Writer Barry Lopez inspired what I hope will be a series of books with his essay The American Geographies. It drew attention to what had been self-evident to me as geologist who emphasized surface processes: that the United States does not have a geography, but many. Indeed, given its spatial immensity, varied climate, and melange of bedrock terranes, the United States of America is not a united suite of physical geographies. Rather, each region exerted a strong influence on regional culture, at least prior to whaa we experience today: the homogenization of the "Exit Ramp Culture;" the climatic leveling associated with furnaces and air conditioners; and it long-haul food networks. "If geography is the house in which regional culture makes its home," as I wrote a few years ago, "then geology is its basement, plumbing, and wiring."
Within each of these regional geographies is a signature landform that proclaims: "I am here, and nowhere else." Quoting the first page of my first book Stone By Stone, "Kentucky has its caves, Florida its coral reefs, Louisiana its bayous, Arizona its arroyos, Washington its volcanoes, Minnesota its lakes, and New England its stone walls. The landscape would simply not be the same without them." So far, I've published two signature landform books. A third is in the works.
PHOTO BANNER: Dome of the Wilbur Cross Building, a signature on campus. Rennovated Student Union. Central campus, opposite the main entrance to the Homer Babbage Library. Oddball artwork always makes me wonder, which I suppose it it's purpose. All photos courtesy of University Communications unless otherwise noted.