Yearning for the Land
A Search for Homeland in Scotland and America
By John W. Simpson
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375725470, 304pp.)
Publication Date: October 14, 2003
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A beautiful, meditative memoir mixed with travel and history, this unique book is the story of one American’s search for a deeper connection to the land. Drawn by a sense that he is missing a critical link to his home in suburban Ohio, John W. Simpson heads for rural Scotland, where he encounters his own family history as well as estate owners and tenant farmers who have centuries-long ties to their land.
As he travels, he meditates on the legacy of the great 19th century conservationist John Muir, who himself developed a complex love of the land when he immigrated from Scotland’s North Sea coast to the fields and forests of Wisconsin. As Simpson physically retraces Muir’s journey he wonders what sense of belonging Muir found on the frontier that modern America, with its strip malls and housing developments, has forgotten. A fascinating story of changing perceptions and values from the Old World to the New, Yearning for the Land shows us just how much roots matter—both in our own lives, and in the many ways time and history, landscape and community are tightly intertwined.
John Warfield Simpson is a graduate of Ohio State University, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and Duke University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Since 1983 he has taught at Ohio State, where he is currently Professor of Landscape Architecture and Natural Resources. In 2001 he was Visiting Research Scholar at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland. He is the author of Visions of Paradise: Glimpses of Our Landscape’s Legacy and of many articles. He lives with his wife and children in Upper Arlington, Ohio.
“Delightful. . . . An immensely readable, personal, questioning, informative book.” –Journal of the John Muir Trust
“An eloquent story of deep ties to true landscapes and the ways we bless and mark them.” –Ellen Meloy, author of Anthropology of Turquoise
“John Simpson has taken the concept of place and turned it inside out and upside down and backwards. A thorough, intriguing read.” —John Hanson Mitchell, author of Walking Towards Walden and Following the Sun
“A ruminative walk across the two regions that together created a man who helped create the modern United States.... With grace and tact [Simpson] introduces us to the people who live their now—their work, their dreams, their fears, their character.” —Preservation Magazine