Saturday, January 26, 2013

Recognizing Your Sense of Place

The catalogs have started coming in the mail, shaking me out of those feelings of frozen isolation. They remind me that, indeed, spring is coming. It may not be here as soon as I want it to be, but the soil I like to run through my fingers is sleeping and preparing itself for me. The yard that I have grown to love so deeply because it is MY yard is still there. Winter makes me feel off kilter sometimes, but when I remind myself that the place is as it should be and that it is growing and changing with me, I feel more stable. I now have those gardening catalogs to help remind me to hang on to that gardener identity and remember what is important to me during the ups and downs of the season.

I am honestly tired of looking out the windows of my home to see the evergreens holding their needles tightly and the rhododendrons curling their flat leaves into long, thin finger like protuberances. I am tired of gray and snow. I feel done with the smell of cold. (Do you too know that feeling that gets into your nose and tickles it until you swear that cold does have an odor?) On a snow day home from school two weeks ago I lit a fire in my fireplace and kept it blazing all day long, with a blanket on the recliner, a cat on my feet and computer in my lap. For once, I was glad that my MacBook tends to run hot. Hot coffee is extra appreciated when you wake up and the thermometer reads -2 degrees fahrenheit. But, it's those catalogs -- no, it's the thought of those catalogs -- that really helps me get through it all.

Last week, I bought some frost damaged plans at Home Depot. Large, beautiful plants were on sale for $5. With a pretty good green thumb, I knew that a little pruning was all that was necessary to turn them right. I brought the greenery -- beautiful symbolic greenery -- home and trimmed it up. I have kept the new plants isolated from my old for about a week now to make sure I don't have any bugs or diseases that can contaminate the rest. I was right. The plants are luscious. (Is that the right word?) I'm heading back to Home Depot for some more. This time, I hope to gather up some $5 plants to decorate my school library. My assistant suggested adding plants for a more homey feel and she's right, that's exactly what this place is missing.

I have lived in three houses in my lifetime. I have lived in two dorm rooms and four apartments. They became "home" as soon as I hung a picture on the wall and as soon as I brought a plant into the space. That's what makes me feel at home. I like homes with views of greenery. It can be a public park or a manicured yard. I like work spaces with books and art. My office must have a picture of flowers. I love flowers because they make me feel grounded. They make me feel like me. I recognize that wherever I am, whatever time of year it is, I can focus on that feeling of being connected to a space. Then, I know I am alright.

It is when I un-tether from our surroundings that I feel out of sorts. I try to bring my sense of place with me. Where are those flowers around here? Where is the art work and books? Where are the signs of nature mixing with man's hand that remind me of communities and my role? I have done so much reading, thinking and writing about sense of place that I now very consciously seek it. I recognize it wherever I go. I can find it whenever I need it. I seek to mold the idea of my surroundings to what I need it to be. Recognizing my sense of place makes me feel part of something bigger. It ties me to the history and communities to which I have dedicated my life as an archivist and information professional.

I wonder...What do you recognize as integral to your own sense of place? Do you have times that you feel detached and out of sorts? Does paying more attention to your surroundings help you shake the winter doldrums too? 


  1. Oh yes, you have really got MY number with this post. Winter is tough to get through. Making little vignettes with pottery, interesting wood, nests, and other things I have brought in from outside can lighten the mood. Fresh flowers sometimes help. This winter I made several arrangements using branches of evergreens around the yard: pine, fir, holly, and rhododendron. The rhododendrons are the best! The leaves open up and they add a lot of oomph to those indoor arrangements. Long lasting too!

  2. We too have been looking seed catalogs and planning the spring & summer garden. Reminds me of when I was a kid looking at the Sears toy catalog in August when it came out... It's hard to imagine right now when its about 10 degrees outside and the pond is frozen enough for ice-fishing, but in less than two months it will be spring.