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A Slice of Autobiography

Sophia Weinstein's picture

 It is strange to realize that in my first essay for a course on Eco-literacy, an essay on home and belonging, I never once entertained the idea of the environment, or the ‘outdoors’, as home. I unearthed one of my homes, “the body as home”. However, the body as home is not just one home, but many different factors coming together to form a whole. Your body encompasses your physical being, your consciousness, your emotions, your memory, where you have been and where you are going. I suppose that nature is in intrinsic part of the whole of ones body, and how perhaps the body is not the only home. For there two things that are always with me: my body, and the environment.

Perhaps we all have two homes: one that travels with you that you define for yourself, and the home that is Earth and nature, the ground and the sky, the trees and flowers, the sun and the rain. That home is ever-present. It changes constantly, every season, in expectedly unexpected ways. The fact that it is always changing – the time of day, the month, the season, the year – is what makes nature constant. And while I was irked by any changes in my house-home, I recall finding comfort in the changes in nature. How can one feel betrayed by changes in nature? (Here I am referring only to “natural” changes in nature, and don’t mean to say that I am comforted by human-inflicted changes on our environment. The plants and weather are affected by our actions, but are otherwise meant to change and evolve in a ‘natural’ way. This is my meaning.) You know that no other moment will ever be the same.

“What I love most about rivers is you can't step in the same river twice
The water's always changing, always flowing”


When I first thought of ‘home’, for a place of comfort, reliability, and happiness, I automatically searched indoors. I was not expecting to find how forced and awkward that correlation would be, considering the happy memories and generally positive attitude I have always had towards my family home.

But now as I turn towards the outdoors, there is no confusion. The attachments I have to nature are sustainable; earth probably won’t be going anywhere during my lifetime, so I feel confident in my attachments to it.

My memories from childhood of being outside are crisper than any I have in my house. There is so much more in its landscape and specificities of any one day that truly define itself as a specific memory, one moment in time. Indoors, the passing of time can melt away, or time can stretch or compress endlessly. With the lights on and the blinds closed, one can live completely unawares of the outside world. Hours spent watching TV, reading, or even at the table together with your family, can meld into one another with much greater force than memories from the outdoors have the power to. The elements don’t invite this confusion of time or season or weather. In a generalized way, it is my experience that time spent indoors cannot possibly achieve the same definitive place in childhood memories as time spent outside.

Most of the time, my memories of photographs from my childhood are strongly influenced by the stories I have been told. I was pleasantly surprised to realize how well I remember these photographs. Not only do I know where I was, but also I feel a glimpse into my childhood self. I can feel a connection to who I was at the time of the photo, the present-ness of it. I can understand the version of me who isn’t just ‘me when I was young’, but me at ‘the oldest that I have ever been’.  

This picture of me in a pile of leaves was taken in 1999, when I was five. I remember being outside my grandparent’s house in Havertown with my grandmother – my Bubby – and asking if I could jump in their massive leaf pile. I remember everything that was happening from the other side of this picture much more than I remember the picture itself. My grandmother in her big, dust-blue coat agreeing that yes, I can jump in the leaves. This magic of memory in photographs from my childhood, where the picture gives me my own lenses into the past, are strongest in photographs taken outdoors, in nature.

Nature, earth, and the environment, are part of my home, as it strengthens the parts that make my body my home. Nature is part of my memories, my past, my future, and in my bones. As I am human, I am part of nature, and nature is part of me. My body is nature. My body as home. Nature as home.

*Thank you Simona, your Disney reference inspired me.


jccohen's picture

nature as home



I really enjoyed this sense of you – in photos and in your claims about the ‘presentness’ of your nature-connected memories. 


I’m also intrigued by the two closely intertwined binaries you set up in this piece, and then perhaps resolve (?) by the end.  The first is the inside/outside distinction, the second the notion that “(p)erhaps we all have two homes: one that travels with you that you define for yourself, and the home that is Earth and nature.”  And in both cases time plays an interesting and sometimes elusive role, from your wonderful reflections on how time is experienced so differently inside and outside (I’d love to explore this further!) to the nature of “natural” change and the perhaps more implicit questions about the relationship of “nature” to the/your evolving self…  At the end you note: “As I am human, I am part of nature, and nature is part of me. My body is nature. My body as home. Nature as home.”  Would you say that you’re resolving those binaries or distinctions from earlier in the piece? 


And although there wasn’t a call here to (necessarily) use our readings, I’m curious about how your memories and reflections might intersect with, say, Sobel’s accounts of childhood relationships with the environment -- ?