Finding The Way Home
Bioregionalism & The Spirit of Place
When people ask me where I’m from, it’s hard to give a simple answer…
I was born in Massachusetts, but left before I was two years old. From there, through kindergarten, my family lived in Northwestern Wisconsin, before coming back to the East Coast. Through primary and secondary school, I lived on Long Island, about 45 minutes east of New York City — so that’s really where I “grew up”. When I was 18 and graduated high school, I moved to Baltimore to go to art school. I dropped out after a year but lived there on and off for many years. From there, I lived in Brooklyn for a time, then Pittsburgh, then Seattle, then briefly Arcata, California — then Baltimore again (working often in Washington, DC), with three summers in Cape Cod, followed by traveling and living on organic farms throughout New England, and then on up into Quebec — living first outside Montreal, and now about 45 minutes outside Quebec City.
My family hails from Quebec though on both my parents’ sides, and migrated to New England during the time of so-called “Quebec Diaspora” (a term I’ve never heard anyone in Quebec use), going to work in textile mills in the early 1900's.
So, in a very real way, I am also “from” here — as much as I am “from” anywhere else.
We carry pieces with us of all the places we’ve lived and all the people whose lives have intertwined with ours.
But strangely, most of my life’s travels (outside a brief stint on the West Coast) fall within what some ecologists refer to as the bioregion of Laurentia:
And with the exception of the south-west corner of Laurentia (approximately southern Illinois/Indiana/Western Kentucky), I’ve lived basically in all the corners of that ecological territory…
Within that bioregion, you’re likely to see roughly all the same types of trees, birds, animals, fish, etc. And, depending on proximity to a major city, all more or less the same types of people living the same types of lives with approximately the same types of viewpoints toward existence.
Laurentia somehow puts my wanderings in order. Laurentia is “where I’m from.”
One way that French Quebecers like to tease/test newcomers is by asking them if they are a separatist. I am, but only if that means we give back all the lands we stole from the First Nations and put them in charge of the government.
Perhaps the average person doesn’t realize the extent of French colonization in North America — both in Laurentia and beyond:
If Quebec were to “do it’s own thing” nationally, what boundaries would we claim? What era would we re-draw the maps to?
I personally get a kick out of looking at hypothetical maps of a future North America where the borders have been re-drawn, things like this:
In many such maps like this, we see traces of the North American bioregions — at least painted in broad strokes. Of course, there are many ways to slice the bioregions (aka “ecoregions”) of this continent, each one offering fantastical possibilities of new nation-states in a radically re-oriented future (Climate Change?):
But they all point to the same thing: a fluidity, superficiality, artificiality and temporality of what we think of today as hard and fixed national and regional political borders.
What does the land want? What does the web of life that inhabits these places tell us about how to live our own lives? How do we find our homes? And where, in the end, are any of us really “from” when drawn out on a long enough time axis?
You have to live it to know.