Joel Johnson

Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type



Language, Literature and Writing


This project is not strictly ecological research, personal essay, or literary non-fiction. It is not a bildungsroman, ethnography, or an interview collection. It is not any of these in their fullness, because it is all of them. It seems fitting that a collection dedicated to the health of interconnectedness would require a cross-pollination of genres, voices, and styles.

As much as this project has been an act of writing, even more so, it has been an act of deep listening. Many of the words included here are not my own. I have been guided and challenged by those who came before me, from the prehistoric mysteries of the Hohokam, to the ecological research of Robin Wall Kimmerer, the stories of Elmer Yazzie, the words of Wendell Berry, and the wisdom of the Tohono O’odham people. And yet, as I have listened and responded, these voices have become a part of me.

The following essays do not represent an arrival. They are rather, expressions of the journey—my deep desire to know and belong to my home in Tucson, Arizona. Of course, with all journeys, the most important step is the next, and my next steps will once again draw me away from the desert I love. Yet, I will take with me these voices and lessons. When I arrive in Tacoma, Washington in the fall, I will hear the voice of Elmer Yazzie’s grandmother, instructing me to act thoughtfully, and Frances Manuel encouraging me to go for a run.

I will take these voices with me, as I develop my own. And I will know that regardless of where my feet may travel, my education in the practices of nativity is far from over.