What does landscape mean to us? How does it shape our sense of “rootedness” to place and connection to community? Can that sense and that connection enrich us in the same manner as having knowledge of our familial lineage? Landscape historian John Warfield Simpson sets out to answer these questions by following the journey of the great conservationist John Muir from his homeland along the North Sea coast in East Lothian County, Scotland, to his family’s adopted home in the fields and forests of Marquette County, Wisconsin. Along the way he discovers much about himself; and we, in turn, can learn much about ourselves.
In 1849 the Muirs immigrated from East Lothian to the wilds of central Wisconsin in search of religious and economic opportunity. What concept of land did they and millions of others from the Old World leave behind, and what did they find in their New World homes? Simpson physically retraces the Muirs’ journey, as he delves into the meaning and importance of place. He speaks with estate owners and tenant farmers in Scotland who have centuries-long ties to the land they own or work; to Wisconsin farmers for whom one hundred years measures a profound connection to place; and to Native Americans working to reclaim the land they lost to white pioneers like the Muirs and to the author’s own Scottish ancestors. Among all of these people Simpson discovers a powerful link between personal and communal history, and a deep connection to the land on which they have been played out.
Time and history, landscape and community, are tightly intertwined, Simpson learns. Roots matter, he discovers, in his adopted home of Cockburnspath, Berwickshire, Scotland.
About John W. Simpson
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Published September 24, 2002
Political & Social Sciences, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math.