Below is the breakdown of my presentation at Tellus 360 tonight for their Pecha Kucha event. I hope to have video up of this soon, but in the meantime, here are my thoughts and photos:
Good Evening, I’m Brenda Lee Sieglitz and I’m here tonight tell you about the land that I love – which is Lancaster County. As an amateur naturalist and conservation volunteer and activist I wanted to share with you places which have touched my heart in the 30 plus years I have called Lancaster County my home. I hope you will treasure these images and places, as I have, and understand more about why it is so important for us to stand up for the land that we treasure, the land of my birth.
What I actually said:
I’m Brenda Lee Sieglitz and I was born and raised in Lancaster County. I came here tonight to tell you about the beautiful places in this county and why we should protect them but after Marie’s (Cusick from WITF who presented on Fracking) presentation, I feel I need to say more about the movement against the proposed natural gas pipeline.
We know that Europeans were not the first ones here, far from it. I’ve met some amazing Native Americans over the past 6 months as I’ve gotten more involved in local conservation movements and while I call this place my home, deep down I know that the lands that we own are never truly ours.
This is more of the heritage that I know. I was raised Mennonite and grew up surrounded by 2 expansive farm fields and countless Amish neighbors and friends. Heritage is extremely important to me and ties into much of my belief that we must respect the lands where we live by protecting them and caring for them.
What I actually said:
The pipeline is proposed to go in right next to this covered bridge about ¼ mile from my home. This is the second route proposed here but Williams could choose to go anywhere they want to.
I cherish these beautiful places in Lancaster County even more by knowing their rich yet destructive heritage. This photo was taken by a friend and photographer David Jones who has been working tirelessly to document Native American artifacts and heritage sites found here in the county along with Robin Maguire.
What I actually said: It is important to protect Native American heritage sites, like this one which was taken by David Jones who is here tonight.
I’ve seen sunsets all over the western hemisphere and I still believe some of the most vivid colors that I’ve seen on this earth are right here. Even in the cold of winter, such as a night like this, these colors remind me not only of the pristine farmland over which I see these sunsets, but of the poor air quality which distorts my view.
Blame lies not with 1 thing, but in a combination of failures to protect the very air we breathe: pesticides, chemicals, emissions – I use them all in my everyday life but since learning more about the detrimental health of our air quality, I try to use a little less energy, to conserve a little bit more of these beautiful colors of our sunsets.
Conservation land, such as Tucquan Glen, are the places where I go to escape. I’ve gone to places like this to fall in love, to let go, to grieve and to just breathe. I once lost my very breathe I couldn’t find it because it was so wrapped up in the anxiety of a horrible situation. When I stepped outside, amongst the woods, the vice around my neck broke off, the fresh air gave me back a bit of life.
There is rebirth every single spring and I often feel that my body is tied to that. I come out of hibernation, a seasonal depression, and I see mother earth come to life. She shines in these bluebell flowers and in the nearly fluorescent green that awakens the plants and trees. Yet every spring, something fails to come to life.
The waters overflow the unkempt banks that have been degraded because of invasive species choking out the life of native plants, and life cannot survive near fields where no trees stabilize the banks of swollen creeks. It is all washed away, down our creeks, into our great Susquehanna River, and a tide is carried with sediment so laden with toxins that it soaks up all the oxygen in the Chesapeake Bay.
Monoliths such as Chiques Rock, have stood strong even as trains rumbled by and the river flooded more times than we can imagine. I don’t see this as insurmountable. Little changes, every day, make a difference in shaping the outcome of the health and vitality of the lands of Lancaster County.
We often don’t know where to begin. The outlook is foggy and in front of us are people who don’t believe in climate change, companies who propose ghastly corporate projects that will literally rip through land, money that simply isn’t available, and people who can’t ever find the time to pick up their own trash.
It doesn’t matter where you stand, what your viewpoint is, whether you believe in evolution or creation, or climate change or not. If you live here, most likely, you are here because you love the land and the people and the community. As such, it is up to us to invest in little changes to fund conservation projects, to volunteer to maintain a trail, to tell people about the majestic beauty that deserves our attention.
This is a few miles from here where I was born and raised. It is near a place where loved ones are buried, where I was baptized. These memories solidify in me a maternal need to protect the ones I love, which for me, includes the lands that made me who I am today. I want generations to know the beauty of what I see here today.
I am starting to take the time to learn about all that encompasses this great land. What I actually said: This guy freaks me out! But I believe we need to become aware of all living things and about things unseen. Once we know more about these creatures, the land and the water, we know how best to protect it.
Some things need to be protected, not exploited. I say that not only for myself, but for this land. It seems easier for us to hurt the land because it’s not a person. It doesn’t fight back, or so we think. But it does. There is a continuum of hurt when become lazy in our conservation efforts. And that laziness hurts us all. We are destroying our safe and sacred places faster than we are protecting them.
I get sad because it is in these places that I was made whole again. When I couldn’t step inside a church because it hurt too badly, I stepped outside and I found a a creation I could believe in. A place where I could feel that there is something greater than myself. When these places are taken away or altered from their natural state I lose that sense of connection.
I want to be able to find respite and shelter and food right here. I want to be self-sufficient, sustaining, and it cannot be done on my own. We all need someone by our side to help us in the causes we believe in. And I need you. I need you to help me protect what is so sacred to me; a place that I call home, a place that has given me love, and protection and healing.
There are simple things you can do: the first? I want you to get outside. There are rail trails, hiking trails, parks, rivers, streams, lakes, ponds – I want you to find a place where you feel closer to nature than you ever have. Whether it’s here in Lancaster county or somewhere else. There’s so many places. You need to find your own nature church.
Park yourself there. Let yourself breathe. Take in a sunset. Bring a lunch. Pick up the trash you find along the way. Invest a bit of your heart, your mind and your soul into your surroundings. Call this place your home. Make it a place you vow to return to, a place that brings you joy, where you can find some healing.
Find a way to protect it. Volunteer with the Lancaster County Conservancy, take the Pennsylvania Master Naturalist Course, go to a County Parks program, stand up for a cause like Lancaster Against Pipelines, donate some money or invest some time in bringing these places back to their natural states. Help them recover, as you find yourself recovering amongst their beauty.
It takes one person, one step, one moment to help. All of us taking these steps can help shape the land into the place where we find comfort and respite. In turn, it gives our precious natural surroundings the ability heal. And in that? I think you’ll find yourself healed as well.