To the extent that each person can feel like a naturalist, the old excitement of the untrammeled world will be regained. I offer this as a formula of re-enchantment to invigorate poetry and myth: mysterious and little know organisms live within walking distance of where you sit.
Splendor awaits in minute proportions. -
E.O. Wilson

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Importance of Place

 You can't know who you are
Until you know where you are.
                                                                                   Wendell Berry

Our first Sunday in the woods went well. We began by sitting together under our venerable apple tree at the Meeting House and lighting the chalice with a reading of Mary Oliver's poem, "Some Questions You Might Ask". 

The main idea we explored together today was that places are important in shaping who we are and how we respond to the world.  To be most wholly ourselves, both psychologically and spiritually, is to know ourselves in the context of the world we inhabit and share.  We experimented with this idea by re-membering, or putting together again images of ourselves in a childhood place that we still love.  You can do this, too:

Close your eyes.  Think of a place from your childhood that you really love and that is meaningful to you.  This can be anywhere that arises in your imagination.  It might be a room, or a place you visited on a trip.  It might be your backyard or your grandmother's house.  Try to really "see" that place, see the shapes and colors, the details.  Recall smells, textures, shapes, shadows, sounds.  Take a moment to consider how it makes you feel to recall this place.

Now using paper and crayons, pencils, pens, watercolors or whatever you have to hand, try to  map that place.  Take time to fill in details and important landmarks.  Don't worry about the drawing part, it's  the memories that are important! You can just use symbols to represent the physical objects and the recalled sensations (sights, sounds, smells, textures, tastes) that have special  meaning to you. 

Consider writing down something  about the place you have drawn.  Ask yourself (or your children),  "Why do you think you remember this place?  What meaning does it have for you today?  What do you think you learned from this place?  What do you think this place might be like now?"

Now consider choosing a natural place wherever you are with the same sense of opening to a place that you experienced in recalling a evocative childhood place. Is there a spot in your garden or a nearby park or just down the road that calls to you?  If you are away from home, is there a place that you can return to for even a day or two?  Find a place, even if it is your back step,  to which you can imagine returning and from which you can observe and learn.

If you wish, do as we did, and cut a piece of string as long as you are tall.  This is the radius of the intimate space you will circumscribe either in your mind's eyes or using found objects from your place.  Once you are located inside your circle,  sit quietly for a moment and ask yourself:  "What are my intentions for coming to this place?   What do you think this place might teach you?"  Write your answers down in a journal, if you wish.  Choose one fallen object from your place, a leaf or stone or stick and bring it home to sit on the kitchen window sill or beside your bed, or at the table where you eat to remind you that your "sacred" space awaits your next visit.

Remember, there is no gathering next Sunday, if you are joining us in person, but in the meanwhile, consider doing this week's activity and reading some of the resource materials posted to the right under July 11-25.  And check back for more on place between now and then.

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