Tag Archives: Deep Ecology

Ecology and the Road

A good place to walk

A good place to walk

It seems that the more we improve our roads the less hospitable they are to people.

I remember hearing an engineer at a town hall meeting reveal his proposal for an “improved” road by our summer home.  Our neighbor, Mrs. Miller, stood up and said, “Over my dead body!  I will lay down in front of your bulldozers before I let you turn our road into a four-lane highway.”  As a child hearing her words, I pictured her soft body on the earth, gray hair nestled in fallen pine needles, as heavy machinery roared toward her.  I believed her—that she would lay down her life to save the forest—and I have come to understand her passion.  She loved that land like life itself.

Mrs. Miller fell in love with the north woods of Minnesota by tending it for all of her years.  For me, I fell in love with trees.  I am happiest when I am climbing a tree, or at least sitting by one.  Every trail I walked and every fort I made out of meadow grass brought me closer to the land.  I was wooed by the peace and beauty I found there.  It got harder to go play outside as I got older, but now I am trying to make it a priority.  Just as our mothers told us, I am telling myself: go out and play.  And here’s another childhood mantra: stop, look, and listen.  I try not to rush through my nature walks, but, rather, take time to open my senses.

To know the land is, usually, to love it.  I believe that loving nature is the beginning of conserving it.  Caring about it makes me want to care for it.  It seems to me that ecology is an inside job. “Environment” may be defined as something outside myself, but the seed of environmentalism is found within me.  How do I care for myself and how do I care for the planet?  Mother Earth offers me her talents and, in turn, I use what small gifts I have to protect, enhance, and appreciate her. 

Mrs. Miller brought her passion.  My father brought research about road regulations that he’d gathered at a university library to prove that the requirement for the width of the road was not as the engineer had claimed.  My family and our neighbors loved that land and we showed it.  The road was repaved but remained two lanes, and trees and meadows were saved.  And it is still a good road to walk or bicycle along.

By the road in Minnesota

By the road in Minnesota


Stones, Part 2

(Continued from Part 1, below)

After living in Chicago for 24 years, I had a chance to visit Wales and Isle of Man.  I brought a piece of pipestone with me. It looked, I thought, like a standing person, so I had carved the rough outline of a man.  Though Catlinite is considered a soft stone, every bit of filing I did was hard going.  I could see a profile of a face when I was done, not unlike the Oracle. I felt my three-inch man had a place among my Celtic ancestors so I brought him along in a little deerskin bag.
In Isle of Man, the magical island nation between Ireland and England, my sister and I searched for our ancestors’ graves at the Lonan Church.  No luck.  Spying a man emerging from the church, we told him of our quest.  “Oh,” he said, “you want the old Lonan Church.”  When he learned that we had come by train, he offered to drive us to the ancient, hidden place.  Joan and I, along with our husbands, crowded into his mini-van.  In a light rain, we came upon the old Lonan Church, also known as St. Adamnan Church, with an enormous Celtic cross in its cemetery.  A depression in the grass once yielded water, a holy well.  Cryptic stone carvings, including one like a Cheyenne medicine wheel, were preserved in a sheltered corner of the churchyard.  My sister recited a poem among them.
Our guide, Alan Pascoe, turned out to be the warden, sexton, and caretaker of the old church.  He showed us the Celtic artifacts outside, the Norse stonework along the walls, and then—oh, hushed beauty—inside the sanctuary and up to its wooden altar.  Alan and his wife had fashioned some crosses of driftwood for it.  There was also a vase holding a pink rose, a blossoming heart, I felt.  That is when I lifted the medicine bag around my neck and told this kind man I had a present for him.

How redundant to bring a stone to Isle of Man!  The place is bursting with rocks.  I felt sheepish about that, but offered him the gift of Indian pipestone to thank him for all he’d done.  It was Father’s Day and he was late to meet his daughter for lunch, yet he lingered over the red stone.  He asked me to repeat what I had said about the Indian history of the pipestone quarry and how the pipes were used for prayer and to promote dialogue and good relations.  He acknowledged, generously, that my carving looked like a man and accepted it humbly.  I was happy I had something to give him.

Joan and I did find burial sites with family names on them.  Like fools in a fairy tale, we set out in the rain with no map and somehow our intentions led us to a sage who could guide us.  And to a rose.  Perhaps the pipestone man is in an island garden now, enjoying the rain.
I always knew I could speak to plants and animals.  And stones.  But it took me decades to learn to listen.  What surprised me is how much of my deep learning happened because I moved to Chicago.  There are like-minded people here among the concrete canyons.  We learn together.  Grandfather Stone was right: change can be good.

So this is my blog for now!  I plan to post something here every week.  Maybe I will find a way to make the letters darker and easier to read.  Still learning…