Phil Jenkins urban rituals for urban acres

The key to stopping the erosion of respect is ritual; I’m certain of it. The rituals of respect for birth, marriage, and death are still around, but the rituals of respect for the land beneath our city feet have faded. North American environmentalism, when it was taking its’ first steps, had no stock of rituals on hand to stoke up respect- so it went to the First Nations, and borrowed theirs (even ones they weren’t using themselves). The fascination with native ceremonies, music, and philosophy was rejuvenating, but in the end it was nostalgia for something that, for the majority of Canadians, who live in cities, was never theirs. A fresh set of rituals, urban rituals for urban acres, is what’s required, to revive the idea of stewardship- we have inherited the city and it’s foundation, we are guardians rather than owners, we are fleeting parts of something more vast and encompassing than we allow. It’s fine to fight for the cute parts, the rural acres and the wilderness, but the ugly metros are also in need of redemption. […] There is a chance that some day we’ll exhaust the land with our nagging energy and our growing numbers. A revival of respect, and the rituals that go with it, could govern our worst tendencies. The acre, neither knows nor cares if we respect it. If and when we are gone, it will swallow what we force down it’s throat and then fall to the task of repair. It is our benefit to perform the rituals, to use our resourcefulness to understand and maintain the acre’s resources.

From Jenkins, P. (2001). An Acre of Time. New York : Paperback. p. 211.

Phil Jenkins

Phil was born in London, England on June 15th, 1951, the day rock and roll began. He moved to Canada to embark on a career of selling English, both as writer and performing songwriter. In 1991 he published Fields of Vision: A Journey to Canada’s Family Farms, a national bestseller. Three books followed; An Acre of Time, River Song: Sailing the History of the St. Lawrence River, and Beneath My Feet: The Memoirs of George Mercer Dawson. He has written for newspapers and magazines, including Canadian and National Geographic. Since 1991 he has been a freelance columnist for the Ottawa Citizen. He writes from a straw bale house in the Gatineau Hills of west Quebec.

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