marking territory

No piece of land knows which flag it is flying or the nation that flag represents. Putting name flags on soil is a matter of convenience, so we can find one another, and state where we are from. Place names, sprayed on maps, street corners and garden gates, like graffiti, lets history know who has passed this way, but they are not etched in stone. Landlords, as they arrive, mark their territory not by leaving scent on a tree, but by changing the title of the ground the tree stands on. If you assemble a chronological series of maps of a region and lay them one on top of another, like layers of paint on an old piece of furniture, you can track the changes of address. Today it is possible to pin-point any home in four short lines, a number on a road, a town, a province, a country; that’s all it takes. Beneath that bland formula, scribbled on an envelope, is the history of that plot of land.

From Jenkins, P. (2001). An acre of time. New York : Paperback. p. 69.

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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