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Connection between Humans and the Environment: History

smartinez's picture

Selena Martinez

Esem Paper #8


Connection between Humans and the Environment: History

                      In Ruth Ozeki’s novel All Over Creation, Geek said to Yumi, “You teach literature, right? So what you are sitting on here at Fuller’s Seeds is a library containing the genetic information of hundreds, heritage breeds many of them, and lots of exotics. These seeds embody the fruitful collaboration between nature and humankind, the history of our race and our migrations. Talk about narrative.” (162)  The idea Geek presents captures the historical enrichment provided by the seeds through the information processed from one source to the other, which in this case is Momoko’s fading memory. Despite the inaccuracy her memory may provide, it is the only source that Geek’s collection for the Garden Web Site has so the plants have a chance of continuing.

                      According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of history is, “the study of past events”. Other definitions it lists consist of, “a chronological record of significant events (as affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes,” and, “a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events.” Each person, place or thing has a story of what it is, how it came to be, why it is still here and what it can contribute. In this case the seeds that Momoko has collected over the years each are able to produce exotic features ranging from where it originally derived to flavors and rarity. But Momoko is now at the point where her memory is beginning to interfere with daily activities such as remembering names of basic household items. So where does her memory serve as a legitimate means of preserving history?


                      Watching films is another form of history being told. Just like the seeds the history that is held is attempted to be passed down, but through this movie example, Momoko would essentially be the narrator or the interpreter of the past. Movies are not a complete accurate look into history, but no history is ever accurate. Alison Landsberg mentions in Prosthetic  Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the age of Mass Culture states, “Whether in the form of “organic memory” national history, memory in the nineteenth century was commonly imagined as collective, handed down from one generation to the next” (7). Similar to time periods like these memory was the history. Regardless of how malleable memory may be, history always derived from it to tell maybe not the exact story, but a story that could at least continue to be passed down to further generations. By embracing this form of history it allows for all factors it embodies to be put to good use. The preservation of histories allows for those ideas to play later impacts through influence, innovation, or other types of impacts.

                      The historical importance of the seeds however, can only continue if Geek works to transfer the knowledge Momoko has of the seeds before her memory is wiped clean from Dementia. Lloyd says to Yumi earlier in the book, “She won’t have her garden. Her seeds, they’re all she remembers Yumi.” (104) These seeds allow Momoko to have some hold onto sanity and Momoko is the reason the seeds history have a chance at survival. The seeds are the artifact while she is the interpreter and Geek serves as the next person in the relay to pass on this information.

                      History is delivered in all shapes and forms and is never going to be accurate, but as long as the ideas are preserved they can be passed down. Momokos fading memory is inaccurate history, but history nonetheless. The way history is told will vary similar to the transfer of Momoko’s memory to Geek’s online database depending on how the world progresses. The connection between humans and the environment bypass the simple needs for survival by sharing a history and creating their own history of how their lives are continued through memories made.



Work Cited

"History." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2014.

Landsberg, Alison. Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the

    Age of Mass Culture. New York: Colombia UP, 2004. Print.

Ozeki, Ruth L. All over Creation. New York: Viking, 2003. Print.




Anne Dalke's picture

Bringing in what you are learning from your history class about the selective, partial construction and reconstruction of what we call “history,” as it is passed down in memory and movies, adds a real richness to your reading of Ozeki’s novel. The way you highlight the relationship between the seeds, Momoko’s memory of them, their memory of human migration, and Geek’s preservation of the whole is very poignant.

I guess my next question has to do with how we evaluate the histories we inherit: if all memory is selective, and all history partial, how do we decide what to value, what best to pass on to future generations? Pondering this question makes me think of a wonderful essay by Albert Camus, “Create Dangerously,” in which he argues that—since complete realism is impossible—“the only thing needed…is to find a principle of choice that will give shape to the world. And such a principle is found, not in the reality we know, but in the reality that will be—in short, the future. In order to reproduce properly what is, one must depict also what will be. In other words, the true object of…realism is precisely what has no reality yet.” I wonder what “the historical imagination” would say to that challenge?