Preston Brooks, Edgefield, South Carolina discussed on On Being with Krista Tippett


Piedmont, it's rolling hills and mixed pine hardwood forests and those ridges, if you want to call them that those hilltops, gray down into creek bottoms. So Chevy's creek where I learn to fish, dry creek, dry branch, turkey, creek, all of those places like that that then drain into many of them, Stevens creek, and then finally into the Savannah river that separates Georgia from South Carolina, it was and still is a very wild place, a growing up there were more deer and wild turkey in South Carolina than an edgefield then people in the county, so and that was at a time when people weren't seeing very many wild turkeys, and they weren't seeing, believe it or not, very many white tailed deer. But we had them in abundance. And so that nature of the county is part of what I fell in love with and am still in love with. And I think it gives, I think it gives the place a different sort of hope beyond its infamy as a place of really a bitter politic that that really people are even talking about today with Preston Brooks, who was from edgefield, that the man who beat Sumner over the head, Preston Brooks was from edgefield. So even today, when people talk about history, it often comes back to home. And so I have to reconcile the politics with the ecology and family to make it to have it be a place that I love in these ways and in quite honestly in some ways despise. Okay, well, I want to pick up on that again. I do want to, I am always interested in whoever I'm talking to about kind of the spiritual or religious background of a childhood. And when I read you, it feels like what you imbibe spiritually, both enriched and diverged from the way you are coming to make meaning in life. Would that be? Yes, yeah. It's a braided stream for sure. Okay. You know, it's so interesting as I'm talking to you that is becoming clear to me that was just all the way through. I mean, I tried to read as much as I could and including other interviews you've given and when you use this language about being an edge creature, you know, and where you grew up many different places meet, braided braided string. There's so much that you bring together in your imagination and your experience and your wisdom that comes together in your life and in your body. That our culture doesn't always bring together. At least overtly. So one place to kind of dive into that would be the different kinds of influences that you've talked about that form you and that you impart as a teacher, although Leopold and Marvin Gaye are Rachel Carson and Martin Luther King Jr.. So start us there. Let us be your students into this way of seeing the world walking into it. Well, Christa, I mean, for me, it imagination is kind of this frontier that never ends. I mean, if you're lucky, you get to always walk toward this horizon that's constantly moving away from you. So imagining my life and living and reimagining really the past I think about those people who have influenced me. The people that I knew, family, and Friends, and teachers, and schoolmates, but then people that I never knew personally that have had a pro, a profound impact on me, certainly Aldo Leopold is among them because I remember picking up his book a sand county almanac and my brother's room. And my brother's room was a place that you ventured into at great peril. This is a book from 1949. Yeah, from 1949 and I happened to see it on his desk and it had and there were these birds. These geese on the cover and it's become known as the goose head edition. But I saw it and I was like, what's my brother doing reading this? He was reading all sorts of stuff, but I didn't have any idea that he was interested in birds. And so I picked up this book and I just sort of flipped through it. I may have even stolen it for a day or two. And fell in love with the words. I fell in love with the illustrations that were there that were just these sketches. There was no color, but it was some of the most colorful reading some of the most colorful writing that I had ever seen in reading that I had ever done. So I sort of stored that in my memory banks because it's not like I begin to carry the book around then, but Leopold stuck. And some of that language stuck because I was living some of what he had written in terms of our family living off the land and seeing my father work so very hard to make a life for us. My mother and my father make a life for us off the land so Leopold stuck there in a way that wasn't evident to me really until lots of years later. Here's one way you just kind of summarize some of his admonitions that you kept with you to be one of those who can not live without wild things. Keep all the parts, listen to the mountain and preserve the integrity stability and beauty of the biotic community. That says it all, right? Yeah, it's amazing. You know, that if you can hoard, if you can sort of hoard experiences, which I think is part of what I do, along with books and other things. But if you can hoard experiences out there, then for me, that informs who I am. So seeing my father burn a piece of land to keep it productive or being out with him when he was cutting a tree and thinking about Leopold's good oak, and thinking about the annual rings in that tree as history and not just how the tree grew, then it helps me understand and sort of refined my place in the past, but also now, and hopefully my students, I asked them to write their own stories about the land, their own good oak, stories, sort of their own histories, and where they sit in the Pantheon. So that was important, but then I'm growing up with parents who were active in the civil rights movement..

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