Saturday, April 23, 2011

Leaf Reviewed

I think that it was very fitting that I finished this book the week of Earth Day, because it is a great reminder of our connection to the earth. Or at least the kind of connection I want in my life. Refuge was written starting with the flood of the Great Salt Lake in Utah in 1983. The author, Terry Tempest Williams' place of refuge was the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge on the northern end of the Salt Lake. The refuge was completely flooded and abandoned during the flood years. The same year that she lost her place of escape, she learned that her mother was dying of cancer.

This book is a very personal, very touching correlation between the loss of her natural comfort and escape, and the loss of her mother. This book has a lot of information about birds, a bit much for me actually, I think my mom would really enjoy that part of it. But it didn't take away from the things that I loved about it.

There is a great chapter that compares the changes in bird species to a lot of issues in our society. "What makes our relationship to starlings even more curious is that we loathe them, calling in exterminators because we fear disease, yet we do everything withing our power to encourage them as we systematically erase the specialized habitats of specialized birds." One of the things this chapter made me think about was my friend Marty who has mentioned many times on his blog about the influx of chain stores in New York City. Some want unique, specialized options but for the most part we do everything we can to drive those kinds of businesses out of business. We seem to live in a society that doesn't understand cause and effect.

From a discussion with a Kenyan friend "Because we have forgotten our kinship with the land our kinship with each other has become pale. We shy away from accountability and involvement. We choose to be occupied, which is quite different from being engaged. In America, time is money. In Kenya, time is relationship. We look at investments differently." This chapter talked about how the further we get from things like growing our own food, the less we see how our other choices in life affect the earth and those in our community. And how we get further away from being a part of a community. "What an African woman nurtures in the soil will eventually feed her family. Likewise, what she nurtures in her relations will ultimately nurture her community. It is a matter of living the circle."

By the end of the book, Terry becomes the seventh member of her family to be part of what she refers to as the Clan of One-Breasted Women. Terry loses her mother followed by both of her grandmothers to breast cancer, before having her own breast removed. Terry's family grew up in southern Utah which means that they were most likely exposed to nuclear testing which was done in the 50's. Terry was arrested at the Nevada Test Site as part of a peaceful protest with a group of Shoshone women. She feels that women in general feel a need to protect the land for their future generations of children.

If you feel a connection to the earth, or long for that connection, I think you would enjoy this book.

The other odd timing thing about this book is the fact that the 1983 floods are all over the news. We have had an unusually wet spring and have an above normal snow pack. If the weather warms up suddenly, we will have flooding that they say could be compared to 83. I have a small river that runs through my backyard. I feel very lucky that the berms built along the river at that time, are still there, because I have never seen it as high as it is now. There are other areas that are already having to deal with flooding from the ground water being so saturated and rising.

In one part of the book Terry talks about having their church service interrupted and everyone told to go home and change, and report to downtown Salt Lake City to help sandbag allowing the river to divert down the streets. State Street was turned into a river during the flooding with a temporary bridge added for people to cross the street. These pictures have been on the news, so its been cool to see the photos associated with the stories I read.

The part that has been really interesting about the floods being brought up again while reading this book, is the obvious cycle that things like this go through. And how we seem to forget that, or ignore it. Maybe because of our lack of connection with the land we live in. Most of the areas severely affected by the floods, have been built up, choosing to forget the past. We want the land to bend and change to our desires. But in the end, we will not have the final say. Nature will.


Wade The Rascal said...

That sounds like a GREAT book, Kari. Thanks for sharing it. And I couldn't agree more with your statement that we seem to live in a society which doesn't understand cause and effect. Or at least, we seem not to consider the effects of our actions anymore.

Marty Wombacher said...

Great review, Kari, I'll check out that book. And I totally agree with you and Wade about the cause and effect issue.

Maiken said...

Well written, Kari! I think that part of the disconnect with nature shows up when people insist on changing an area to fit their wants. Case in point- the neighbors who over-water using up so much water to make their yard tropical rather than work with reality of the high desert.

Britta said...

It sounds like it touches on a lot of the same topics the nature book Dad gave us does. Definitely the disconnect from our surroundings. I hope I can help our kids break out of what seems to be the normal of living in your own bubble.

MontejH said...

Each of you are testament, that neither you, nor your children will be The Last Child in The Woods! I couldn't be more certain of that, to which you each confirm and document in your comments here!