Much of yesterday was spent in my vehicle, traveling near the western and northern edges of the St. Croix River watershed in Minnesota. For the most part, if I hadn't spent some time looking at maps before I left to do some field verification and take some photos for a project I'm working on, I wouldn't have know which watershed I was in. Along Highway 210, there was a sign that informed my Better Half and I that we were entering the Lake Superior Watershed, and there were bridge signs along the highways telling us which river we had just crossed, but that was it. I remember traveling in southwestern Minnesota and being informed that I had just entered such and such Soil and Water Conservation District about each and every time I crossed a county boundary. I think it was Wendell Berry who wrote " If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are." At least that's what Wallace Stegner writes in The Sense of Place.
a tamarack wetland near the St. Croix River watershed's northwest corner
Photo by J. Harrington
If we want others to come to know us, don't we have to come to know ourselves? Wes Jackson adds to Berry and Stegner's thoughts when he writes about Becoming Native to This Place. But, to my way of thinking, Robin Wall Kimmerer, in Braiding Sweetgrass (one of my all time favorite books), offers even better insights to people and place.
"To become indigenous is to grow the circle of healing to include all of Creation.Within pages, Kimmerer provides a creative answer to her question. We'll share what she has to say tomorrow. If you truly care about sustainable living, it's worth learning what she has to say. If you can't or don't come back to My Minnesota for some reason, get your hands on a copy of the book and read it, please.
"Immigrants cannot by definition be indigenous. Indigenous is a birthright word....But if people do not feel "indigenous," can they nevertheless enter into the deep reciprocity that renews the world?"
Homo sapiens is the only species to suffer psychological exile.
—E. O. WilsonI returned to a stand of pines,bone-thin phalanxflanking the roadside, tangleof understory—a dialectic of darkand light—and magnolias blossominglike afterthought: each flowera surrender, white flags drapedamong the branches. I returnedto land’s end, the swath of coastclear cut and buried in sand:mangrove, live oak, gulfweedrazed and replaced by thin palms—palmettos—symbols of victoryor defiance, over and overmarking this vanquished land. I returnedto a field of cotton, hallowed ground—as slave legend goes—each bollholding the ghosts of generations:those who measured their daysby the heft of sacks and lengthsof rows, whose sweat flecked the cotton plantsstill sewn into our clothes.I returned to a country battlefieldwhere colored troops fought and died—Port Hudson where their bodies swelledand blackened beneath the sun—unburieduntil earth’s green sheet pulled over them,unmarked by any headstones.Where the roads, buildings, and monumentsare named to honor the Confederacy,where that old flag still hangs, I returnto Mississippi, state that made a crimeof me—mulatto, half-breed—nativein my native land, this place they’ll bury me.
Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.