A sense of Place : How deep can we go ?
Write a piece that can inform like a seed – an emotional state:awareness
The history is young. But no one is writing it.
In cities, unlike the cosy villages of rural Ireland, there is a risk of lives being lived in busy separation. Time poor, and caught up in a familiar and habitual frenzy of activity it can seem that there is an undercurrent of comparison, paranoia and disconnection. The capacity or the need to engage has already been undermined by an apparant social necessity of independence, individualism and economic autonomy. What do we do when these habits are no longer valid – as the proverbial rug of our economic imperatives are displaced by other, more vital life preserving necessities?
The new question for us now is, how can we become sufficient emotionally – through creating a nourishing environment? And by taking sure footed steps into a new relationship with one another and that which is our planet home, find ourselves on firmer foundations
An economic logic, driven by a paradigm of endless growth without concern for social, psychological, environmental or spiritual costs – has brought humanity to a precipice of longing for something better. Now, present circumstances drive that potential and demand our fearless imagination: there is no better time!
It starts with being inspired. To simply breathe and observe. The word “inspire“ after all has it‘s roots in this basic rhythm – we breathe in, we expand we assimilate; we breatheout. Giving and taking – a basic life-contract here on earth as part of our environment. That which is key to our life giving breathe, the oxygen, provided by trees – by the living lungs of the world. So essential, so simple, so taken for granted. What can we do to be “inspired“, what helps us to make a sigh of relief – to take a deeper breath; to pause?
Look around. Where do you live? What is it that surrounds you? How can we have an inspiring place? This will inevitably lead us to look at our environment, at the natural world that permeates our senses; and so we turn to the wildlife, the trees and clouds. Breathing deeply – we may even begin to see more clearly ; to pause. To rest.
The restful, reciprocal, elegance of that ecology of which we are part can be found in the trees ; so still and so present. That slow and steady pace of growth, of season, of deeply rooted being – is so dizzingly in contrast with the habitual and relentless thrust of city life. These are two states of being that are so out of sync that in this frisson and dissonance we can note other conditions of duality: the natural and the artificial, the polluted and the pure, maternal cosiness and city bred judgemental disdain. And the cities have been growing – all across the planet. This city-life has become the norm with its disconnect from self and nature, its opaque demands of personal freedom and economic autonomy, and its cost. The ultimate cost is the shift of awareness, and the loss of perceiving faculties.
In Ireland today, statistics record that 2,046,816 of us are living in cities, that‘s over 2 million people. All cities have their histories and a rich sense of provenance certainly in their original (can we say original?) built environment, but yet the exponential growth of past decades has come alongside often housing estates that may not yet have this sense of place. I certainly can think of many other more inspiring and safe seeming candidates than the vast suburbs of Dublin- but perhaps it is a case that I have not dug deep enough. Let us look to the various ways in which one can enhance a sense of place. Perhaps we have not yet unearthed the treasure that perhaps lies just at our feet wherever we may be.
I spent the first years being in Dublin growing an armour – coming from the rural solitude of Dingle, Co. Kerry. I was in pain, in traffic, in panic and anxiety at this skinless existence – no refuge of nature. It seemed. Harried in a vice of time; pressure, rush, meaningless busy-ness
And then the final years bedding down into numbness and loosing the fire in my belly – becoming one with the concrete – sclerotised and flat. Opaque and unspeaking. Loosing my voice. Such are the enduring dangers of the seemingly uninspired concrete suburban existence.
But how much is related to my own perception? And how much comes through a prejudice – always the countryside is going to win. I was born there. I can hear my heart there. I long to be there- just to simply be and to breathe far from the to-do list…But again. There must be other ways to not be in duality – good/bad, “this is nourishing/ this is poison“. In being so seemingly conclusive, perhaps I am foreclosing other possibilities, other boons and positives that are here, right under my nose. Am I favouring emotionality and then risking a condition of blindness? Can I widen my perception and remain more neutral and balanced in my views. A little more in the sense of being in charge and responsible and amenable to change – even of my own perception
So we can see how important it is to CARE about where we live. Otherwise, perhaps, life itself becomes less worth fighting for, less worth living. .. and a little less than it could be.
So how to bring this caring? I am thinking aloud here.
If we were to start some five simple steps ?
1. Get to know the stories of this place – ask neighbours. Find a local history society. Find old photos of this area. Find the deeper current of emotion – that is still carried in those small rivers and streams, still echoing from the watchful Dublin mountains.
2. Keep the connection with those people among whom you felt very much alive- from those nourishing places of your memory. Catch up with them. Find out what it is, what are their challenges – can your current place somehow provide perspective or ballast to their story?
3. Nourishing environments and a sense of place are inner experiences – Can you find small tokens, nourishing elements that may magically transport your consciousness to bring in that power and strength that so long has been associated with the place where you are? Perhaps it is a rock, or a photograph, or a piece of music, or, a garment or a knitted blanket… or a smell, or a painting, or …. something. A framed letter even! Connect the dots. Bring more of those places that give meaning to your life so that you are no longer cast adrift in a sea of empty signifiers and clutter of distance and trauma of separation. Find the inner unity and pick up the constant threads of meaning – they are always there ; they have to be. As in the marrow of your own bones !
4. Breathe. Imagine. Find the way to connect with the elements: Earth, Sun, Wind, Water, Air – Spirit – all of these are with you always. Lean In !
5. Place is constantly evolving but also between two points. Know where you are coming from and where you are going. If you feel lost at sea because of a present sense of lacking ground, or foundation, of where to put your feet … it could be the right moment to LEAN BACK to lean into the memory, the past, the lost threads, to gather together – conversations, places, memories, walks, ideas, plans, imaginings, stories, a to do list that was of that place and time, … it could be useful now to enrich and deepen those connections. To accept, acknowledge and invite help – in all of its forms. Help comes pouring in: as of a bright cool clear mist from the ocean, a drizzle in springtime from those self same heavens that are the firmament to us all . Here on our shared Earth. Deepen. Dive within. Find those pearls, those jewels and marvel at their enduring beauty. And then. Then, you have found your mirror. And then. Then you are finally home