In cultural and geographic attribution statements, people often recognize that the land they occupy has been taken away from other groups.
The land on which I record this almanac was taken from the Shawnee people a little over 200 years ago. The original landscape of virgin forest, the original inhabitants and their culture were destroyed. The natural world I navigate is the world my social group has created.
I see trees and flowers with the eyes of an occupying race, a dominant military-social community.
When I read about and study nature, I usually do so through the eyes of white commentators and their cultural heritage.
I can read the Native American philosophy of nature stated in various ways, and I can try to imagine the relationship with nature that created those ideas, but my act is a matter of imagination, and requires a certain suspension of disbelief.
In these days of social unrest, I think about matters of privilege and bias, and I recognize that so much of the beauty in nature on which I depend for my center is the result of colonization and patterns of suburban exclusion.
I think, too, about the words of artist Sunsook Hong Setton who writes that “The word for ‘nature’ in Chinese comes from Daoism and means… “things as they are spontaneously.” So “nature” is a philosophical life principle rather than just what I perceive in the landscape.
That philosophy is a human construct. And maybe such a construct might include an undertanding that nature “as it is spontaneously” exists here for all of us, and that we should love the nature that we have and in our own way, and to try to protect it as well as to remake it, recreate it, justly and inclusively.
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of Deep Summer. In the meantime, try to imagine what nature was and is and still might be for everyone.