Watching a house being built can also be a time to seek out stories of the land and how it has been transformed over time, both by the forces of nature and by human habitation. This place was shaped by glaciers. For many centuries human use had its effect on the land. But it is in the last few hundred years that this part of the Mississippi basin has been transformed by the intensive hunting, fishing, logging, agriculture and building practiced by European settlers and their descendants. The last several decades include the arrival of folks from other parts of the world, and efforts to conserve and live more sustainably as well.
Minnesota: A History of the Land is a four-part series on the geology, ecology and history of human relations to the land. I must buy the DVD because it is a rich, wonderful series that I want to see many times. It was created by folks at the College of Natural Resources a the University of Minnesota, in collaboration with TPT, our local public television station. One can buy it through the Bell Museum of Natural History. The story begins with the history of the land itself, the shaping of the land 0f 10,000 lakes by glaciers. It also has a long section on the history of native peoples with the participation of Winona LaDuke, one of my heroes for her work of advocacy for the people and land of White Earth.
The last part of the series talks about Lake Supererior as a part of an ecosystem. I learned that the concept of "ecosystem" came from the work of Raymond L. Lindeman, whose PhD research on Cedar Bog Lake here in Minnesota had a huge impact on the field of ecology. I also learned that ruby-throated hummingbirds that breed here in Minnesota fly down the Mississippi flyway, and then fly another 500 miles over the Gulf of Mexico to Central and South America where they winter. The Mississippi river valley is an enormously important flyway for all kinds of birds. What we do to the land up here affects life here and thousands of miles away.
This home is being built in the spirit of living lightly and in a relationship of preserving and sustaining the land around it, in awareness of that history and making choices informed by it.