Posts Tagged ‘Home’

3. How L H Sigourney Defines Home

L H Sigourney begins the text “Fallen Forests” by establishing the wilderness, and in particular trees, as symbols for the home.  Nature is characterized as a “sweet, gentle nurse / Who loveth us, and spreads a sheltering couch / When our brief task is o’er” (118), while human-constructed homes are defined as “stately mansions” that are lessened by how they stand “Unblessed by trees” (118).  The former definition of nature makes reference to nature as a sort of “final home” for all people as our bodies are lowered into the grave, a fact she elaborates on when she describes how dying elephants will “[move] slowly to seek the shadow of lofty trees” (120).  In addition, the characterization of nature as a “gentle nurse” implies a comparison to nature as the maternal.  Thus, for Sigourney, nature marks both the place from which all living creatures come, and the place where all living creatures return.  Sigourney’s definition of “home” becomes one of a place where people can only escape from briefly, and it is inevitable that they will return to it, and her argument becomes one against forsaking nature and embracing it as a great maternal essence.

This description contrasts with how she describes man-made structures later in the text.  Although she mentions private residences and estates she witnesses during her travels, there are two instances in the text where she goes into great detail about human structures, and neither instance is a traditional home.  First, she describes the State prison, which is characterized by how its inmates are a “mass of human misery” (124) which “had once a mother to whom their infancy was dear; who would have shuddered with agony, had the vision of a felon’s cell risen up between her and the cradle” (125).  Given how nature has been previously characterized as maternal, this passage indicates Sigourney’s view that artificial structures are not true homes, and serve only to separate one from the true mother figure, which is nature.  The second major description is that of the State Lunatic Asylum, which although describes as “sufficient for the comfortable and even luxurious accommodation of several hundred patients” (128), is also described as housing people who are afflicted by “one of the saddest forms of suffering humanity” (128-129).  It is therefore striking that Sigourney chooses to describe two places that house incredibly unhappy people.  Furthermore, she ends her text by depicting her travels by saying, “the chief end of her excursions abroad, might be to enjoy home better” (132).  Although this does not mention nature, her previous characterizations cause this passage to have deeper meaning: nature is home, and thus her “excursions” become a metaphor for life.  The travails of life serve to bring one closer to nature as one’s home, and this is inevitable as nature is the place where, according to Sigourney, everyone will one day return.

Sigourney, L.H. Scenes in My Native Land. Ch./Art: Excerpts p. 117-132. pub. James Munroe and Company 1845

Judith Plant’s compelling quote!

“What remains valuable in mainstream society, and deep within our beings, has a dollar sign attached to it, and generally has nothing to do with home. In fact, home is more and more being sacrificed for economic ends. What is important goes on in the public sphere- politics and economics- and a person’s worth is gauged in monetary terms. Within this ideology, domestic life has meant that some are subservient to others; traditionally this has been women, as slaves, servants and wives. Children quickly learn that what goes on at home is unimportant compared to the values out there” (Judith Plant 23).

Money is the exchange of paper and coins. The purpose of money is to facilitate the lives of human beings when it comes to complex methods of economic gain to as simple as buying goods.  Barter, which is the method of exchanging or trading one good for another is inefficient because people do not meet eye to eye when trading. For example, I go to the market and I have one chicken. I am in need of vegetables. My neighbor has three pounds of lettuce and broccoli. I say my chicken has more value than three pounds of vegetable, but my neighbor disagrees and therefore we both leave unhappy; unless we compromise. Over the years money has been seen as an “evil” tool to cheat, corrupt, and exploit Earth’s natural resources. According to the Bible, 1 Timothy 6:10, says the root of all evil is the love for money.  Politics is about who get what. Therefore, people who are in love with money may go to extremes as to put a monetary value to life, family, and happiness.

Thinking about the Recession we’ve been in simply surprises me that people will work two or three jobs to pay for their mortgage but do not fight to keep their family, their home in order. I have noticed that the value of human beings has diminished. Yes, women are able to vote and work alongside men. Yes, African Americans are no longer enslaved, and yes, Latinos are allowed to migrate to the most powerful Country, the United Sates. However, my concern goes to those unborn babies. China, for example, has a one child policy. Therefore, males are preferred and when most families find out that they are going to have a female daughter the either abort or give the baby up to adoption. However, what many people do not realize is that most girls and women in Europe and Asia that are left to fend for themselves are sold as sex slaves. Over population is a problem but massacring innocent babies is not the answer… Children are the future and if we don’t pay attention to their input then I think we are headed in a selfish and dangerous direction.

