Today I ended up at the National Museum of the American Indian. It is an amazing space, full of history and beauty and thought. The Museum stretches the limits of what it means to be a museum—you are as likely to learn something from the layout or the landscaping or the cafeteria as you are from the artifacts or descriptions.
At the risk of generalizing, (which is a shame, because the museum does a good job of identifying the diversity among the continents’ peoples) today’s takeaway was all about connection to place. While chasing around a toddler the themes of knowing the land, remembering the ancestors, listening to the Earth and protecting the natural world repeated around us. Listening to the stories of the American Indian peoples triggered a hope of sharing similar stories with my son. Not stealing the Indian stories, but finding our family’s stories. The stories of who he is, who came before him, and how he is connected to the places we live.
This year my family—my husband, my son and myself—are on sabbatical. My husband is taking his allotted year away from his teaching job in Indiana, and working in Washington, DC. It’s an incredible chance to step away from one place and into another. We’re taking full advantage of it by taking in all of the touristy sights and just soaking in the energy of a busy city. I kind of love watching this new city with an outsider’s eyes—seeing how the density affects all our everyday activities—and then looking back at the wide spaces of the Midwest with more appreciation.
|The US Capitol as seen from inside the Museum of the American Indian. The garden in front, just outside the Museum contains plants from across the Americas.|
But I wonder, too, what it means to have so little connection to a place. Indiana had only been home for half a dozen years; both my husband’s family and my own have done a good deal of moving around over time. I’m not going to romanticize having deep roots. I tried living in a small town with long memories once, and I quickly learned how tradition can be confused with exclusiveness. Still, I want for my son to have a connection to the community and the earth around him. Heck, I want to encourage some of that in myself, too. I’m hoping this blog will be a space for me to explore those connections, share what I find, and hopefully learn a bit about how some of the rest of you are making these connections, too.