Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Home field advantage

This morning my better half and I drove the St. Croix Scenic Byway (plus a few side trips) from Taylors Falls to Rock Creek. I'm working on a project that is trying to capture, through photography and poetry, relationships between the built and the natural environments and how people experience them. Much of what we saw this morning were flooded and muddy farm fields, scattered subdivisions, tributaries flowing full, and both open and ice covered stretches of the St. Croix. One thing that struck me as we drove along was how segregated the river and its valley seem to be from the surrounding countryside, much of which is given over to small acreages with horses, interspersed between larger cornfields and dairy or beef cattle operations, with the occasional McMansion thrown in just because someone could.

forest to farm to residential
forest to farm to residential                  © harrington

From any sort of distance, this fragmentation of the countryside isn't that obvious. The river appears to flow through a relatively untrammeled, natural setting. Closer examination reveals the contrary. Just as different species have varying needs for their homes, humans exhibit a wide range of tastes and desires. Looking at the setting above, I'm not sure how close to nature this kind of country living brings people, but perhaps that isn't why they chose to live where they do. Home does mean something different to many of us but it should include roots, family and nurturing, as Angela Shannon writes in her poem, "Carrying Home," from Where One Voice Ends Another Begins.

St. Croix River valley upstream from Taylors Falls
St. Croix River valley upstream from Taylors Falls    © harrington


Angela Shannon


Carrying Home

I am carrying home in my breast pocket:
land where I learned to crawl,
dust that held my footprints,
long fields I trod through


Home, where Mother baked bread,
where Papa spoke with skies,
where family voices gathered.
In my palm, this heap of earth
I have hauled over hills and valleys.

Releasing dirt between my fingers,
I ask the prairies to sustain me.
May my soil and this soil nurture each other,
may seeds root and develop beyond measure,
may the heartland and I blossom.

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