This piece was originally published in Home! A Bioregional Reader, edited by Van Andruss, Christopher Plant, Judith Plant, and Eleanor Wright, New Society Publishers, copyright 1990.
Without further rhetoric or utopian scheming, I have a simple suggestion that if followed would begin to bring wilderness, farmers, people, and their economies back. That is: don’t move. Stay still. Once you find a place that feels halfway right, and it seems time, settle down with a vow not to move any more. Then, taking a look at one place on earth, one circle of people, one realm of beings over time, conviviality and maintenance will improve. School boards and planning commissions will have better people on them, and larger and more widely concerned audiences will be attending. Small environmental issues will be attended to. More voters will turn out, because local issues at least make a difference, can be won—and national scale politics too might improve, with enough folks getting out there. People begin to really notice the plants, birds, stars, when they see themselves as members of a place. Not only do they begin to work the soil, they go out hiking, explore the back country or the beach, get on the Freddies’ ass for mismanaging Peoples’ land, and doing that as locals counts. Early settlers, old folks, are valued and respected, we make an effort to learn their stories and pass them on to our children, who will live here too. We look deeply back in time to the original inhabitants, and too far ahead to our own descendants, in the mind of knowing a context, with its own kind of tools, boots, songs. Mainstream thinkers have overlooked it: real people stay put. And when things are coasting along OK, they can also take off and travel, there’s no delight like swapping stories downstream. Don’t Move! I’d say this really works because here on our side of the Sierra, Yuba river country, we can begin to see some fruits of a mere fifteen years inhabitation, it looks good.
Excerpted from Upriver Downriver No. 10, 1987.
Gary Snyder (b. 1930) is a poet with a career that includes reading a poem at the legendary, San Francisco Renaissance-defining Six Gallery reading on October 7, 1955 and winning the Pulitzer Prize for his 1975 collection Turtle Island. His recognition of the value of bioregionalism began with his rural Washington childhood, and was strengthened by his anthropological study of Pacific Northwest indigenous tribes and their folklore while a student at Reed College. He currently lives in eastern Shasta Nation, in the Yuba River drainage.
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