American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide



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  Pages from Stacie's Journal (and a Photo from Her Camera!)

“If you're intimate with a place, a place with whose history you're familiar, and you establish an ethical conversation with it, the implication that follows is this: the place knows you're there. It feels you. You will not be forgotten, cut off, abandoned.”Barry Lopez

Dear Dr. Tate,

As I walked this evening the look of joy on your face, when you announced your move to Denver reminded me of the idea of Prominence of Place. I do not know you well. I do not know how long you have lived in our town or where you came from. But I do know where you are going. The hope, the “giddiness” and aspirations come true were clear on your face. Although you may miss Shepherdstown, you have made a decision to move on, begin a new era and explore a new life. As I walked, I thought of your move and began to look closely at the houses that dot the streets. Each was unique. Some were brick, some had siding. There are grand colonials and quaint cottages. Yet, all houses have windows. Some were lighted and some dark, some had candles and one even had a white Christmas tree with red lights left over from the holiday season and a reminder that peace and tranquility is found within a home. But is a house, a town or a community a home? A house is a representation of a home, but a home is made of people. Home is where you are loved and where you belong. The darkened windows of a house show no life, no vitality. It is merely a structure waiting to be occupied. While you may miss Shepherdstown, and we will miss you, we will not forget you. (I will never again be able to read Emily Dickinson without thinking of the Gilligan’s Island theme song.) This will still be your home, as my parents’ house is still my home even though I now live with my children in my own home. Somewhere in Denver, there is a house waiting to be occupied and wanting to be made a home. The old will give way to the new and you will develop a new career, new friends and a new Prominence of Place. But when you come to visit, as I’m sure you will, you will be remembered and you will be welcomed. You will be coming back home.


Stacie Johnson


“The dandelion tells me when to look for the swallow, the dogtooth violet when to expect the wood-thrush and when I have found the wake-robin in bloom I know the season is fairly inaugurated.”John Burroughs

Dandelions dot my yard. A sign of spring. Why are they considered a weed and not a flower? A dandelion up close is the like the sun on a clear day. Bright and yellow with multitudes of thin fingerlike petals with frayed tips reach outward and upward. Velvety soft petals. The pistons are a slightly darker yellow, clustering closer and closer together until they meet in the center. With each gentle breeze the pistons rub against each other. Each dandelion is home to some small being. This one is no different. As I pluck him from the ground, a tiny black insect scurries to its center. A wet like shiny being, he moves fluidly and quickly out of sight. I turn my little bit of sun over. The underside of this flower is as pretty as its top. Each bottom petal is striped with a pale black, the darker color giving the appearance of sturdiness. And sturdy they are, resisting the various weed killers used to make our lawns a uniform, unchanging sea of green. Is a dandelion a weed or a rebellious, wild flower refusing to be uprooted from his place in our world? As I hold this sign of spring in my hand, his little yellow petals begin to curl. He begins to droop, his head too heavy for his weakening stem. Disconnected from earth he has begun to die and I wonder if this is our fate. The rebellious, the wildness plucked and all that’s left is a uniform, unchanging sea of people. This year, I will let my dandelions grow. 

  Stacie Johnson  is an English major at Shepherd University (Spring 2006).

"American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide" was produced by students in ENGL 446, American Transcendentalism, and ENGL 447, American Literature and the Prominence of Place: A Travel Practicum. These courses were team-taught in the Department of English at Shepherd University (formerly Shepherd College), Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in Spring 2002 by Dr. Patricia Dwyer and Dr. Linda Tate. The courses were taught again in Spring 2006 by Dr. Linda Tate. For more information on the course and the web project, visit "About This Site." © 2003 and 2006 Linda Tate.