The Sand County has been online now for twelve months and is approaching its one year anniversary on July 12th. A year of thinking and writing and posting photographs has been very rewarding for me and I take heart that in the coming year this blog -this little oasis- will continue to grow and I hope, reach people like myself who have an abiding love for this Earth. Better yet, maybe I will be able to persuade someone to find in herself a love for our world that she did not know was there.
I decided to start The Sand County while I was in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I was out there to do research and one hot afternoon, after enjoying a cool lunch in my hotel room, I saw a programme about the film “The Cove” which is a documentary about the dolphin slaughter that occurs every year in Japan. I was deeply bothered by what I saw, so much so that I actually asked myself why I was in Winnipeg working on my dissertation in Canadian political history when perhaps what I really should have been doing was traveling around the world with an NGO working to protect animals and promote animal welfare.
I had a painful moment that day. I openly questioned all of the work and time and money I had invested already in my graduate studies and admitted to myself that my moral convictions did not seem to be satisfied by my graduate work. In the year hence I have come back to this feeling repeatedly. In fact, I think about my work and the ecological health of our world every day of my life.
I think that many people who consider themselves animal rights advocates, ecologists or “nature lovers” of some sort feel a deep sadness about our world. There is a very deep grief that comes to me often. Sometimes it is so powerful that I am stultified by it or, worse, brought to profound despair. It isn’t that my own smallness or feebleness is the source of my pain, it is instead the deeper knowledge that there is a suffering in the world so immense, so inexorable that I have to ask myself whether or not I am making efforts every day to alleviate that suffering.
Yes, there is a suffering so awful and awesome that all I can do is ask myself what have I done, what am I doing, what have I done today to try and stop it? If you’ve ever felt this way -and maybe you have- then you know how you must live with the sense that your efforts at work that interests you, excites you and gets you out of bed in the morning can lead you to possess an unshakeable guilt that withholds from you the true joy that creativity and vocation can bring a human being.
The Sand County was born out of this sadness. I thought that perhaps this blog would pass along some measure of compassion to this world (our world) and in some completely immeasurable way, bring that compassion to a corner of empty space where before there was only a void of emotion and recognition. But The Sand County is also about joy. I have to be joyful in my work; if I can’t think creatively and compassionately about how to apply my moral convictions and bring the sense of grief and suffering that I am tapping into forward into my own work, then this awareness that I am speaking of will become little more than a sigh of sorrowful acceptance.
The Sand County is an evolving project. In this past year I have seen how this space has allowed me to express fragmentary thoughts and emerging insights about the direction my work is taking. I am hopeful that as I move my dissertation to completion I will have earned the right to take my work in new and normative directions professionally where it will be my own name and my own voice that emerges into areas of research and activism that are informed by the meeting of deep moral purpose with rigorous intellectual study.
What I hope to accomplish here is to become part of an emerging and strengthening awareness that human beings can live in harmony with all of the other life forms on this Earth. That we can begin to see our own minds and intelligence in a kinesthetic relationship with the physical environment and, as such, emerge from an archaic and destructive thought bubble where reason remains disembodied and the world out there is misperceived as little more than static things unrelated to our needs and at best, incidental to our health and progress. I reject this perspective vehemently and want my own work to embrace the organic and the living world that is at once “out there” and “in here.”
As the German poet Novalis once wrote: “The seat of the soul is where the inner world and outer world meet. Where they overlap, it is in every point of the overlap.”