Thursday, September 23, 2004

"Passionate things endure"

I am working with four students this semester, writing about the natural world. For my part, I feel like I'm getting more than I'm giving.

Today we walked to the foundation of an 18th-century farmstead in a deeply wooded part of the campus. The path I cut to the site several years ago has become overgrown. The site itself -- the yard, the well, the stone-walled fields -- has long since reverted to wildness.

But not even wild nature can erase the evidence of human presence. Eudora Welty, in one of her affectionate essays about the Mississippi River Country, writes: "A place that ever was lived in is like a fire that never goes out." And later in the essay adds: "There is a sense of place there, to keep life from being extinguished, like a cup of the hands to hold a flame."

We sat in the sun-dappled woods where the house once stood and cupped the flame.