The smell of sweet maple syrup brushes my nostrils. A molasses-like sip of coffee touches my lips. I am staring out from my screened-in porch at a towering Live Oak who’s Spanish moss drapes like a spontaneous work of modern art.
In the background, Ray Charles is banging on the piano. Cardinals flirt with the introduction to spring.”Y’all” twangs off the tongues of people below me.
And I am home, mostly. Back in the south, near nature and the people I love.
Spot right next to my new apartment 🙂
A couple of years ago, my view couldn’t have been more different. And while I miss D.C. in many ways, there are things that validated the choices that led me here, as well as the choices I made for my future. But, there are also experiences and emotions that have validated my choice to live there.
When I lived in D.C., a step onto my balcony would amplify the sound of sirens. With a wipe of my finger, I could remove the soot that settled on my plants from the cars below. My view across the street was a busy hospital. My nostrils flared at the smell of car exhaust and rubber.
Just weeks after moving into a house for the first time, we had to take down a massive Sweet Gum tree that stoically stood in our front yard. It’s large branches stretched across the front of the house, providing shade and privacy. While previously, my sense of appreciation for the forest was tied beauty and ecosystem support, it was now tied to utility: cooling the house in the summer heat, shading the office, creating a sense of seclusion from the streets.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir
The game Okami is a beautiful title that puts you in control of Amaterasu, the Shinto goddess of the sun, who comes to earth in the guise of a white wolf. Throughout the game your goal is to heal the world around you, giving life to plants and animals. The actions of the game, in essence, involve nature fixing itself. While Okami was not necessarily created with the purpose of displaying the importance of biodiversity in ecosystems, the wolf-like goddess affects her environment much like real wolves do in their natural world. Wolves have such a massive impact on eco-systems, in fact, that their very existence changed the geography of a landscape.
(This piece was part of my graduate research in environmental rhetoric and counter-culture… looking at how literature and media has shaped our modern view of the environment leading into the National Parks movement.)
The nineteenth-century in America was, undeniably, a time of growth. Between the years of 1820 and 1870 the industrial revolution birthed an economy that was threatened by the British. Railroads expanded across the country and cities began to attract agriculturally-based communities with the promise of fruitful employment. During this substantial industrial shift, America’s arts culture ultimately shifted as well, introducing the Transcendentalist movement into its literary era.  In short, the Transcendentalist movement was one based around the idea of existentialism and the philosophical concept that humanity is inherently good, but has been corrupted by society. The cleansing of this corruption, thus, is to venture away from society in order to find the “self”; to look at itself on the inside rather than focus externally on materialism. Prolific writers such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John Muir fathered this rather historically Romanticized movement.