Our Place in this World

WHEN WE FAIL TO TEACH our children how to inhabit the places where they have been raised—when we don’t teach them the stories, the customs, the practices, the nature of those places—then we also fail to teach them how to be at home anywhere.

But suppose local history, culture, and natural history were at the center of our teaching. Wouldn’t that, you might well ask, just encourage parochialism and xenophobia, and don’t we already have those attributes in more than adequate supply?

I would argue, on the contrary, that parochialism and xenophobia are fed by the suspicion that all the really important things happen somewhere else. One of the magical effects of freeing the imagination to go to work in the place where it finds itself is how this enlarges the world.

– Paul Gruchow, “Discovering the Universe of Home”

By sheer fortuitousness, I stumbled upon Gruchow – particularly keen as I’m writing an essay on Thoreau, sense of place and my own Vermont writing.  If there’s one thing in my (perhaps questionable) parenting I’ve given my daughters it’s place in spades:  here, this clayey piece of land, is where you learned to walk and run; the grass under the apple tree where tea was sipped from miniature, ladybug-painted cups with dolls; the dirt road where you learned to pedal a two-wheeler; our house under the gossamer Milky Way. Right now, our place in this bend of Vermont gleams a myriad of green, heady with the fragrance of mud and multiple blossoms.


The Long Trail, Johnson, Vermont

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