Writer Cass Marketos Studies the Radical World of Flora and Fauna

Q(uar) & A is a series of interviews with some of our favorite storytellers and creators about how they’re living while in lockdown.


Cass Marketos is a writer and aspiring naturalist based in Los Angeles, California.

Where are you currently sheltering in place? 

My one-bedroom apartment on the East Side of Los Angeles.

What does your face mask look like?

My Dad mailed me a new N95s he had in his garage and I have carefully maintained and worn those, but I really do not leave my house very much, so I’ve only had to don them a few times so far. They are not pretty and I don’t look cute in them.

Do you follow any kind of routine at this moment?

Wake up, coffee, read books. If I can’t focus on the page (which happens more days than not), I give up and spend many, many hours observing the plants and animals interact in my yard. Luckily, I’m in school — taking a field biology course — and this actually qualifies as homework. In general I cannot be inside so long as the sun is out, to a near pathological degree, so I end up rotating with the light — from porch, to lower porch, to garage roof — and won’t permit myself to settle in with television or a movie until after its fully dark out. And usually then I just end up binging blooper reels from ‘90s TV shows until I dumb-laugh myself to sleep.

What are some pieces of entertainment that you have consumed and loved during this time? 

I have gone deep on reading about wildlife and conservation efforts, which has been an eye-opening and sobering education. Some stand-outs include Going Wild by Jan E. Dizard, which is “about” the battle over hunting permits being issued for a wilderness area near Boston, but actually regards the psychology underlying all of our myriad and interacting definitions of “nature.” Trees in Paradise by Jared Farmer is also a no-holds-barred reiteration of the fact that when settlers came west across this country, they horrifically killed, maimed, destroyed, and consumed everything in their path. We have an enormous historical debt to reckon with, still, regarding our treatment of indigenous populations. Sorry to be heavy!

Are you working on anything during this time? And if you’re having trouble “creating” things at the moment, how are you getting around it? 

I still have one gig, but that wraps up this week. I have mostly been spending deep-time with friends (over video calls, I mean), writing letters, and staring out the window. I write in dribbles, but it’s been hard to focus my mind around coherent streams of words. I’m trying to keep the faith that the incoherence now will eventually build into its own, meaningful shape later. I try to embrace not knowing what it “is” yet.

Have you taken up any new hobbies?

Well, old-new. I used to cook a lot more, related to the fact that I used to have a lot of free time. Last 5-6 years… not so much. Since quarantine, I’ve found myself reviving a lot of my old favorite cooking habits: rehydrating and spicing dried beans, making frybread, making stock. That kind of stuff. There’s a funny excitement attached to figuring out what to make of the limited amount of groceries I’m able to get. : )

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten so far during quar? 

Frybread egg sammich, which I actually just made today. I also made “potato chips” in my oven, by thinly slicing some red potatoes by hand, heavily oiling + salting them, and baking them at 500 degrees F until they were crisp. It is honestly dangerous how good they turned out, and that I know how to just make them any time I want on my own.

What’s your current iPhone wallpaper and what’s the story behind it? 

It’s Sigourney Weaver giving the thumbs down, aha, and it became my wallpaper after somebody texted it to me, captioned “you.” I might update it to a picture of her and her cat in Alien.

What’s the best quar purchase you’ve made so far?

Best quarantine purchase was actually a gift, and it’s a copy of Frankie’s cookbook. My boyfriend and I have been going back-and-forth buying used books for each other, and I highly recommend it as a mode of intimate communication through this pandemic.

Who are the writers, storytellers, or makers who are bringing you great joy right now?

Oh… all of them. I really avoided any form of digital gathering or replication of “real world” activity online for the first month and a half of this, but lately I’ve been exploring live lecture series — one on immortality offered through UCR Palm Desert, a weekly series through Metabolic Studio. The Center for Fiction also hosted a conversation with Elena Ferrante’s translator, Ann Goldstein, and that was so magical. I will, for sure, be at this Olivia Laing’s book launch. (Could a book be more timely?)

It’s so beautiful and intimate to be able to sit with these great minds, in their private spaces, and just listen to them speak to me directly, in my own private space. I understand this interaction is deemed necessary by circumstance, but I hope it doesn’t get lost in the rush to return to normal.

Plant Intelligence Agency is a great follow for learning more about the radical world of native flora and fauna. Why Is this Interesting is a lovely, daily missive on all the random intellectual crevices to be found in between the daily headlines. I am sure there are tons others that I’m forgetting.

Any unexpectedly memorable moments of quar so far? 

Every single way that my friends have spontaneously showed up for me and for each other. I feel truly humbled by the amount of kindness and love I’ve received, and honored to be able to give that kindness and love in return.