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  • Jennifer Jewell


Dean's hand celebrating the habitat and life at the Deer Camp. Photo by Dean Kuipers, all rights reserved.


We have spoken many times on Cultivating Place about the ways in which our places are in fact beloved and cared for members of our families, and characters themselves who figure prominently in our life journeys and growth. This is what land and place are to Dean Kuipers.

Dean has studied and written about the field of environmental politics and the human-nature relationship for decades. His most recent book "The Deer Camp" (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019) is a memoir of both place and people recounting how restoring a piece of land with his father and his brothers also restored their family bonds and abiding love. He joins us this week from his home in Los Angeles to share more about the importance of habitat for the health of people and places.

In our conversation - and in the book - Dean explores how the concept, care and keeping of healthy habitat has been an integral part of his own life from as early as he can recall and he's sure far before that. As a "bookish" person from a family of hunters, he participated in observing and tending to habitat as well as reading about it from more philosophical, environmental, and spiritual perspectives from his early teens on.

"All of life is a communicative order.... Every animal or plant that grows is a loud and charismatic voice in the community, but more than anything it is an interpreter of the habitat. It's the habitat that talks to your imagination. It's the sentience of the rabbit and stone and wind that makes your mind, and without them you would be mindless. It's the habitat that speaks when you hear voices at night. What you think God is, it expresses its many-ness as habitat. What to get your head on right? Work on the habitat. "

Dean Kuipers, The Deer Camp

In this conversation, Dean and I explore the ideas of eco-psychology and the parallel concept of the mental health of humans being directly related to the health of our environments. It gets you thinking.

Join us again next week when we dive into our second episode series on nature-based memoirs – this time with Margaret Renkl, gardener, thinker, and contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. We explore the themes and messages of her newest book "Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love & Loss".



Thinking out Loud this week...


So this week, I’m thinking out loud about Nature as a Communicative Order and the ONENESS vs the MANYNESS

Dean states it outright in his work and his life lessons observed over a wide range of time and places – Nature is a Communicative Order. We talked about it as well last week with Baylor Chapman in the way our plants communicate with us – their leaves, their colors, their scents, their stature in the course of a day or a season – they are always communicating their status to us, and I suppose we are to them as well if we care to notice.

The grasses and trees and flowers, birds and bees – they too are communicating all the time – sending out sounds and signals letting us know how they are, where they are, what they need, what they like.

But Are we listening? And if we are – what is the quality of our listening?

Because an undercurrent of perhaps every conversation we have here on CP is the importance of paying attention, paying close attention and then interpreting the information we gather from this attention. How are our listening skills? What do we hear?

And what will our response be? Because once you hear the natural world communicating with you – in the garden or on the trail – it’s really not an option to stop hearing it. What do become your options are the next steps: how do you interpret this communication, and how do you respond?

The other concept from Dean's work and way in this world is the oneness versus the manyness – such a topic of the head, heart and garden.

In each season, each year, this is its own animating unity of opposites we are all one living body in this universe – plants, mammals, fungi, stars; and yet we are each ourselves – our own little perfect snowflake patterns imprinting our tiny stories onto the history of time. We are all individual gardeners – the many – and yet together we are also one community of gardeners, the cumulative effect of whose efforts impacts the many – everyday in a multiplicity of ways. I know this to be so powerfully true with each and every conversation I am privileged to be part of on this program – I know this to be true with each email and comment of support, or response or affirmation.

There are close to 20,000 of you listening to the podcast now which grounds me and humbles me.


To know that these expansive conversations on what it means to be a gardener, on the responsibility and honor of cultivating our places, on what we as gardeners LOOK LIKE and CARE ABOUT, resonate with you all means the world to me. And not only your works but your generous tax deductible contributions as well. Donations directly support the people and resources needed to record, edit, engineer produce and air a quality program on a weekly and annual basis and so THANK YOU!

If you’d like to become a monthly sustainer for Cultivating Place, GO TO THE TOP RIGHT HAND CORNER OF ANY PAGE AT CULTIVATING PLACE.COM and hit the SUPPORT BUTTON TO FIND OUT MORE. …

We simply could not grow the oneness of this Cultivating Place garden without the manyness of you.




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