Posts Tagged Reinventing Eden

Made for…who?

I spend about eight months of the year in this American state, but I am not from Pennsylvania. No, no. I’m from a much flatter, colder, and developed part of the United States: Chicago. To anyone from the area I would identify my actual hometowns, Park Ridge and Wilmette, the two suburbs just north of city in which I actually grew up. It was in these two places, these two homes, that my dad would softly sing me to sleep one of two songs in his repertoire of the “Notre Dame University Alma Mater” and “This Land Is Your Land.” Until recently, I had not realized how these two songs– one Christian and the other North American, privileged, and racialized — are cultural narratives which have had significant influence in forming my identity, specifically “This Land Is Your Land.” Reading exerpts from Carolyn Merchant’s  book Reinventing Eden inspired my recognition of these narratives as so formative to my identity and how I view, or have previously failed to acknowledge my own culture and interactions and views of nature.

Upon moving here for college, I was amazed at the rolling hills (my friends from West Virginia and Ithaca, NY refuse to let me call them “mountains”) of the Cumberland Valley, but I never ventured into this beautiful land outside of the college campus. However, this year I have spent more time at various places in the Valley through my own personal interest and through Ecofeminism: rock climbing at Whiskey Springs, biking North of campus and feeling awed by this, and of course, our class field trip to Waggoner’s Gap. Experiencing the beautiful land surrounding my college has helped me feel much more at home here in Pennsylvania, that I do indeed belong here, that I am a participant of this land. It was biking through McClure’s Gap Road and spending time atop Waggoner’s Gap in which I finally understood what bell hooks is talking about in her newly published book Belonging: A Culture of Place, when she says that our “sense and sensibility [of home is] deeply informed by our geography of place” (hooks 9).

My participation in this ecofeminism course has assisted my new identification with the Cumberland Valley, through methods such as the Bioregional Quiz and holding class at Waggoner’s Gap. It was in that specific class, hearing Sarah Brylinsky talk about how fertile our land is here that I really came to appreciate all that this place has to offer. That same day, we talked about the gendered conquest of land, specifically in relation to Thomas Hariot’s inventory of the new land of Virginia in 1585. I challenged the idea that a masculine interaction with new land would be different from a feminine one (we only have one history, it’s hard to use my imagination to rewrite American history as though English women would have explored this place). But either way, the masculine  mindset of extraction possessed by the men exploring the new world still has an obvious legacy. Just consider the lyrics of one of the songs that formed my childhood, “This Land is Your Land.” They go like this: “This land is your land, this land is my land [...] this land was made for you and me…” I found myself humming this song, amazed at the idea that this land could have been MADE for us, humans, to use. The European paradigm of man and nature quite obvious: that humans are separate from the earth, for these natural resources were placed by God for humans to exploit. This song also communicates much privilege when considering those who would consider the United States as their land. Would the daughter of two migrant workers, possibly not even a “citizen” of this country, consider this her land? What about the people from whom this land was usurped from (Native Americans)?

Since beginning my Ecofeminist study, my thoughts about land have changed a bit. For one thing, I rarely thought about actual land. Where I come from, a metropolitan area, land is a commodity. Spare land = $. Not only have I found a new appreciation for this land around me, the Cumberland Valley, but I have also come to consider it my home, a geographical location affecting not only my physical sense, but also my spiritual sensibility.

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