Leaving Home, Coming Home
Okay folks. I'm on my way outta here, headed to the still waters. If you're still coming around, which obviously you must be if your reading this, you might snoop around in the archives following this little ditty I submitted in a flailing effort to have it count as one of my four mandatory 'outside class' assignments. I went through the archives hastily and tried to extract those that spoke in some way about 'sense of place'. They are appended in the 'read more about...' at the end of this little bit below. Many of them have images from last summer which I enjoyed seeing again. Browse around, leave me some words to come back to in a few days, 'cause I'm sure I'll have some for you! Back in the saddle Thursday afternoon, bruised and sore and bug-bit with stories to tell.
Maps. I can sit with a map, even of some place that I have never been and will never go, and lose myself in its features and odd place names, imagining what it would be like to be just there, on that mountain top, or down below it in the broad floodplain of a meandering creek. But given a choice, give me a map of a place I know, or have known. Sit me down with a topo of Grayson Highlands State Park where I have not been for years and the memory of the topography finds a resonance in memory for lived moments in just those places between contour lines, and I am reliving time anchored to place.
People these days largely ignore their local geographies beyond the traffic lights and driveways it takes to get them between home, the mall, and work. Given the increasingly frenetic pace of our lives and the progressive pragmatic ugliness of our cities and highways, perhaps it is not unexpected that for so many of us, it is easier to just become numb to the physical setting of where we live. Home, office, mall. Put them anywhere. It doesn't matter. If we do leave home to explore other places, we expect them to dazzle us, entertain us, shock us with theme-park colors and thrills. It's okay if there are 'scenic vistas' along the way, but we are not part of them, those mountains there in the distance like the prop of a diorama. We are nostalgic for the virgin wilderness of our fathers, but only glance at the memory from a distance in a voyeuristic sort of way.
For almost a year, I have been celebrating place. For reasons not entirely known, I have felt compelled to declare what life is like in this place, with these hills and this forest and these two creeks, to chronicle the changes through seasons and birthdays and summer storms and snow. I am growing a collection of images in words and pixels called Fragments from Floyd. It is a journal, and so contains many odd bits of thought and observation and vision. I would submit to you, as an illustration of my own peculiar understanding of place, the following links to archived selections. Taken together as a small sample, they may tell the reader who I am and how I am related to this wonderful place I am blessed to live. I feel compelled to do this, even if not eloquently or fully, somehow in the way of an apology for all those who do not know where they live.
This excerpt from writer Barry Lopez, expresses my hope in this effort I enter each day...
If I were now to visit another country, I would ask my local companion, before I saw any museum of library, and 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 he history of storms there, the age at 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.
Barry Lopez, February 1990 Teacher Magazine
Please consider this sample of journal entries as a rough sketch of one man's place in the world, in a hidden valley of a remote part of a small Appalachian county. They are arranged roughly in reverse chronological order.