With Apologies to Scott Russell Sanders

I hadn’t heard of Scott Russell Sanders when I wrote this last year. So all my talk in that essay of “I’m staying home” and “we’ll do something profoundly counter-cultural: stay put” wasn’t at all influenced by Sanders’ book Staying Put, but it might as well have been.

I came across mention of Sanders’ work while reading my recently-arrived, long-awaited copy of Beyond Homelessness, which was just released. Expect updates on that book, but for just a bit I’m taking a little detour to read through Staying Put.

Sanders writes of the place where he has stayed put for more than thirty years, Bloomington, Indiana. While that’s not my place of permanence, I admire his careful study of the history, culture, and ecology of that area, and I especially appreciate his focus on the Midwest, something I can obviously relate to. Here’s one quote (a lengthy one) from the book that intrigued me:

When we figure our addresses, we might do better to forget zip codes and consider where the rain goes after it falls outside our windows. We need such knowledge, need to feel as intimate with the branching and gathering of the earth’s veins as we do with the veins in our own wrists. The tilt of land that snares the rain also defines where we are more profoundly than any state line or city limit. States often draw their borders along rivers, yet that is false to the land because rivers join rather than divide their two shores. My rumpled neighborhood in southern Indiana has more to do with the hill country across the river in Kentucky than it does with the glacial plains of northern Indiana. Nature ignores our political boundaries. Birds migrate up and down the valleys, seeds ride the currents, plants colonize outward from the banks, and all manner of beasts–including humans–seek homes and food and one another along the paths of rivers. A true map of our continent would show a pattern of curving watersheds stitched together along high ridges, like a paisley fabric.

Since my family lives on a lake, we’re a bit more tuned into water issues than the average person. But Sanders still got me wondering about what my corner of the world looks like and more specifically about my particular watershed. Well, it’s not a map of the entire continent, but here’s what South Dakota looks like when viewed from the perspective of watersheds:

Map from the EPA

Map from the EPA

I did a little further research and found that I’m located in the Lower Big Sioux watershed. The EPA has a great site called Surf Your Watershed where you can find your watershed and lots of information about it. You can zoom in to your area even closer on the U.S. Geological Survey’s site, Science in Your Watershed. And just in case you can’t get enough of watersheds, the Watershed Information Network provides a ton of information, too.

So I’m going to try thinking about my place a little less politically (defined by town, county, state, national borders) and a little more in relation to my watershed. Now that I know the name of it. What about you, readers? Leave me a comment and tell me the name of your watershed!


About EMH

Forty-something. South Dakotan. Mother to 11-year-old K.L. Wife to Cory. Lutheran pastor. Novice organic gardener. Sustainable living aspirer.
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5 Responses to With Apologies to Scott Russell Sanders

  1. AnnMarie says:

    I live in the Lake Winnebago Watershed (I think), just on the edge of the Upper Fox Watershed, and a few miles from the Lower Fox Watershed (which is above the upper one–the Fox runs North). My zip code is within all 3 of them. And looking back at the map, my house might actually fall right on the line between the Upper and Lake ones. It’s not fine enough detail to see where the streets/bridges are.

    *This* is why I want flood insurance. I live between two lakes and a river.

  2. Erin says:

    Thanks, AnnMarie!

  3. Pingback: Finding Your Watershed

  4. Steph says:

    You have certainly given me something to think about. I live in the North Fork Grand watershed, a fact I didn’t know till now. We have huge water issues, in that we don’t have enough.

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