Welcome to Love of Place. Most of my work celebrates our connection to the natural world.

Most recently, my Knocking on Heaven's Door is the winner in the category of science fiction in the 2016 New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards and in the category of fiction in the 2016 Arizona Authors Association Awards. A number of reviewers have been enthusiastic, including the website Geeks of Doom, which makes me smile. Not many people know me as a geek of doom! But I am happy to embrace the complexity of my personality.

I'm also so pleased that Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World has been awarded the 2016 John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing, as well as the 2014 WILLA Award for Creative Nonfiction from Women Writing the West.

My historical fantasy Teresa of the New World won the 2015 Arizona Authors Association Award for best Children's Literature and was a finalist for the New Mexico/Arizona Book Award for Children's Literature, the WILLA Award for Children's Literature, and the May Sarton Award for Children's Literature.

These are nice landmarks in a writer's life. I would be writing regardless--but, still, whew. It's good to have some encouragement.

Feel free to contact me at http://www.sharmanaptrussell.com or through my author Facebook page, Sharman Apt Russell.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Growing a New Home Place by Lorraine Anderson

Sunday morning, late August, I’m out before 8 working in my garden. My mother and father are particularly present with me this day, though my father is many years dead and my mother is in an Alzheimer’s facility an hour’s drive away. I’ve taken out the pruning saw with the graceful wooden handle inscribed with my father’s initials, E.A., and am sawing some small dry branches into firewood. The branches once belonged to the diseased purple plum that stood in the corner of the lawn-filled wedge of yard when I bought my townhouse three years ago.

Thoughts of family swirl through me as I work on this cool, quiet Oregon morning. When I was growing up we lived in the Bay Area of California, and then just over the border in Nevada, in the Tahoe Sierra. My mother made gardens wherever we moved. Now I’m thinking about how much like her I am, putting roots into this new place by digging in the earth and tending plants.

As a single woman on a freelance income, I chose to leave my overpriced native state of California four years ago to find a place I could afford to call my own. I didn’t know if I would be able to stand being far away from the mountains of California that had imprinted me in my backpacking youth. Oregon offers bountiful beauty and many pleasures, but not for me the pleasure of generations of memories made in one place. This has given my long-desired home ownership a bittersweet flavor.

I’ve been editing a garden memoir by Sydney Eddison, who has lived on the same piece of land in Connecticut for forty-seven years. Forty-seven years! I imagine the change of seasons must occupy a central place in a person’s sense of things when the landscape she looks out upon remains the same year after year after year. Change of place creates a discontinuity that distracts the transplant from the eternal cycles. Although my own migration is probably more the norm nowadays than Sydney’s staying put, I envy her.

I’m not sure that what I’ve lost in terms of family ties with place can ever be totally compensated for, but I’ve tried to forge my own connection with this new place by making a garden. The first year I was completely engrossed in learning the native plants, learning to recognize red-twig dogwood and coast silktassel and red currant. Now those plants have come to seem as right to me in my garden as western redbud and flannel bush seemed when I lived in the Central Valley of California.

In the second year I planted my vegetable garden. Now I’ve eaten from the earth of this place—the green beans, the tomatoes, the eggplant and zucchini, the chard and red onions—for a couple of harvest seasons. This year the patches of clover I’ve seeded in the small remaining curve of lawn were big enough for me to lie on. Belly down, I sent my heart and my sorrows deep into the earth and sought to anchor there.

In this third year, right before fall equinox my garden is on the Passport to Healthy Gardens Organic Garden and Sustainable Living Tour that Corvallis Northwest Earth Institute does as an annual fundraiser. The description of my garden in the tour brochure says “this garden provides a calm space featuring recycled art, drought-resistant and edible plants. Built by one person with one shovel, it includes a cut flower bed, a variety of natives for all-season color and texture, and an aspen grove. . . . Stroll along the paths and absorb the serenity this garden emits.”

Do I feel serenely a part of this place at last? Some days I’m simply astonished as I look out my windows that my immediate environment has transformed so completely since the day I moved in. It buoys me with proof that one person with one shovel can change everything, given a guiding vision of a more abundant life, a life more intimate with the gifts of its place. I still wish for more family presence here, but maybe carrying my father and mother with me, through their tools and their love of nature, is enough.


Marybeth said...

A lovely sweet essay. I've also thought of how gardening binds me to my family, to my parents in N.C., to grandparents in Ohio and Italy--as far apart as we all are, we're still on the same Earth, the same soil. Thank you Lorraine.

Ruth Gendler said...

Beautiful essay Lorraine--rich with your tender and precise observations that look in and look outward. It very much seems like you are finding your new roots through tending the land and also writing your way into your new home. Thanks. May you enjoy the gifts of this harvest season.

Tonia said...

I was very moved by this, Lorraine. My roots were bifurcated by a move from Pennsylvania to Colorado when I was 10. I came to love the West, and though none of my family is left in Colorado, I feel a kind of homecoming, not just to loved ones but to land, when I visit Montana. But I've now lived in New York more than half my life and am beginning to think of Long Island as having some of my roots--just as I'm also considering the fact that I may need to move sometime in the next few years, possibly out west again. But everywhere I go, I do feel more like it is home when I can plant a garden. Thank you for sharing your process of transplanting deep roots to a new environment.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, Lorraine. I'm sniffling a little bit, here....

Greta Gaard said...

Lorraine's essay describes a problem we transplants grapple with, daily: a yearning for homeplace, and an inventory of the strategies and tools we have for connecting with place and community, wherever we may be. Many of us struggle with the idea that our authentic home is the community (animal, ecological, and social) where we were born--but what if we can't remain there all our lives? How do we find home, create authentic relationships, as transplants? How do we become "native" to place? Gardening is such a smart strategy, and one that Lorraine has practiced for decades. Through the act itself, as well as the act as metaphor, Lorraine grounds herself, and offers us a trowel we can use, too. With gratitute, Greta Gaard