The Confluence of Musketaquid

April 6, 2015 by Miranda

Musketaquid Arts And Environment: 25 Years of Celebrating the Confluence of Art and Nature

Blog 3 of 5

written by Ellie Bemis 

From the original Earth Day in 1970 the message “Act local, think global“ was imprinted on all our minds, the idea that preservation of our planet starts at home. Why would you save a vernal pool if you don’t know the salamanders who live there? How do you plead for Brazil’s rainforest while overbuilding here? And,  on the positive side, if we all take care of our local place, piece by piece maybe we can make the planet healthy and whole again.

So Deb and I focused our fledgling efforts connecting kids with local critters through outdoor exploration, indoor art making, and a little parade. And, at the same time C.C.’s dream was taking shape where our rivers come together, launching rafts made by many hands with wishes for the whole Earth’s well being.

My memory is that for several years after that first year we didn’t quite know what we were creating or how we were coming together. One year there was just Critter Crusade with Mark Dannenhauer bolstering our little parade with puppets and music , another year there was just Earth Floats and no Critter Crusade. A lot of river awareness was afloat so we became River Float for a while with Jeannie Abbott joining members of the CCHS environmental Club to make our first big puppet and  mascot, Otter. Then, when the long term preservation of Estabrook Woods became a local concern, we decided maybe we weren’t just about our rivers but about this  whole geographic area, best named by those who originally lived here and described this place according to it’s nature. And so after five years our program settled on exploring the nature of this place through art and was named for Musketaquid , the place where the waters flow through the grasses. To us the heart of this place seemed to be where the rivers come together and C.C. first launched her floats, and playful Otter, creature of land and water, became our muse and guide.

Thinking back, it was the love of this place and an interest in place that drew us all together then and has continued all along to be Musketaquid’s confluence. When I met Mark Dannenhauer in college it was because we were vying for the same book in the library. I don’t remember the title but it was how different geographic landscapes actually influence people’s vision and perception. That seemed really intriguing. Later John Mitchell, editor of Mass. Audubon’s Sanctuary Magazine, wrote about “Literary Landscapes” including how this area of Concord seems to be a place that attracts, inspires, and shapes writers. I was surprised when so many of the first applicants for studio space at the Umbrella were writers. But of course!  John then wrote “Ceremonial Time” about the square mile around his Littleton home, coming up through geologic time to the present. This book forever deepened the way I, and infinite others, look at land and place. This interest in place is now more mainstream and the roots of what is called place-based education.

But, I have to admit I’m a homebody, a back yard builder, a local yokel. I live where I was born…well, just down the hill.  I’ve travelled and lived in other places, but I’m always drawn home while my two sisters are pioneers in Idaho and California. I wonder at this. I’m guessing all species need some of both for survival, homebodies and pioneers. Knowledge of a habitat takes generations to evolve, and strong genes need new blood. Saving land needs longterm commitments, and often new appreciation. So with Musketaquid tradition and innovation, local roots and new blood, are all important for learning about this place, watching it’s changes over time and seeing it with new eyes.

Like the heart of this place Musketaquid is a confluence of ideas, a model to be  shared, a creative collaboration and welcome all!  

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