This blog, this kind of writing, is what I want to do with my life. I want to be an environmental writer; it is what I am passionate about. Unfortunately, yet gratefully, Albion doesn’t have an environmental writing major, so I created my own path.
Whenever I’m given an assignment, whether it is in my fiction-writing workshop, drawing, or geology class, I tweak it so the work is about or contemplates the environment. If you’ve ever had a class with me, you start to pick up on this.
Right now, I’m taking a break from revising my short story for fiction 322. It follows this girl’s discovery of her sense of place. Sense of place doesn’t have a formal definition. But to help explain the development of my character, I’m using quotes from some of my favorite environmental writers that I read in high school—the dudes that inspired me to write about what I do and how I do it.
This is the most beautiful place on Earth. There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary.
When you have a sense of place, you’re aware of your surroundings and how you interact with it. A sense of place is cultural–it’s a deep connection to the world outside yourself; it’s home.
Most people are on the world, not in it — have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them — undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.
I don’t believe any one has the exact sense of place because it isn’t just the physical location or thing. It’s what you, the human, get from it. It is what you find on the velvet petals of wild flowers, in the grooves of coarse bark, in between the blades of grass and cracks of the sidewalk, in the canopy of trees, in music that moves inside yourself, in the glass of your favorite beer. And whatever you see helps to make who up you are. It forms your identity.
Sense of place is something I think about a lot in terms of climate change. I ask myself all the time, why did we let the earth degrade underneath our feet? And I believe, when you boil it down, it’s because most people don’t feel a sense of place. They are separate; they don’t see the purpose in being connected to their natural surroundings, and then don’t feel responsible for it or care what’s happening to it.
Civilization has so cluttered this elemental man-earth relationship with gadgets and middlemen that awareness of it is growing dim. We fancy that industry supports us, forgetting what supports industry.
If you have a strong sense and connection to something that you identify with, that is what you will care about, that is what you will act on. It’s not a bad thing to have passions in something other than nature, but a heightened awareness of the natural world might just be what we all need.
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.