The only solution I see if for individuals who recognize that they have an unhealthy relationship with money, seek help, and then find a way to bless others. I understand that this proposition is easier said than done. However, collectively we all have to make an effort to bring back the value of human beings and the value of “home” and diminish the love for money. Once we die we are not going to take our degree, our property, or the money in our bank account. Judith Plat’s quote is a call to action. Once people see how corrupt the love of money can transform people’s lives in a negative way maybe then will they turn their lives back around!

 

Plant, Judith. Home! A Bioregional Reader.Ch./Art: REvaluing Home: Feminism and Bioregionalism; Searching for Common Ground:
Evofeminism and Bioregionalism p. 21-23, 79-82. pub. New Society Publishers 1990

2. Susan Fenimore Cooper — Nature, the Home and Naming

Susan Fenimore Cooper’s Rural Hours expresses a great deal about the relationship between humans and nature, and nature and the home, and very gradually provides implicit suggestions about the ethical behavior of humans toward nature. Her elaborations include interesting sentiments concerning possession which have not been the focus of previous writings we have encountered in this class, including the phenomenon of naming, in particular. Cooper provides a generally objective account of the winter season and its characteristics in her writing, every now and then breaking into more lengthy, subjective matters, such as an ode to the Christmas season – a season which, she softly suggests, is not only a time of family and religious observance, but also a time to consider blessings, like the many utilities afforded to people by nature. The holiday brings the idea of home to the forefront of the text, drawing a spiritual connection between domestic life and natural gifts. These, we can infer, would include the provisions derived from the wildlife Cooper details for pages and pages beforehand, such as down and eggs from Eider-Ducks (257), fur coats made from the fur of buffalo, fox, rabbit and wolf (286), and even maple or hickory wood for fires, which are deemed preferable to coal (296). Nature and its provisions are closely tied to the idea of home, according to the relationships Cooper establishes in Rural Hours. Without saying so explicitly, she ties natural resources tightly to daily life, acknowledging the presence of natural products in everything from home furnishings to holiday season decorations. Though she does not hinge her writing on a predominant environmental message, certain opinions shine through the text here and there and achieve the same effect. For instance, Cooper describes a “greedy” kind of person who would “steal” eggs from the Eider-Duck (257), and suggests that the growing population of the American Deer is a positive change, adding that it is likely “thanks to the game laws[…]” (289). This is important to draw from Cooper’s writing, because the notion that humans and nature and the home are kept in harmony by economical use of the land and wildlife constitutes the foundation of this text. Because nature, according to this text, operates as a resource and an object of beauty, it is implied that humans are entitled to its use but responsible for its sustainment. At the same time, it isn’t necessarily owned. This idea comes to surface when Cooper discusses naming, questioning the odd convention of inappropriate and inconsistent naming of places or landforms, especially naming natural objects after people, which, in her opinion, is especially a habit of “the English or the Yankees” (303). In part, the American home, in the sense of a national home, is more accurately defined by its original or natural names, given by Native Americans, such as in the case of “[…]Alabama, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, etc, etc” (300). This is an idea that is of great importance to Cooper, but not terribly significant to other writers so far. But after all, is it not human convention to give names to our communities of residence? Neighborhoods, apartment complexes and other districts within the boundaries of the smallest towns often take on a name that describes the immediate land. Cooper not only recognizes this as a part of defining the land as home, but argues that naming the land for its own features is more appropriate than naming it for its human features, establishing her stance on the matter by saying, “Consider a mountain peak, stern and savage[…]and say if it not be a miserable dearth of words and ideas, to call that grand pile by the name borne by some honorable gentleman just turning the corner[…]this connection between a mountain and a man, reminds one rather unpleasantly of that between the mountain and the mouse” (305).

Cooper, Susan Fenimore. Rural Hours. Ch./Art: “Winter” p.252-357. pub. University of Georgia Press 1998