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A road is a scar that takes you somewhere

Land to me means a gravel road beneath my childhood feet, seashells and debris where houses once stood, and an ever-deepening realization that what we love must be cared for, not possessed. My family was, is, a phenomenon disappearing from American life – the extended clan of grandmothers, parents, ancient aunts, wandering uncles, overflowing cousins all living on one shared parcel of land, six generations running. Our land touched the grey Gulf of Mexico, hugging each side of a bayou, bordered by thin pine glades to the east and west. I only realized how well I knew those geographic contours the day I saw a satellite image, hours after Hurricane Katrina tore through, and recognized just where that bayou wound, bordered now by concrete slabs and broken tree trunks. I was far away when it happened, but later I dug with my father through the sand where our house had been. I found a seashell: a fragile, unmistakable token of the ocean’s incontestable claim upon what I had loved.
Four years later, my family still lives in the same community, but not on that land so familiar to my feet. We are learning what it is to remain rooted even in the absence of security. We have been given the knowledge, bitter and joyful, that what matters is how we care for the people beside us today and the earth upon which we stand right now; that our claims are short-lived but our responsibility immense.

Comments

Rebecca Snavely's picture

powerful

Thank you so much for giving a glimpse of what it was to experience such a connection to land, and to have it so violently taken away. I appreciate your open spirit in the face of loss, as you wrote, both bitter and joyful. The picture of generations of family is like something from a book or movie, and your last few lines so powerful. Thank you for adding your voice to this conversation.

Rebecca

Anais Tuepker's picture

thank you

Thank you, Rebecca. It's wonderful to hear when something one does or says touches another. Glad to meet you here!
Anais

Mwierenga's picture

Meaning of roots

Anais,
This is such a great story! I love how you explain your connection to this place and how that feels. But then you and your family are uprooted and land someplace else. Maybe it's not about those property lines or boundaries but the roots that you spread out to each other in your family. The essence of your place is still there - slightly relocated - but your roots to each other remain strong. That's at least how I interpret your words. Thank you for sharing!
Marlies

JaniceW's picture

So powerful

Your connection to the land is so powerful yet even when it is "taken" away from you, it remains in your hearts building upon the spirit of community that that piece of land gave you. Your writing is quite beautiful and I hope that you will share more of your thoughts with us. Best wishes,
Janice

Fatima Waziri's picture

Beautifully put "Land to me

Beautifully put "Land to me means a gravel road beneath my childhood feet, seashells and debris where houses once stood, and an ever-deepening realization that what we love must be cared for, not possessed". You just encapsulated a personal connection to land and how much it means to us especially where such land has a family history. Hurricane Karina shook the world!

God bless!

Peace!
Fatima

Anais Tuepker's picture

feeling the connection

Dear Fatima, Janice, Marlies and Rebecca,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. I first signed up to pulsewire about year ago, but - life being busy, as it always is - I didn't check in very much. This topic has drawn me back in and now I look forward to learning more about all of you and hearing your stories - that basic premise of this site is what is really appealing to me. It's great to connect with you across the planet (inlcuding those of you whom I see are outside my window somewhere here in Portland!).

keep well,
Anais

Fawzia's picture

Congratulations!

Congratulations Anias!

Your land is proud of you now....

every time I read MyStory or the 99 stories I had new feeling in my heart about LAND! do you know that I am reading a book, an old Palestinian man wrote, to know how was our life in our lost land was and I am reading this book now to know how did old generations lived?!! so that I can tell my children how did my grandparents lived in my land... I read and study my land!! knowing my land through this book !! I tried once to see my land in satellite picture but I couldn't keep looking at it because israeli left nothing from my land, home, farms... it is replaced by settlements!! so I preferred to go back and leave the picture to my imaginations to try to imagine what I read in the book....

may love,peace and respect spread in all over the world....

Ammoura, Fawzia

Anais Tuepker's picture

thank you

Dear Fawzia,

On this first day of 2010 I am writing to thank you for what you wrote to me. I read your My Land posting as well and was very moved by it. Childhood under the conditions you described is still childhood, and the mixture of play and terror you lived with is hard for anyone to imagine who has not experienced it. I am impressed by your obvious spririt.

The struggle of the Palestinian people is one which still is sadly neglected by the global community. I hope you know your land someday first hand, not just through a book and your family's memories -

until next time, wishing us all joy and justice in 2010,

Anais

Thank you, Anais, for reminding me that although I've lived in one little box after another, disconnected from any one piece of land, there are Americans who still feel a passion for the soil of their forefathers, or the soil under their feet where they stand. I'm so sorry for what your family has lost, but I'm inspired that you still feel a responsibility for what remains. I would be proud if I could say so much in so few words. Amazing.

Anais Tuepker's picture

thank you

Dear Cara,

I did not mean to take so long to respond to your comment - but the holidays took control for awhile. Thank you for writing, both to me and in the My Land discussion. I found your story emotionally honest and very resonant. Like you, I live in cities partly because I love the wilderness. That is part of the lesson from Katrina, for me anyway, though not for the rest of my family - maybe we don't belong on this little spot of earth, even though we love it.

