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rachelr's picture

A reflection on a collaborative botanical and geological ramble

We began our collaboration sitting in the chairs outside English House, just like we do for class. When talking through our two different (and yet similar) classes I was most struck by how we seemed to cover the same general topics, but that we used different texts to build up these topics. The freshmen mentioned the rewrite of a paragraph with the tragedy/comedy lens; when I asked if they had read “the Shakespeare reading” they said no, that they had read Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir “Fun Home.” Having read this book in a past course with Anne I enjoyed looking back at my memory of it, wondering how my reading with this ecological and feminist lens may differ from the reading I had when it was in a non-fictional prose class. Since the book is currently residing with my mother, I may just have to pick it up again over winter break to see… 

We had the freshmen crush and smell the leaves of privet, viburnum, and spice bush, as well as explore the differences between beech and tulip trees with their sense of touch. Thinking back to the very beginning of the semester, I wonder if our willingnesses to do these things would have been different; did people feel more comfortable getting “down and dirty” with nature because of what we’ve discovered together in our outdoor classroom? I’d like to think so, especially considering some of the words that were said that one class where we were speaking our associations with nature.

The freshmen took us from Denbigh, to Merion, to the Moon Bench, to the gym. The contrasts and similarities between the Wissahickon Schist and Baltimore Nice made me think of the contrasts and similarities between spice bush and privet. So much of what surrounds us has been “imported,” and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between what the imposter in the landscape is. I think what I came away with was the notion that maybe you just sometimes have to take things as they are; the history of both native and invasive species shapes the forest, just as stone from both Wissahickon and Baltimore shapes our campus’ landscape. While I think it is important to recognize what is what and the distinct histories, the fact is that its all here, and all we can do is move forward, keeping the repercussions of our actions of movement and transport in mind.