Place

Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.
—Deuteronomy 6.3

Place is important. This notion is imbedded in our very language. It is no accident that our words “culture” and “cultivate” sprout from the same Latin word, a word meaning “to till.” In other words, culture grows not just in a place but also out of a place. Scripture echoes this claim. Repeatedly, the land defines the people of God and what they believe.

Working in a community inextricable from its enchanted valley, the significance of land and place to the shaping of identify and thought needs little justification. Yet, drawing this significance of place to the forefront of our conceptual imaginations seems only appropriate, today, as our college begins a weeklong celebration of this land and its import for our college, our people, and our beliefs. In celebrating our second annual Festival Appalachia, I encourage us all to spend some time this week ruminating—as my maternal Appalachian grandmother might have said—on the powerfully nourishing conditions of this place that have contributed to what make us who we are as a college community.

To start, enjoy this poem from George Ella Lyon as an ode to our Appalachian place and to cultivate our week of celebration.

“Where I’m From”

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.
I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I’m from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.
I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.
Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded —
leaf-fall from the family tree.

Have a great week.

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