Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Environmental Writer Melds History, Place and Nature

John Hanson Mitchell to Read from His Works September 20

Chestertown, MD, September 4, 2001 — John Hanson Mitchell, author of Ceremonial Time: Fifteen Thousand Years on One Square Mile and the recently published The Wildest Place on Earth: Italian Gardens and the Invention of Wilderness, will read from his works on Thursday, September 20, 2001 at 5 p.m. in Washington College's Hynson Lounge. The public is invited to attend.
Mitchell's first book Ceremonial Time, published in 1984, was the outcome of a choice to live in a place that was typical, little noticed and unhallowed, while chronicling the changes that have taken place there over the past 15,000 years. Ceremonial Time was followed by Living At the End of Time, Trespassing, Walking Towards Walden and The Wildest Place on Earth.
In the introduction to his book A Field Guide to Your Own Back Yard, Mitchell summarizes his view of environmentalism and ecology: "There is a popular belief abroad in this country that holds that the most interesting things in the natural world can only be found in faraway places or specially designated areas. That is to say, in order to experience nature you must get in your car and travel somewhere—either to a national or state park or to some official nature preserve. The nearby, that closer wilderness of the backyard and the vacant lot, is, according to that belief, entirely devoid of interesting forms of life and not worth exploring. This field guide sets out to discount that theory."
In a recent interview, Mitchell acknowledged a connection to the Eastern Shore that helped to inspire his approach to environmental writing: "My father, in the 1930s, inherited a 700-acre farm on the Eastern Shore, in Maryland, and then sold it all off because of problems. It was the depression and very tough to make a living on the farm. My father left the farm and rented it to a tenant farmer. That man killed himself and his wife on the property, and after that my father vowed never to own land again. So I grew up with this mixed feeling toward land--on the one hand interested in how land can anchor you to a place, but on the other hand feeling that nobody can ever really know or own a place, and that every piece of land is full of stories."
Mitchell also will lecture on Wednesday, September 19, 2001 at 7:30 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre in Easton as part of the 2001 Eastern Shore Lecture Series "Journeys Home: People, Nature and Sense of Place," a subscription series co-sponsored by the Washington College Center for the Environment and Society, the Adkins Arboretum, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, the Horsehead Wetlands Center and the Maryland Center for Agroecology.
For subscription information on the Eastern Shore Lecture Series, call Dr. Wayne H. Bell, Director of the Washington College Center for the Environment and Society, at 410-810-7171, or the Adkins Arboretum at 410-634-2847.

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