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Reflecting on My Relationships with the Land

This week, while listening to our knowledgeable guest speakers, engaging in discussions with my peers and leaders, and reflecting on those words while hiking through the mountains that frame the edge of Boulder, I’ve been thinking about my relationship with the lands I inhabit, or the lack thereof. As someone who has moved around the country for most of her life, I’ve rarely found the time to consider my impact on the landscapes I rely on with only fleeting deliberations about how to live more sustainably. Mostly, I think of myself as a visitor of the towns and cities I spend time in– I know it will only be a matter of time before I move onto the next stage in my life, and it can be hard to develop gratitude for landscapes to which I feel little attachment. Even in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which is the place I consider to be closest to a home, I think of the land mostly in terms of recreation instead of what it gives to me and, perhaps more importantly, what I could give to it. However, in the past week, while listening to Ava Hamilton, an Arapahoe activist, speak about her people’s longstanding connection with the land we sat on and while reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, which emphasizes the importance of thinking of ourselves as a part of a natural world much bigger than ourselves, I’ve been thinking about why I lack this connection. Yes, I move around a lot, but at the same time, I’ve never taken the time to think about what I could give to the land. I approach land mostly as a consumer– I purchase my food from grocery stores with mysterious origins, I go for hikes for my own fitness, and I go to the beach for my fun. It’s easy to forget that my actions have irreversible impact on the ecosystems I share, and that lack of awareness is something I hope to work on while spending time in nature this semester. I hope that when I go home, I will think more carefully about how I can be a more thoughtful member of the landscapes I inhabit, even with the knowledge that I may live there only temporarily. Even as a traveler, I still have the duty to give something back to the land, and this semester is a great time to think about how I can do so.