Journals / Stills / Travels

A great meeting place

It was a corner of Minnesota I had been hearing about ever since I became a friend of Sophia’s: her family farm, and the surrounding town of St. Joseph. This great, and somewhat unusual, meeting place of several different biomes—coniferous and deciduous forests, prairie, and oak savanna—had imbued Sophia with a reverence for the natural world from a young age, serving as a foundation for her art practice and fantastical paintings.

The land had been a hog farm belonging to the nuns of the nearby Saint Benedictine Monastery until Sophia’s aunts and uncles bought it more than 30 years ago. Other family members moved to the farm, and soon Sophia, her parents, and her sister, Chloe, did too. Sophia and Chloe were homeschooled until 7th grade, steeped in a nature-based curriculum that heavily emphasized experimentation and creativity—elements that later directly translated to Sophia’s practice.

Growing up on the farm, Sophia saw her family restore the land back to native prairie, watching it become more full and more lush every year. Hearing the words “back to native prairie” made her understand from a young age that the landscape hadn’t always looked one way—and that her ancestors hadn’t always been there. It’s an idea I’ve been thinking about lately myself: how, in Western society, it’s been the norm for people to come to a “new” place and impose their laws on the indigenous people who already exist there (colonizers), yet people who come to a “new” place today are either turned away or expected to follow the laws already in place (immigrants). It’s oppression on two sides.

I believe acknowledging any kind of violence against other humans on a land, in this case the town of St. Joseph—whether the systemic oppression of the Ojibwe Nation or the abduction, sexual assault, and murder of an 11-year-old boy—is a heavy, but necessary exercise in empathy. Yet, it’s also necessary to acknowledge the violence of humans onto the land itself—to step outside of ourselves and view the world from beyond our anthropocentric (human-centered) perspective.

Visiting Sophia, her partner Paul, and her parents on the farm and exploring the town of St. Joe on two separate occasions—in winter and in summer—allowed me to meditate on these ideas as I caught a glimpse of a different world. Each season held a different kind of allure, but some things—the charm of a small town, the warmth and creative spirit of a loving family, and the peace found in this beautiful amalgam of natural life—permeated both visits. I hope to come back.

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2 thoughts on “A great meeting place

  1. Pingback: Year of coming full circle | making ⟷ meaning

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