I have a file box on my desk next to my Storyteller Doll with clippings torn from magazines and newspapers -- uplifting stories of people reconnecting to the land. These stories appear in diverse publications, like Native Peoples Magazine and High Country News, or The Quivira Coalition Journal and the Nature Conservancy, even the World Ark and The Denver Post.
The Omeg family in Oregon has planted blanket flowers and catmint around the perimeter of their cherry orchard so that threatened bumblebees, mason bees, and even sweat bees will have blossoms to sustain them. In the heart of Navajo country, Tammy Herrera is reconnecting people to the land and helping teach horsemanship to youth through a feral horse 4-H program (see pg.22 of pdf).
In a small Amazon village in the Oiapoque region of northern Brazil, children are helping to restore native populations of tracaja, the green and yellow river turtles. In Colorado, prison inmates are training mustangs that are later ridden by patrolmen, reviving an old alliance between human and horse.
In the fertile valley of Willamette, Alicia and Tyler Jones have found a way to compete with the nation's 4 mega-big poultry processors by building their own processing greenhouse, and small farmers are being linked to local food programs through the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" Federal initiative.
The youth of the Poarch Creek Tribal Council in Alabama are planting rivercane, restoring this sacred plant to the environment where it once traditionally thrived.
These stories find their way into print not just because they are newsworthy but because, as many of us find our own intimate connection to nature diminishing, we seek encouraging stories that remind us of the ways we are still intimately connected. And even when we have found ways to live our lives within the natural world, we still seek opportunities to reconnect ourselves to THE LANDSCAPES THAT HOLD OUR STORIES.
How does a landscape "hold" a story? Ron Rash, author of the New York Times bestselling novel SERENA, a novel, P.S., when asked how places are fundamental to his identity as a writer, responded: "There's a wonderful term the Welsh use, cynefin, for a primal, fierce attachment to a part of a landscape. I have read that this attachment can be so fierce that when sheep are sold the owners have to sell the land along with the flock. The sheep cannot adjust to any other landscape; they become so disoriented ... When I write a novel, I want that same fierce attachment to the landscape..."
Do you have a "fierce attachment" to a landscape? Have you written about your connection to this place? Have you ever tapped into this fierce, personal connection and used it to fuel a character's love of place? Without a physical geography in which to root ourselves--a place to care for and which cares for us--we cannot orient ourselves within the larger context. Life itself becomes devoid of life. It's true.
Note: Photo of woman (Donna R.) perched on rock was taken by Alice Liles during the 2011 Literature & Landscape of the Horse retreat.
Causes Page Lambert Supports
Children and Nature Network
American Indian College Fund
The Quivira Coalition
Center for Whole Communities
A Room of Her Own...