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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Language of Landscape

Air Date: Week of June 19, 2009

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Living on Earth continues its series exploring features of the American landscape. It’s based on the book “Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape,” edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney. In this installment, Pattiann Rogers explains the wetlands term tule.

Transcript

Just ahead– a blue way to fight the war on drugs– but first, we step into our occasional series, Home Ground.

[MUSIC: Boards Of Canada “Zoetrope” from “In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country” (Warp Records 2000)]

CURWOOD: Landscape exerts a hold on many of us – those blue remembered hills, the scent of that swamp, the folds of the valleys. The very names of our country’s features stir emotions. Some of its unique places are described in the book “Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape”, compiled by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney.

Today, poet Pattiann Rogers reads her description of “tule”.

ROGERS: Tule derives from the Aztec tullin or tollin, meaning any of several wetland plants, specifically bulrushes. The tules are marshy, swampy wilderness regions in California where these grasslike perennial herbs, cattails, bulrushes, and sedges are prevalent and may reach heights of fifteen to twenty feet. Tule has given its name to the small California elk, the tule elk, once nearly extinct, and to a population of the California marsh wren, the tule wren. Because of the thick, harsh wildness of the tule areas, “to be deep in the tules” means to be in trouble. “To pull freight for the tules” means to run from the law. In An Apostle of the Tules, Bret Harte describes the tules in Tassajara Valley, California, this way: “A more barren, dreary, monotonous and uninviting landscape never stretched before human eye…the breath of the haunted tules in the outlying Stockton marshes swept through the valley.”

CURWOOD: Poet Pattiann Rogers lives in Colorado. Her definition of “tule” comes from “Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape”, edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney.

 

Links

For more on the Homeground project, click here.

 

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