On a Geography of the Heart

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On a Geography of the Heart —

In her collection of essays, Belonging: A Culture of Place, bell hooks speaks of a “geography of the heart.” Her geography was Kentucky. And despite the difficulties that she experienced as a black child living in rural Appalachia, and her subsequent extensive travel, education, and renown (my word, not hers), she speaks of the loss and loneliness she experienced when she left, this disconnection from place. In fact, her hunger to recapture that sense of place developed in childhood led her to return to Kentucky, where she is Distinguished Professor in Residence at Berea College.

Her words have stayed with me, as I think of the place where my “geography of the heart” endures. It is the house where I was raised. Isolated, yet in the midst of a city, “Rock Springs” had a profound influence on how I view both the world and myself. It was the subject of the first book I wrote, A Place Called Rock Springs, a memoir, a remembrance of things past, mostly melancholy, but, I realize, shaded with a sepia-tinted longing. This is a picture of the house, complete with the #9 streetcar that ran through the grounds – Catonsville to Ellicott City. It shows the house at its finest – the picket fence that surrounded the lower gardens, the house on the hill keeping watch.

It was a lonely life for me – the house isolated from others; I didn’t see another child until I went to kindergarten. And so I lived an adult life, teaching myself to read, write – the activities of a solitary child.

The house has also been an influence on my daughter, with, I hope, memories entirely joyful. She named her paper business, Rock Springs Paper Craft (www.rockspringspaper.com), part homage, part nostalgia.

And so, I ask you to consider your “geography of the heart.” Isn’t it in all of us?

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

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On a Geography of the Heart

No automatic alt text available.

On a Geography of the Heart —

In her collection of essays, Belonging: A Culture of Place, bell hooks speaks of a “geography of the heart.” Her geography was Kentucky. And despite the difficulties that she experienced as a black child living in rural Appalachia, and her subsequent extensive travel, education, and renown (my word, not hers), she speaks of the loss and loneliness she experienced when she left, this disconnection from place. In fact, her hunger to recapture that sense of place developed in childhood led her to return to Kentucky, where she is Distinguished Professor in Residence at Berea College.

Her words have stayed with me, as I think of the place where my “geography of the heart” endures. It is the house where I was raised. Isolated, yet in the midst of a city, “Rock Springs” had a profound influence on how I view both the world and myself. It was the subject of the first book I wrote, A Place Called Rock Springs, a memoir, a remembrance of things past, mostly melancholy, but, I realize, shaded with a sepia-tinted longing. This is a picture of the house, complete with the #9 streetcar that ran through the grounds – Catonsville to Ellicott City. It shows the house at its finest – the picket fence that surrounded the lower gardens, the house on the hill keeping watch.

It was a lonely life for me – the house isolated from others; I didn’t see another child until I went to kindergarten. And so I lived an adult life, teaching myself to read, write – the activities of a solitary child.

The house has also been an influence on my daughter, with, I hope, memories entirely joyful. She named her paper business, Rock Springs Paper Craft (www.rockspringspaper.com), part homage, part nostalgia.

And so, I ask you to consider your “geography of the heart.” Isn’t it in all of us?

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

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On Remembering Trees

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On Remembering Trees –My current favorite tree is the beech that grows outside my bedroom window. I love that it keeps its leaves all winter, albeit, no, especially because, they are brown. When the late afternoon sun shines through them, it infuses the room with a soft, golden patina. A romantic glow, I think, that takes me to an earlier time, an earlier century, for the late 1800s, the early 1900s are, for me, sepia-toned. My wonderful beech seems to understand this, and does all it can to bring that time to me.

Now it is coming abloom with that light green tint that communicates Spring without words. The gold finches are once again gold, and it is impossible to keep the feeders filled.

And watching this season unfold brought to mind other trees that I have loved, some without even realizing that love it was. A towering oak that sat in a clear meadow at the end of Oella Avenue and Frederick Road just east of Ellicott City. Riding with my mother, for it seemed that riding in a car was the only time I spent with her, we would see that lone tree, a sentinel in a country setting. Sometime in the 1970s or 80s, we knew that it was dying, though it took years for this to come to pass. My mother commented that “maybe it’s just had enough,” and I was surprised at her dispassionate response, that she did not seem distressed about it, as I was. Perhaps the knowledge and acceptance of life’s seasons comes easier with age and loss. And so that tree is gone, and I’m sure that whatever farm might have been there has now been replaced by mega-mansions or a gated town-home development.

I think of the maple tree that stood outside my bedroom window in the house where I grew up. I paid no attention to it, except in autumn, when, once again, the setting sun transformed it ablaze with leaves. Two evergreen trees stood sentinel in the front of that house, and I thought that it was silly that my mother noted their growth every year. Of course, they would get taller. That’s what trees did, and I was unconscious of her awareness of the passing of time.

There was a walnut tree in our woods, one that I never saw or knew about, until I learned that she had sold it for the value of its wood, to help pay the taxes and expenses of the house. It was time for her to leave, I said, full of efficiency and competence. I ignored what this would mean to her, and what destroying a tree, for money, meant, what leaving her home meant. But now I understand, and I regret that I was not more sympathetic, more kind.

Trees, and remembering them.

Another Sunday, www.cynthiastrauff.com