When you think of ACRES, what comes to mind? Does the deep map fit into your vision?

Deep maps show more than two-dimensional information about places, ideas or as with ACRES, about community service. Beyond topography, place names or natural features, a deep map intensely explores a fuller way of understanding. After learning about their previous experience making deep maps and their love of the land, ACRES commissioned Auburn artists and ACRES members Bonnie Fortune and Brett Bloom to create one.

The ACRES deep map helps visualize both the parts and the whole of our work protecting local land. It shows the forest and the trees, expressing and acknowledging the variety of human motivations and both human and natural outcomes served by protecting land. Do you see yourself in the ACRES deep map? In more than one place? Do you see anything unexpected?

To create the map, Fortune and Bloom spent months asking questions and applying evaluative methods. They interviewed ACRES staff, volunteers, members and land donors on their inspiration for protecting places. They read testimonials on the website and followed ACRES on social media.

The artists then synthesized their findings into major themes, connecting dots and keeping some quotes intact. Fortune hand-sketched images of natural elements, and a few ACRES founders. Of course, you’ll also see Helen Swenson’s artist’s studio cabin at Wing Haven on the map.

Unexpectedly at the last minute, participants in an ACRES book discussion event featuring Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants,” generated rich, heart-felt feedback. People read this book as an invitation to express their natural, direct love for land.

One book discussion participant shared: “I’d been studying the plants and the science, and it was work to memorize. My belief — that I’d never be knowledgeable enough to appreciate these places — became a barrier to my enjoyment. Kimmerer’s book showed me it’s OK if I just enjoy the places and the plants, that my spiritual connection is worthy. I don’t have to study anything to love land, to be grateful. While I still enjoy some of the challenges of studying, and what I learn, I breathe better now. My whole self can participate. I can have fun.”

More feedback in hand, the team spent time editing and revising. The result overwhelms. It meanders, it overlaps, but it is by no means comprehensive. It’s wild!

It’s cool, too. Like any thriving community, you can see that ACRES’ web of support is strengthened by each member’s participation. You might call it a living, symbiotic network. One person’s contributions serve a specific purpose while also helping others express their own unique purposes.

“It makes my wife and I proud to be a part of this group in ways I had not imagined,” said a member who recently expressed his astonishment at discovering new benefits of preserving land. It was at the viewing for a friend who requested donations be made to ACRES that he learned of her love of the preserves. She and her husband walked the trails to take their minds off illness. “I had no idea what I was getting into by joining ACRES,” she said.

It’s true. The preserves and the trails provide untold benefits to communities. Our hope in sharing this Deep Map is that you, too, discover a sense of belonging in the natural world and a connection to the folks who protect land with ACRES.

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