The Mara Crossing


“This book is about the journey” 

           Ruth Padel’s The Mara Crossing provides intricate examples of the constant fluidity and movement in our world. The movement is not limited to human beings or animals, but dispersed through plants and our non-physical forms that we push out into the world. In the same way that Virginia Woolf believes that no truth is ever concrete, no portion of our lives, or the spaces we inhabit, is ever solidified and unchanging; therefore, we exist in a world of constant movement. She begins with the smallest element that makes up all beings: the cell. She shows that even cells are constantly migrating to different parts of our beings to heal, to morph, and to strengthen. Padel argues through a serious of poems intermixed with prose that, “Life began with migration, and millions of human beings are doing it today as humans always have done. But it’s not always voluntary” (“Poetry has a Responsibility to look at the World”) These migrations are what change us, particularly ones that are involuntary, forcing us to alter everything we know: “58m of us, pushed out of homes and jobs, losing families, land, identities” (“Poetry has a Responsibility to look at the World”). However, all migrations are the attempt to move towards something better or something vital to our survival.


            Migration is a necessity to life, because our lives demand us to be adaptive and fluid beings. Migration is defined as “a process with two elements: the journey towards a new life and the settling into it” (The Mara Crossing 3). Thus, we encounter a condition that is less than desirable and engage in a migration towards something better, or something that can make us stronger and more able to grow. Padel defines human beings using this model of the everlasting cycle of migration, stating “Human beings are both fixed and wandering, settlers and nomads. Our history is the story of the nomad giving way to the settler but when people are unsettled they have to migrate” (The Mara Crossing 2) Animals migrate based on the need for better conditions and the instinct that drives them all to survive. As human beings, ones who can think and rationalize and adapt, we are able to be fixed for certain portions of our lives, but even when our physical place may be fixed, our contents –mind, opinions, desires – are never stagnant. That fixed space that we come to exist in cannot constantly stay the same, for “home is something we make, then things change, either in ourselves or in the world, we lose home and have to go elsewhere” (The Mara Crossing 2). Therefore the spaces that we inhabit cannot suit our needs and interests forever. Padel describes her ideal effect of the interaction between herself and reader as, “when the poem, and its many possible meanings, can migrate bountifully between poet and reader. When readers bring their own associations, give their own new life, to the poem” (“Poetry has a Responsibility to look at the World”). As we map our journey through this course, this country, and our lives, we must not only search for the physical alterations of space, but also how these spaces have changed us.crossing-close-up

Interesting Links:

Footage of the Wildebeest Migrating

National Geographic’s Map of Human Migration


2 thoughts on “The Mara Crossing

  1. Cool link, Laura. Were you here when Spencer Wells was a guest lecturer for the Convocation a few years ago? He is one of the key scientists working on the Genographic Project.

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