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"The poetry and essays in Speaking of Place focus on personal connections and responses to particular geographies, which may be as small as a nearly forgotten Appalachian mountain spring or as large as an entire Preface xvii region." (p. xvi)
Linda Maree, pp. 55-60
The narrator paints an exceptionally vivid picture of the wilderness and beauty of what is now a nearly untouched swamp in Florida. Smack in the middle is a history of how timber companies took everything they could at one point in time, and how the land has learned to heal itself.
Brent Martin, pp. 61-73
A longer read detailing the search for an ancient spring used by the Cherokee and travelers through history. Using old maps, tales, and books, the search team explore the land surrounding people’s homes, reflecting on the rich history of the place and how it has changed, trying to identify ancient, indigenous landmarks. Connections to Native American history, anthropology perhaps, and history.
Ann B. Day, pp. 81-83
The narrator describes a bench her late husband made on their farm that overlooks a changing landscape in rural Vermont. The bench has provided comfort and peace for the narrator, the family, and many visitors over the years.
Susan Futrell, pp. 88-95
The narrator describes the changed landscape of the Iowa prairie, focusing on how industrialization, consumerism, and modern agricultural practices and priorities have stripped the prairie of what once made it valuable.
The concept of what makes nature “valuable” is reflected on, drawing comparisons between the prairie and the rainforests and commenting on how new industries (ecotourism, museum-like attractions depicting what the land used to be like) have evolved as the land has been made “useful.” Potential connections to history (early explorations of the wilderness, industrialization and modernization), marketing, sociology.
The narrator associates “home” with the West, having spent most of her life in the desert climates of the U.S., and comments insightfully on how the typical images associated with the U.S. are East Coast and Midwest images and are as foreign to her as if they were describing another country, not her own. Psychological and sociological connections to ideas about self, family, “home,” personal history, relationships with past and future generations, roaming and settling, putting down roots, finding nature in a city landscape. Themes of feeling like an outsider or other in a place you are expected (or want) to belong can be explored.
She describes this Texas town by saying: “It’s wealthy, with good schools. The neighborhood where my family lives, which is solidly within the realm of middle class, is in one of the poorer areas. Just before we moved there in 1982, it made the national news because of a wave of teen suicides, and about ten years ago it got a bit of attention because of a heroin problem in town. Mostly what it is, though, is houses. Rows and rows and rows of subdivisions, a grid of them as far as the eye can see (which, in north-central Texas, is pretty far). Strip malls and shopping centers punctuate the grid at regular intervals. It’s a place made for cars. There are very few public spaces. I have trouble figuring out how to think about it: an extreme example of everything humans have ever done wrong, or just an extremely well-executed example of the way most Americans live every day, all over the place?” Her experiences visiting and seeing her hometown through her son’s eyes are described in light of these conflicting perceptions.
Eve Quesnel, pp. 124-127
This reading could pair effectively with one about gentrification of urban neighborhoods for a more diverse perspective. A mother laments discovering that the wild forest areas she has been exploring for years and most recently with her child are being quickly developed for housing and golf courses. She expresses anger and frustration that land that was once free for anyone to roam is now “off-limits” and for sale, and that she and her family are being priced-out of the area that they call home.