Nature Meditation #11 – Dwelling in Our Place

“For each home ground we need new maps, living maps, stories and poems, photographs and paintings, essays and songs. We need to know where we are, so that we may dwell in our place with a full heart.”
Scott Russell Sanders, “Buckeye”

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”  – Marcel Proust, “Remembrance of Things Past”

I’m passionate about Sense of Place. There are beautiful places everywhere. There are places worth “saving” everywhere. The focus of conservation and preservation efforts so often is on Someplace Else – The Rainforests of South America, the Red Woods, the Whales, the Birds of Hawaii.

Fact is, the earth has changed mightily over the eons. Fact is, nothing stays the same for long, and every living creature affects the environment they live in.

But Sanders, in the above quote, is talking about “dwelling in our place with a full heart.” To me, this means loving, cherishing, the place where we are. And Proust is talking about looking at the place where you dwell with new eyes.

Not all of us live where we’d like to live. It is human nature to always want what we don’t have, and to believe that the ‘pasture is greener’ someplace else. Fact is, we may never live anywhere else. Fact is, we really only have today, because tomorrow is unknown. Fact is, it is where we are NOW that is important.

So how do we “dwell with a full heart”? We develop a Sense of Place.

In 2001, I developed a work book designed to help anyone, wherever they are, learn about the place where they live. Hopefully, after that experience  – that relationship-building opportunity – the reader will care about the place where they live. They will work to help keep the water clean, the air pure, and the land unpolluted. And they will see that as humans, we of all species, must be responsible caretakers. If humans don’t do it, what will?

It all begins with the place where you are. A popular saying we’ve all heard is “Bloom where you are planted.” Some of us take it to heart, and try our hardest to be part of the place where we live. Maybe we volunteer, maybe we meet our neighbors, maybe we donate to charity. But there is another way as well.

Find your sense of place. That means learning about the place where you live. And not just the natural elements, although they are a big part of it. It also means the human history.

My workbook  begins with a section on geography. Where is the place you live in relationship to the rest of the world? Do you know the GPS coordinates, the latitude and longitude? Do you know what type of ecosystem you live in? Do you know where the place you live falls on the vegetation growth charts? How much rain do you typically receive each year? What is your general climate? How many sunny days per year do you average? These are questions of Geography.

And there is so much more to developing a Sense of Place, to Dwelling with a Full Heart and seeing with New Eyes. I hope you’ll take some time this week to learn the answers to the above questions. Then, stay tuned for more about the process on Monday Meditations.

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