It is good people who

make good places.

Anna Sewell 

There is an important connection—for me personally and for all of us politically—in the relationship between people and place.

At a young age, I was fascinated by stories of how people came to be who they are and where they are—an interweaving of biography, history, and geography. As a child, I remember devouring biographies of Martin Luther King, Louis Armstrong, JFK, and Amelia Earhart among others…along with a curiosity about family, friends, and strangers and the way their lives took shape.

From the time I heard the following quote by conservationist Aldo Leopold, it seemed to justify and outline a path for my work:

There are two things that interest me:

the relationship of people to the land, and the relationship of people to each other.

This intersection of people and place is at the heart of my own personal passion, and is increasingly important as we become more detached from one another and the places we live and love. From the influence of our busy lives to the distractions of technology (in many cases meant to more effectively connect us), and from the speed at which we move through our communities to the demands we put on the land locally and globally—we have much to attend to and restore.

The vitality of our communities, our economy, and our political process depend upon a practice I’ve referred to as “restoring the civic ecosystem”: a knitting together of relationships—with one another and with the places that give meaning to our lives.

 


A Vision
If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow-growing trees
on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it,
if we will make our seasons welcome here,
asking not too much of earth or heaven,
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
here, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides, fields and gardens
rich in the windows. The river will run
clear, as we will never know it,
and over it, birdsong like a canopy.
On the levels of the hills will be
green meadows, stock bells in noon shade.
On the steeps where greed and ignorance
cut down the old forest,
an old forest will stand,
its reach leaf-fall drifting on its roots
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields.
In their voices they will hear a music
risen out of the ground. They will take
nothing from the ground they will not return,
whatever the grief at parting. Memory,
native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling light.
This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its possibility.
Wendell Berry
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