Beldon Lane's expanded edition of his great book Landscapes of the Sacred: Geography and Narrative in American Spirituality just caught my eye. At a time when we watch oil clinging to our shorelines in ways we haven't seen before, it may be good late summer reading if for no other reason than to remind us of our larger picture.
One essay caught my eye since I've driven through this "Garden of Eden" on the way to my husband's home in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin. A 19th century Methodist preacher once called Galesville, Wisconsin "Garden of Eden" after he returned from an up close and personal encounter with carnage during the Civil War. He read his Bible and walked the bluffs along the Mississippi River. Then a pattern of place began to unfold for him. He thought he was in the "heart" of the New Word, there at the 90th meridian.
Lane concludes this particular essay with, "We wistfully seek an arcane cosmos through every leaf and branch, longing for the ordinary to be revealed as holy.
The book's three parts go like this:
Place in American Religious Life
The Geography of American Traditions
Method and Perspective in Studying American Spirituality and Place.
It's well worth a read. And because I collect quotations...
I decided to share the ones Lane includes at the beginning of his book under "Reflections on a Hermeneutics of Landscape."
"Tell me the landscape in which you live and I will tell you who you are." --Ortega Y Gasset
"What we have here is a sacred, mythic geography, the only kind effectually real, as opposed to profane geography, the latter being 'objective' and as it were abstract and non-essential--the theoretical construction of a space and a world that we do not live in, and therefore do not know. --Mircea Eliade, Images and Symbols
"Space has a spiritual equivalent and can heal what is divided and burdensome in us."--Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces
"Space is the central fact to man born in America."--Charles Olson
"In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. This is what makes America what it is."--Gertrude Stein, The Geographical History of America
"We...need that wild country...even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be...a part of the geography of hope.--Wallace Stegner
"Our American land, too, is an artifact...The American artifact incarnates history enormously. It speaks, incessantly babbling myth. We should learn the landscape's languages."--Henry Glassie, The Artifact's Place in American Studies
"A primal desire of man is the imaginative impulse--working under the special conditions of time...to visit strange regions in search of such beauty, awe or terror as the actual world does not supply."--C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds
"The views of nature held by any people determine all their institutions."--Ralph Waldo Emerson, English Traits
"When the Romans sought to punish the Carthaginians for disobedience by razing their city to the ground, citizens of Carthage begged their masters to spare the physical city, its stones and temples, to which no possible guilt could be attached, and instead, if necessary, exterminate the entire population."--Yi-Fu Tuan, Topophilia
"What the Mediterranean Sea was to the Greeks, breaking the bond of custom, offering new experiences, calling out new institutions and activities, that, and more, the ever retreating frontier has been to the United States."--Frederick Jackson Turner
"The important determinate of any culture is after all--the spirit of place."--Lawrence Durrell
"Theological reflections on place can no longer ignore that the world of concrete places is full of exiles, displaced peoples, diaspora communities, increasingly inflamed border disputes and the violent struggles by indigenous people and cultural minorities to achieve liberation."--Philip Sheldrake, Spaces for the Sacred