It is only fitting that on the occasion of my daughter Patricia Jean Parnell’s 27th birthday, I write about “places of the heart.” She certainly has a special one in mine, stealing it at the grand old age of 44, well beyond my wildest dreams of ever having a daughter to go along with my boys.
Beyond my immense gratitude for her, my family, and my friends, I’m thankful to have grown up around a very special place, the Buffalo River.
I read something in a recent Aldo Leopold Foundation publication that really resonated with me. “What does it mean…to love a place?” Dr. Kathleen Dean Moore, writer and distinguished professor of philosophy from Oregon State, says it all in an essay she shares in her book Pine Island Paradox. I paraphrase her simple but powerful conclusions.
“To love…a place, ” she says “means at least this,” and she proceeds to list ten certainties that apply to a beloved place. Things like “wanting to be near it, physically – needing to know about it, it’s story, it’s history – rejoicing in the fact of it,” and so on.
But what really moved me was her admonition of what to do about this love of place.
“Fear its loss,” she challenges, “protect it – fiercely, mindlessly, futilely, and maybe tragically…but to be helpless to do otherwise.”
And then, the big one, number ten: “Accept moral responsibility for its well-being,” this place you love. “Moral responsibility.” Think about it. Responsibility as love. Love as responsibility. As in love of place, and people.
This challenge strikes me as profound, and particularly relevant and timely. It has moved me to get off my big lazy retired duff, and refocus my remaining energies.
You see for me it’s personal. My great grandfather to the 4th or 5th power, Abner Casey, was amongst the first to settle along side the Buffalo River, near what is now Boxley, in the 1830’s, where he set up the valley’s first grist mill.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Buffalo Cemetery, where he purportedly rests in peace next to his mother, Polly Wayne Casey (1753 – 1845), my oldest known Ozarkian relative. It was a grounding and emotional experience.
So, I guess that makes me the eighth generation to experience, to learn from, and to grow up around the Buffalo. Ninth and tenth generations for my kids and grand kids, to do the same.
That’s a long and personal connection, a long time “to love…a place.”
Guess that’s why I’m so dang upset with corporate agriculture for invading and degrading “my” place of the heart.
Guess that’s why I wrote a book about it, Pig Farm, due for release by Acclaim Publishers next month.
Guess that’s why I keep plugging away with this blog, and reaching out it to anyone who might care, and do something about it.
Coming next, September 7? OUR NATIONAL REGRESSION