Remembered Landscapes

In my class on religion and popular culture, we explore the notion of sacred space. Often, I’ll show my students a few very short clips from Ken Burns’ The National Parks: America’s Best Idea: this one on Native American notions of sacredness, with Gerard Baker; this one on the human connection to nature, with Dayton Duncan; this one on the intimacy and immensity of time, with William Cronon; and this one on the parks as places of love, with Terry Tempest Williams.

My students are drawn powerfully to all four speakers — especially to Williams and her moving images of the Tetons as “remembered landscapes.” I thought of her words this week as I traveled through my own home terrain, re-familiarizing myself with the remembered landscapes of my birthplace in western New York and my grandparents’ home in western Pennsylvania. I have missed these places, this knowing and being known.

The trip also made new memories: gorgeous views of the Pittsburgh skyline and a wonderful meal of crispy fish tacos and field greens at Kaya, in the city’s Strip District. These are now part of my remembered landscapes, and my children’s.

western new york sunset

Duquesne Incline

pittsburgh kaya

About Tom Simpson

Tom Simpson teaches religion, ethics, philosophy, and human rights at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH. He is the author of *American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, 1867-1940* (University of North Carolina Press, 2016) and nonfiction essays about Bosnia for the Canadian literary magazine *Numero Cinq*. Born in 1975 in Olean, NY, he earned the Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Virginia, where he specialized in American religious history. He writes, teaches, and lectures about religion in America, popular culture, Mormonism, and Bosnia. He lives in Exeter with his partner, Alexis Simpson, and their two children.
This entry was posted in Autobiography / Memoir, Fatherhood, Photography, Poetry, Religion and Spirituality, Teaching, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Remembered Landscapes

  1. Rick Simpson says:

    Fine essay and photos, Tom–thanks. Dad

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