By Trudy Wischemann
“You’re grounded,” my father used to say when one of us had crossed the line. It meant not being able to leave “the property,” not being able to go beyond our property lines except for school, not being able to go play with friends out in the world. Our freedoms had been curtailed by our inappropriate actions, and being grounded gave us time to think that over and prepare not to do it again.
As a young adult in the ’70s and ’80s, I learned another meaning of being grounded, one with a positive spin. Being “grounded” meant being centered in the realities of one’s life and focused on one’s own maintenance and purpose. It meant being at home in this world and in one’s self, not pulled off balance by the world’s sketchy promises and wild-eyed dreams. It meant being home no matter where you were.
For the past two weeks I’ve been immersed in books about land: land ethics, land reform, save-the-family-farm movements and farmer cooperatives, attempts to unionize not only farmworkers but farmers themselves, sometimes the two competitive groups together in one union, sometimes even with urban industrial workers. Liberation theology and the Gaia movement. Railroads and the demise of the small farmer as well as the buffalo. Depression-era farm programs, the farm crises of the 1880s and the 1980s.
What I’ve discovered in this reading is that I’ve been grounded in this concern for land my whole life. Being connected to the earth has mattered to me since I was a toddler, perhaps before. It might sound strange for one so bookish and wordy to claim a need for dirt under the fingernails and bare feet in the grass, but it is so. Holding those two parts of myself together has been the prime challenge of adulthood.
Over the 240+ years we immigrants have dominated this country, this land between Canada and Mexico (plus the Arctic peninsula we call Alaska and the mid-Pacific volcanic islands we call Hawaii), we have coated the ground with our notions about free enterprise and the principles governing money. Some good and much bad has been done with this overlayment, this intellectual construct we have dutifully performed regardless of the land’s needs or the prior inhabitants.’ I still believe in private property, but “free” enterprise and the rules governing money are much in need of revision. Perhaps even the rules governing private property are.
Because one of the prime needs humans have is a connection to the earth. Humans—all humans—need access to the earth because it is the source of all wealth—the real wealth of food, shelter and clothing as well as the constructed wealth of money. But we also need actual connection to it in order to comprehend and experience our true place in the universe, our location (both God-given and ecological) in the scheme of things. To be home.
It seems to me that, if we are to make improvements in the social conditions which produce drug addiction, domestic terrorism and mass shootings, racial inequalities and border contentions, as well as the tendency to think we can escape all this by heading out toward Mars, we as a country need to be grounded.
Trudy Wischemann is a writer who is finishing up a book on land. You can send her your thoughts c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
– This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.