Friday, April 22, 2005

Peter Forbes: The Great Remembering

(courtesy of Chris Taylor's Artifact Reason: Beyond Imaged-Based Research)

A dozen times in the summer of 1974, I camped beside a millpond deep in the woods of Connecticut. I can still recall the sense of awe and excitement of coming upon this hidden spot and realizing that human hands had created it perhaps a hundred years before. Giant oaks stood on either side of a stone dam wide enough, perhaps, to drive a mule and wagon across. There was a gentle rise of land overlooking this half-acre pond, and here my friends and I found a spot so special to us that we did what thirteen-year-olds will do: we carved our names in the beech trees and called the place "The Kingdom."

One Thanksgiving twenty years later, I wandered silently for more than an hour through a subdivision, crossing cul-de-sacs back and forth, looking to find my pond. I was sure I was in the right place, but nothing around me looked the same. The stream was gone, the gentle ravine and the dam were gone. When I was about to give up and accept that this was no longer a place but now only a memory, I found myself oriented in just the right way so that even though the land had been transformed by bulldozers beyond recognition, my body remembered. I reconnected with a place that had died. I knew where I was. I looked across a stretch of pavement and saw immediately adjacent to a two-car garage an old beech tree with "The Kingdom" carved in it.

Peter Forbes, The Great Remembering: further thoughts of land, soul, and society, (San Francisco: The Trust for Public Lands, 2001), pp. 7-8.

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