding my work as a commodity in order to make work about the toxicity of commodification. It’s completely absurd. Why should I do have to drink bottled water, but am also paying for poisoned water? Why do I make work about environmental injustice, but have no relationship with the natural environment? At the end of the day, I have to sell my art to sustain my family and buy water.


What did you learn from doing this performance? Do you think the performance was effective? How would do perform this piece now?

It was interesting to see how the public took the bottled river as a gift once it was presented as art. It always surprises me how we as a society are so addicted to our objects. I gave some away to children and people who passed by my bench. Although, I think the irony of getting bottled river while sitting next to the river was lost on the public. I think the performance was effective in that it I helped understand my own relationship with the river. Coming back to the Park River, I have a deeper sense of what a river truly is as an entire ecosystem. This year I stood in the Park River and it was a completely different experience than last year. If I could redo the performance again-maybe I would have people bottle their own water while standing in the river.



From living on a River to by the lake.

No matter what relationship you have with water you will always find yourself near a body of water. In fact you will always be surrounded by water literally and figuratively. Between 70-75% of the earth surface is covered with water but less than 3% is drinkable, and less than 1% is accessible. So if water is life what kind of life style will I have with no access to fresh water? If I lived in America (which I do) and only relied on bottle water I would be doing two things at the same time: Supporting companies capitalizing on fresh drinking water and contributing to an even larger carbon footprint. If I didn’t purchase water I could be at risk for drinking contaminated water for long periods of time.

About a month ago I moved out of Hartford, CT where the Park River flows though and moved to Oakdale CT, on Gardner Lake. My experience with water has been elevated because I’m constantly faced with the beautiful view. My trade off is that my pipe water is cloudy, this weekend the D.E.P is testing the lake and I won’t have access to it. A lot of boats and other aquatic machines are docked here and uses oils that leak into the lake. Is there a way to revitalize water sources, fast?

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