By Jessica Ryan

The year is ending, the days are growing shorter. It’s a natural time for reflection.

If you’ve been following along with our newsletters since June, you’ll have noticed our monthly series of “Get to know: (Newo team members)” blog posts, in which we’ve featured Maroof, Maven, Nathan, Seb, Cari, Lisa and now Garnet.

The interviews are all organized over four sections: life story so far, turning points, core values, and culminate in an answer to the question, “Do you feel more rooted in people or place?”

It’s a query that strikes everyone a little differently. (I’d encourage you to check out Garnet’s thoughtful answer.) Since I’m the one responsible for asking it, I thought I would reflect on why.

It’s an onion of a question; keep peeling and you find more questions underneath. Where is the “where” you might feel rooted (have you lived in one place all your life or moved all over the world)? Who are your people (the friends you choose or the family chosen for you)? Where were your ancestors rooted (and is it something that can be passed down)? What would it take to form a meaningful connection in a new place (generations, sweat poured into the soil, or just love)?

It’s not a subject I had thought about properly until well into adulthood. On the one hand, my Christian upbringing emphasized that “this world is not our home,”¹ that we are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”² On the other, I am a product of a society built on capitalism, with all the ensuing beliefs and values relating to private property.

Sometimes, I confess, I envy those with a clear connection to place. Like Garnet, any residual European identity I have is spread thin over many generations and vast swathes of geography. And any connection I felt to the land my mom’s family farmed for a century, and then recently sold, has shifted.

A few years ago, while I was working as editor of the Camrose Canadian weekly newspaper, I wrote an editorial about a trip I took to Cochrane, the place I grew up. I wrote about how, driving west on a secondary highway towards the mountains, I looked for a place to pull over, have some lunch and enjoy the views. I passed private driveway after private driveway, most gated and sporting “No Trespassing” signs. My intent in writing about this was to observe how strange the concept of land ownership can seem when you don’t have access to it. Then, the letters to the editor poured in. Landowners were deeply angered by what they read as the condoning of trespassing and littering: two things anathema to my law-abiding soul.

Clearly, the connection to land is an emotional one, and I am still learning. Over time, I’ve become more aware of the larger, vital conversation about land governance³, but solutions to fantastically complex problems that span centuries and underpin Western legal, social and ethical principles (and out of which some arguably positive developments have arisen) aren’t going to come easily.

But perhaps this is something many of you have been pondering, too. Please consider leaving a comment if you’d like to continue the conversation.

  1. See, for instance, this verse.
  2. See, for instance, this verse.
  3. See, for instance, this video.
  4. See, for instance, this Wikipedia article.

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