Not long after I moved into the old farmhouse, National Geographic ran an article about mass extinctions. I remember gazing out my window and trying to take in the fact that no matter how eternal the pine forest seemed, it was the mere blink of an eye in geological terms, along with the entire span of human occupation of this landscape.
Meanwhile, the residents of a neighboring town were debating a proposed land use ordinance with strict requirements for how new construction could look. One day I was at a soccer game at the high school, which was built on land that had once been part of the same dairy farm as my house and barn. The school serves four towns, including the one that was about to vote on land use, and while I was at the game I met the woman who was pushing hardest for the new ordinance.
I agreed with some of her goals, but I also sympathized with the people who didn’t want to be constrained by her architectural preferences. The woman gave me a passionate pep talk while we watched the game, ending with an exhortation. “We have to preserve our heritage for future generations!” she cried.
With my thoughts ranging from the National Geographic article to the rusted farm machinery that dotted our hillside to the image of my own falling-down barn, I blurted out, “But our heritage is dairy farming!”
Our heritage is multifarious and ever-changing, and taking pictures is another way of preserving it.