So we’ve defined sense of place, we’ve looked at what makes it and now I want to consider how do we, on a personal level, foster an intimate relationship with the part of the world we find ourselves in.
How we exist in time and place is an ever evolving dance between us and what is around us and seeing ourselves in nature, as opposed to apart from nature, is an important aspect in building a relationship with place.
Writing about a time 12,000 years ago, Nicholas Crane notes:
“Killing an animal was a process of transformation; the cosmos was indivisible from self. People co-existed with the plants and the animals they foraged and managed. They related to the pattern of the stars, to the stutter of capercaillie and to the glare of the elk. The wild was them.”
“When talking about “humans and nature” it’s easy to forget that humans are nature. Our bodies are the closest, most intimate experience of the natural world we can possibly have.”
Without ourselves, place does not exist as a concept. Place is space which has human imbued meaning and so we are inseparable from place, just as we are inseparable from nature.
“All the places in which we find ourselves, along with the living and non-living entities within these places, are all connected…. ”
– Anja Claus
To build a relationship with place, you must get to know your place.
Be in your place. Walk, or wheel, around with a deep awareness. Get off the beaten track if you can and feel called to. Take advice from Jeff Grygny about How to Walk on the Earth. Be quiet. Slow down. Pause. Sit. Blend in.
Repeat and repeat.
Be patient, this is a long term process, there is no destination here. You are building a relationship and just as you don’t go from first date to marriage, you don’t go from first visit to being at home.
Pay attention with all of your senses, do not rely on your sight. Stop, close your eyes, pay attention to what else you can feel.
“Paradoxically, narrowing down our attention to immediate sensations opens our senses to appreciate details of things that are always there, but usually recede into the background in the press and push of our busy lives.”
Smell. Taste. Touch. Hear. Speak.
Engage with place through writing or art, read stories and look at paintings and photographs. Seek out history, myths, legends, nursery rhymes and folklore.
Eat local, seasonal food. Go foraging. If there is clean, safe to drink water do that.
Offer something of yourself – relationships are two way. Tell your hopes to the wind. Water a flower. Move a beetle out of harms way. This is how you show your place your respect, this is how you honour your place.
Listen without expectation to the trees and the birds and the stories that each little blade of grass has to offer. Think microscopic and treasure hunt for details. This is how you know a place.
Repeat and repeat for you are both, eternally, evolving.