Attending to Body and Earth in Distress
by Ranae Lenor Hanson
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Pub Date 11 May 2021 | Archive Date 20 May 2021
University of Minnesota Press, Univ Of Minnesota Press
A personal health crisis, stories from environmental refugees, and our climate in danger prompt a meditation on intimate connections between the health of the body and the health of the ecosystem
The body of the earth, beset by a climate in crisis, experiences drought much like the human body experiences thirst, as Ranae Lenor Hanson’s body did as a warning sign of the disease that would change her life: Type 1 diabetes. What if we tended to an ailing ecosystem just as Hanson learned to care for herself in the throes of a chronic medical condition. This is the possibility explored in a work that is at once a memoir of illness and health, a contemplation of the surrounding natural world in distress, and a reflection on the ways these come together in personal, local, and global opportunities for healing.
Beginning with memories from a childhood nurtured among the waters of Minnesota, Watershed follows the streams and tributaries that connect us to our world and to each other, as revealed in the life stories of Hanson’s students, Minnesotans driven from their faraway homelands by climate disruption. The book’s currents carry us to threatened mangrove swamps in Saudi Arabia, to drought-stricken Ethiopia, to rocks bearing ancient messages above crooked rivers in northern Minnesota, to a diabetic crisis in an ICU bed at a St. Paul hospital. With the benefit of gentle insight and a broad worldview, Hanson encourages us at every turn to find our own way, to discover how the health of our bodies and the health of the world they inhabit are inextricably linked and how attending, and tending, to their shared distress can lead to a genuine, grounded wellbeing.
When, in the grip of a global pandemic, humans drastically change their behavior to preserve human life, we also see how the earth breathes more freely as a result. In light of that lesson, Watershed helps us to consider our place and our part in the health and healing of the world around us.