Notes From My Knapsack 1-12-17
This village of ours
Winter strips away all the externals of nature, and even of culture to some degree, and leaves us with the bare bones.
Those bones may be wrapped in coats and scarves of snow and icicles, but there's a sparseness and openness to the terrain, the neighborhoods, the homes when all the leaves are gone and vantage points are all the more commanding, from above or below.
This village of ours sits on a geologic bench of sorts, above the creek and below the ridgetops. Thousands of years ago, the receding glacier edge crept north and west, while floodwaters carried outwashes of gravel and occasional boulders of granite down into the ancient rocky valleys, filling them with debris.
The first surge of deposition was followed by a long, chilly season of drainage, with the water pooling and then pouring out, forming Black Hand Gorge to our far east, and bending around into a new draining to our west and south. What we call Raccoon Creek today, once the Raccoon Fork of the Licking River, simply cut a new course through the same valley from west to east, just continuing on to the east a little farther with the Licking River now finding an outflow beyond the gorge and into the Muskingum River, on into the Ohio and the Mississippi all in good time.
Those names came later, of course. The first human occupants of this village of ours came just after some 12,000 years ago, as best as science can tell. The classic fluted projectile point, or spear tip (awaiting a hardwood shaft to be hafted upon) of the Paleoindian period has been found within the boundaries of today's Granville, and not far away, south of Heath, a butchering site for a mastodon left marks on bones of flint tools.
For many generations, thousands of years, people lived and developed their culture while raising their young (not always in that order) here in what today is this village of ours. Scattered traveling bands became seasonal settlements which turned from simple gathering to sophisticated tending of the landscape. The archaeological record shows signs of early agriculture in this region some two thousand years back, the selection of seeds and the care of their harvest and storage showing that a modest society was becoming a cultural force, with uniform units of measure, the weaving of fabrics, the observation and anticipation of the movements of the heavens.
This village of ours has a proud history back to 1802 and 1805, in writing and records, but the landscape shows in softer, subtle symbols how much was recorded and passed down from eras far before the Welsh and New England settlers. As the moon comes to full in this new year, and you see the hilltops and valleys in new contrasts around you, I'd invite you to look more closely at this village of ours, which we have as a gift, a trust from ages past, and which we will need to care for more gently in years to come.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about what you value about this village at email@example.com or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.