“We hold the need to be in these places deep in our DNA. The search is for the connections that emanate from this place, that inspire love of place, give transcendental awe at the complexities of life,” said Brett.

In 2015, Brett Bloom and his wife, Bonnie Fortune, began posting Instagram photos of their family’s ACRES hikes. Their fun, frequent images and notes reveal deep connections to place and deep thinking about land use. To better understand their perspectives, writer Teresa Vasquez and her son Miles (6) recently explored Vandolah Nature Preserve with Bonnie, Brett, and their daughters Ada (5) and Evie (2).

Early December, 2016, Bonnie Fortune and her husband, Brett Bloom, and their daughters, Ada and Evie, plan to meet my son Miles and me to hike Vandolah Nature Preserve. When Miles and I are arriving at Vandolah later than we had wanted to, I text Brett and he writes back, “Cool. We are here and picking up trash. See you soon.”

Brett (originally from Fort Wayne) and Bonnie (originally from Nashville, Tennessee) are artists and writers who greatly value connection with nature, ecology and community. They’ve been living about a year in rural Auburn, after returning from Denmark. During the five years Bonnie and Brett’s family resided in Copenhagen, Denmark, Brett taught at a fine art academy. In 2014, his collaborative Half Letter Press produced An Edge Effect: Art & Ecology in the Nordic Landscape, edited by Bonnie.

When asked to compare Danish and Hoosier approaches to the land, Bonnie cited some stark differences: “The majority of Danes are indigenous to their land… culture, language, food, etc. come from the land and sea. Most Hoosiers are not native, not indigenous to this place. Love of Indiana is very strong for many people (Brett’s family has been here six generations), but this can’t replace thousands of years of intact relationships to where one is from—to the land.”

How do we meaningfully connect with local wilderness when we don’t have indigenous, multigenerational, [and multi-faceted] ties to the land?

“In Denmark there is a conscious effort to limit sprawl…and to integrate giant green spaces into the planning of regions that also contain major cities,” Bonnie explained. “We miss walking and biking and taking public transportation everywhere in Denmark. That is why we love ACRES. It has been such a haven for us. Some ACRES sites are so satisfying in terms of the raw natural encounters one can have.”

“Part of healing ourselves will be to heal our landscapes. We are always looking for wild places. Instilling a love of nature is an important value to teach our two girls.”

Bonnie shared some of Denmark’s innovative approaches to children’s experiences in nature. “Denmark places a priority on frisk luft [fresh air]…In “outgoing Kindergarten,” city kids take a charter van every day out to the woods where they are cared for outside all day in all weather.”

About 2/3 of the way down the Vandolah trail, we have a hearty laugh at Evie’s ease outdoors: riding in her carrier on her mother’s back, Evie has closed her eyes, relaxing into a backwards arc. As we loop back through the ravine, Ada and Miles finally connect on the trail at the foot of a tree whose trunk is growing almost parallel to the ground.

Bloom and Fortune will be creating a “Deep Map” (similar to those in Bloom’s book Petro-subjectivity: Deindustrializing Our Sense of Self) of multiple aspects of ACRES lands. The map will include flora, fauna, geography, geology, historical data, ownership, usage, and visitor data, all pertinent to ACRES’ planning and stewardship.

Brett explained: “We are helping visualize all the different reasons people engage ACRES, the various things that happen when land is preserved.”