February 10, 2003

Where I Live

image copyright Fred First

I have been snowbound, at home. It is a wonderful bondage and I know more about ice and snow, not in a generic way, but as it exists only here, so close and silent that it has become a part of me. There are birds that overwinter with us in this valley, nuthatches and juncos, and having lived with them in this pleasant hibernation, thrown into common hardship, I have had time to consider their ways and have found their nests. And I am bound to this place.

[...] For people still dependent on the soil for their sustenance, or for people whose memories tie them to those places, it betrays a numbing casualness, a utilitarian, expedient, and commercial frame of mind. It heralds a society in which it is no longer necessary for human beings to know where they live, except as those places are described and fixed by numbers. The truly difficult and lifelong task of discovering where one lives is finally disdained.

[...] If I were now to visit another country, I would ask my local companion, before I saw any museum or library, any factory or fabled town, to walk me in the country of his or her youth, to tell me the names of things and how, traditionally, they have been fitted together in a community. I would ask for the stories, the voice of memory over the land. I would ask about the history of storms there, the age of the trees, the winter color of the hills. Only then would I ask to see the museum. I would want first the sense of a real place, to know that I was not inhabiting an idea. I would want to know the lay of the land first, the real geography, and take some measure of the love of it in my companion before I stood before the painting or read works of scholarship. I would want to have something real and remembered against which I might hope to measure their truth.

From Losing Our Sense of Place
Barry Lopez February 1990

Posted by fred1st at February 10, 2003 07:30 AM | TrackBack
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