Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The gifts of place

This morning, when I checked The Daily Yonder's recent postings, I found that their June 9 piece was Jean Ritchie and the Value of Place...lessons on how we might all learn to value our cultures of place a little more. I'd like to believe than much of the central theme wasn't all that different than My Minnesota's "Diversity is the natural way to local." Tim Marema, author of the Jean Richie posting, concludes with these words:
"I believe the culture of place is important and valuable. It can be an asset, no matter where you are from. Ms. Ritchie’s unique role in preserving, promoting, and creating art about her place was one of the things that instilled this value in me. There are many of us around who are deeply grateful for that gift."
Since I've recently returned from a Rural Arts and Culture summit, and have (almost) finished reading Lewis Hyde's The Gift, Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, references to gifts in the context of rural culture resonate strongly with me. Then there's always the Shaker song Simple Gifts, which nicely fits into the theme of rural gifts and place, I think, especially the lyric

"And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight,"

to which I would add Robin Wall Kimmerer's descriptions, from Braiding Sweetgrass and many of her other writings, of the earth's gifts to us as being a source of love and delight in a place just right.

whitetail deer feeding in back yard
whitetail deer feeding in back yard
Photo by J. Harrington

Yesterday we were lucky enough to receive several gifts from the earth, although not all of us received each of these gifts:
  • I saw the first monarch butterfly of the season in the back yard
  • the Daughter Person was the only one of us who got to watch one of this year's fawns chase a cottontail rabbit around the yard
  • my Better Half and I saw two yearling(?) whitetails help themselves to something I presume was tasty that's growing around the "wet spot" in the back yard
  • as more and more wildflowers (invasive or indigenous) come into bloom, the area looks more and more attractive
During afternoons and evenings like yesterday's, I realize what a gift it is to be able to live where I do. I hope each of you has someplace as special in your life because (from today's Twitter feed). Then you could go there and think about how little would have to be changed to turn Levitov's California into our Minnesota places.

you should sit in nature 20 minutes a day   unless you're busy, then you should sit for an hour
Project Wild Thing

In California: Morning, Evening, Late January

By Denise Levertov
Pale, then enkindled,
light
advancing,
emblazoning
summits of palm and pine,

the dew
lingering,
scripture of
scintillas.

Soon the roar
of mowers
cropping the already short
grass of lawns,

men with long-nozzled
cylinders of pesticide
poking at weeds,
at moss in cracks of cement,

and louder roar
of helicopters off to spray
vineyards where braceros try
to hold their breath,

and in the distance, bulldozers, excavators,
babel of destructive construction.

Banded by deep
oakshadow, airy
shadow of eucalyptus,

miner’s lettuce,
tender, untasted,
and other grass, unmown,
luxuriant,
no green more brilliant.

Fragile paradise.

         .   .   .   .

At day’s end the whole sky,
vast, unstinting, flooded with transparent
mauve,
tint of wisteria,
cloudless
over the malls, the industrial parks,
the homes with the lights going on,
the homeless arranging their bundles.

         .   .   .   .

Who can utter
the poignance of all that is constantly
threatened, invaded, expended

and constantly
nevertheless
persists in beauty,

tranquil as this young moon
just risen and slowly
drinking light   
from the vanished sun.

Who can utter
the praise of such generosity
or the shame?


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