These canals are crisscrossed all through the farmlands here, and were often a welcome relief along the walks in the dead of winter because they brought a sensation of life. One day when walking with my partner he told me that the area used to be filled with lakes. The region Hochkamp is a part of is called Mecklenburgische Seenplatte, Seenplatte translating as “platter of lakes”. So it’s not surprising to hear there were lakes within close vicinity of the village. And once I knew this I could see it- there are big dips and valleys where the water would’ve been.
I spoke with Mama about it later (one of a series of talks I now fondly think of as ‘local knowledge story time’) and she told me the area was drained to turn the land into useable space for agriculture. The ditchs were dug, the pipes were put in, and the water was drained away. This is a process that started in the early 1900s (perhaps even earlier) and is called melioration (same word in Deutsch) meaning “the act of improving or the state of being improved”. This interests me because it implies an objective or universal improvement, when in fact, in this case, the landscape was altered to improve the livelihood of humans in the area. I can’t say whether or not it improves the land itself in any way, this is beyond my area of knowledge. It does highlight that our relationship to place will always be through a subjective human lens, and that perhaps this cannot ever be truly separated from our needs? In this way the landscape, whether it be rural or urban, will always be shaped through human interaction and probably more so than any other species.