Check out the excellent commentary featured in the Gloucester Daily Times on Wednesday –
Commentary: Creating Commons
“If this land be not rich, then is the whole world poor.”
So wrote Thomas Morton upon his arrival on Cape Ann in 1624. In a treatise published in London, Morton described the coast he encountered as a “New English Canaan,” a promised land filled with flora and fauna the likes of which Europeans had not yet known. Morton’s description of the area’s bounty was not singular. For example, John Smith’s report back to the imperial center preceded Morton’s and John Josselyn’s was published shortly after Morton’s. Such 17th-century writings inspired the English occupation of what would become the New England colonies and the accompanying genocide of the Native populations that had been here for centuries before the first European set foot on Cape Ann.
We begin with a return to this early settler history not to celebrate the violence and destruction it inspired, but to recall how awestruck Europeans were by the abundant natural beauty of the place that we call our home. Cape Ann was beautiful then, and it is beautiful now. This hardly needs saying. Artists have captured its twilight, poets have described its “granite teeth,” and mystics have meditated on its shores. But even as the land has been celebrated over the centuries, it too has been exploited. This story is not unique to Cape Ann, of course; it is the American story of land. On this island, the merchants of the 18th century were replaced by industrialists who then gave way to the 20th century’s financiers, all of them extracting, privatizing, and profiting from Cape Ann’s abundant timber and granite. With the dawning of beach tourism in the mid-19th century, the extensive coastline with its generous beaches led to further cordoning off and construction.
Now, in the 21st century, as we stare down the barrel of climate collapse, we must consider how, over four centuries of European occupation, we have grown so estranged from the land, so out of step with its natural rhythms and cycles. We are invited, in the spirit of the Potawatomi environmental biologist Robin Wall Kimmerer and others who advocate for new paradigms of land stewardship, to consider how we might live in relationships of reciprocity with the place we inhabit and with its many abundances. We seek, to borrow a phrase from the novelist Catherine Bush, “not control, but the agency to engage in acts of repair.”
This is the common cause that unites our collective of artists, avant gardeners, arborists, historians, and thinkers. We are all longtime residents of Cape Ann, and we share an endless fascination — even infatuation — with its local flora. READ MORE HERE
Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea) currently blooming at Millbrook Meadow, Rockport