by Gary Snyder

This piece was originally published in Perspectives in Bioregional Education, edited by Frank Traina and Susan Darley-Hill, North American Association for Environmental Education, copyright 1995.

But this use of “teacher” is still a newcomer’s metaphor. By our grandchildren’s time there may begin to be a culture of place again in America. How does this work? First, a child must experience that bonding to place that has always touched many of us deeply: a small personal territory one can run to, a secret “fort,” a place of never-forgotten smells and sounds, a refuge away from home. Second, one must continue to live in a place, to not move away, and to continue walking the paths and roads. A child’s walking the land is a veritable exercise in “expanding consciousness.” Third, one must have hu­man teachers, who can name and explain the plants, who know the life cycle of an area. Fourth, one must draw some little part of one’s livelihood from the breadth of the landscape: spotting downed trees for next year’s firewood, gathering mushrooms or berries or herbs on time, fishing, hunting, scrounging. Fifth, one must learn to listen. Then the voice can be heard. The nature spirits are never dead, they are alive under our feet, over our heads, all around us, ready to speak when we are silent and centered. So what is this “voice”? Just the cry of a flicker, or coyote, or jay, or wind in a tree, or acorn whack on a garage roof. Nothing mysterious, but now you’re home.

Excerpted from “Good, Wild, Sacred” from CoEvolution Quarterly, No. 39 (Fall,1983).

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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