Your story about your garden reminded me of an article published in the American Journal of Public Health a few years ago titled "A Gardener's Tale" as a way to think about racism. I know that wasn't your point but you might be interested to read it.

I look forward to reading "They Only Eat Their Husbands" - when will it be out?

best wishes for joy in 2010,
Anais

Cara Lopez Lee's picture

Thank YOU

Hi Anais,

Gee, I figured you had so many comments on your beautiful writing that I didn't expect a personal response. How kind!

Thanks for peeking at my humble take on land. I'm glad you prompted me to read "A Gardener's Tale." As a mixed-race woman, whose ethnicity is difficult to determine at a glance, I'm always fascinated by the topic of racism.

The story reminded me of the year my father ran for the Los Angeles City Council, when I was a girl. He is 3/4's Mexican, and the district was mostly Mexican. Yet voters repeatedly selected a Caucasian representative who was under suspicion of wrongdoing in office, and later convicted of campaign finance violations. My father later told me that he canvassed a Mexican man who said he would not vote for a fellow Mexican because they didn't make good leaders. Wow, talk about a pink flower grown in rocky soil preferring red flowers grown in rich soil!

Thanks for your interest in "They Only Eat Their Husbands." My editor had to have eye surgery, so the book's release has been pushed to the fall. When I know the date, I'll definitely post it on PulseWire.

May 2010 be your best year so far,
Cara

jenwarren's picture

beautiful

hello,

What beautiful language and evocative images of your clan, one with their land over many years and many lifetimes. I grew up in Texas, I've been in Southern Louisiana, i can imagine the fierce continuity and connection you describe from my times there. Thank you for taking the time to share it!!

Kindest regards,
Jen Warren

Anais Tuepker's picture

thank you Jen

Dear Jen,

The holidays got in the way of me writing back to thank you for your note. Connecting with women here on pulse wire has been a real joy in 2009 - I hope it continues in 2010. Best wishes for the new year, Anais

Mauri's picture

A moving story

How true. Land is not something we can possess. It hosts us for a little while, changing, changing over time. It's our souls who, if they want, can remain.

Your story moved me. It's almost the same, with different words and different place (two details, after all), of a friend of mine who lost her house and relatives as a big landslide felt from the mountain, until then source of wood, pasture, water, food... The same scenes of people who, much later, went to the flat desert of sand and stones looking for places and some sign of their beloved.

Remind never dies, however. Of the moment, and of the years before of it.

Congratulations, and a hug.

Mauri

Anais Tuepker's picture

thank you Mauri

Dear Mauri,

After the holidays now I am catching up here on World pulse - thank you for writing your sweet note.

Thankfully when my family lost our homes we did not lose any loved ones. That would be a very different kind of pain, and not as easy to bear as the loss of things or places.

My husband once visited friends in an Italian village where an earthquake had caused half the town to be destroyed in the 1940s - it was a strange landscape of people living in the 1990s with the ruins of houses still bearing testimony to what had been.

wishing you joy and peace in 2010,
Anais

Mauri's picture

So welcome

Dear Anais,

thank you of your warm reply.

Sure, losing beloved people and communities is something so difficult to bear. As some friends of mine showed me, time can heal the hurts deepest in heart, but not completely. I admire their fortitude, and don't know whether I would have been able to born again as they did...

Land is something important, also. Not as much, but important. It seems to me warmly reassuring when you "know" a place and can see it evolving at a normal, calm pace, as a person growing. As a garden, but where you are not an "owner", just a loving visitor, part of the same land.

Do you have the same impression, that land and people are intertwined so deeply they can't be extricated? You walk, observe and chat, and all features which appeared meaningless then reveal the result of something very precise. Of work, attempts, ideas (sometimes crazy). Of accidents like the lightning burning a tree. All "known", remembered and almost venerated. It seems really to me that people "is" the land...

(Am I going philosophical? That's dangerous on January, 1st! ;-) )

Wish this year and all your to come be happy, peaceful and full of interesting discoveries.

Mauri

efe's picture

love your title

congrats! you have succeeded in telling a powerful story and you deserve to be selected.Big ups!

Anais Tuepker's picture

Thank you Efe

Dear Efe,

Thank you for your note - the title came first, actually, it was a line kicking around in my head that inspired me to write. I am so glad to connect with you. Wishing you and all of Nigeria peace and progress in 2010,

Anais

sunita.basnet's picture

Congratulation

Congratulation dear to be one of the three best writer about the Land. Your story is really powerful.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Anais Tuepker's picture

Congratulations to you!

Dear Sunita,

Thank you for your note - and congratulations to you for being selected as one of the Voices of the Future. Your story is an impressive and moving one. I hope that when yu are travelling in the United States your tour will include a stop in Portland and I can greet you in person. In the meantime I am glad to connect with you here on World Pulse.

wishing you joy in 2010,
Anais

Mei Li's picture

you are lovely...and this

you are lovely...and this made me feel whole.

this line:

I found a seashell: a fragile, unmistakable token of the ocean’s incontestable claim upon what I had loved.

played at my heart strings.

wishing you peace.

"...our compassion is the practice of unconditioning." Jakusho Kwong Roshi

Dy's picture

real

i love how oyu put the sand under my feet.

Dy

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