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Seeking the Sublime

Sublimescapes seeks the mountaintop experience at any altitude - atop ridge lines, amidst urban flora and fauna, along industrial shorelines.

Because the nature of wilderness can be explored anywhere.

From where I sit on a sunny spring morning (where I start most mornings, at my study desk)

I hear both the birds’ cacophonous celebration and the white-noise whirring of a generator atop a nearby hospital parking structure. And I hear traffic and breezes through tree branches. These are

the dominant sounds in my urban neighborhood’s compact, complex ecosystem in which beauty

and decay and life and things made by humans (vinyl-siding homes, potholed streets, so many, many automobiles, and a massive hospital campus housing that generator) compete for prominence, even survival. It’s in these dueling sounds that I hear an expression of such dissonance, the butting up of nature’s glory against the grisly, oily machinery of human invention that’s both destroying our world

and working wonders, not the least of which happen at that hospital: Humans repair humans, strangers share body organs, births and deaths enrapture.


I write because I want it all. I want humans to stop generating so much waste and climate change and injustice and racism, embodied even in that whirring drawing my attention away from chirping swallows and finches alighting upon three locust trees outside my window. But I also know humans are participating in an amazing process of co-creation in which our minds and hands and sheer brawn produce wondrous contraptions, both massive and nanosize. Conversely, swallows can be violent and mean.


I write because I want coherence, because I want a picture of nature and human civility in which the order of things becomes clear.


Instead, I hear the incessant whirring. I see and feel the grisly and the oily. So I keep writing.



Mark Kramer teaches creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh

and is the author of Dispossessed: Life In Our World’s Urban Slums.

Visit and to read more of his work.

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