31 Days of A Sense of Place :: Day 26 ~ Home is everything you can walk to

A sense of place(2)Welcome to Day 26 of 31 Days of A Sense of Place.

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“Home is everything you can walk to.” ― Rebecca Solnit, Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics

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In choosing our last two houses, I looked for places that were walkable: within a 20-minute walk (1 mile for me) of places I wanted to go, preferably along a sidewalk or other safe route.

(For more on walkable community, see links at bottom of post.)

In mid-coast Maine, I could walk — within 20 minutes — to the church whose service I attended on Wednesday mornings, the public library, the wonderful coffee shop where I met friends several times per week, most of the shops in town, the police dept., the post office, the bank, restaurants and ice cream shops, a grocery store, a drug store, the river, and some friends’ houses.

Bathat8amBath29Aug2014 bathfrontstreetsidewalksnowdec2008

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In central NH I can walk — within 20 minutes — to a nature trail, the public library, some shops, five local restaurants, an ice cream shop, and the two chain eateries we have in town, the almost-year-’round farm stand, the farmers’ market and town green, the college (with library, gym, pool, adult ed classes), the elementary school, the fire dept. and the police dept., a couple of churches, and some friends’ houses.

In 30 minutes, I can get to the large grocery store, the liquor store, the health food co-op, the bank, my hair salon, the hardware store, the post office, another restaurant or two, the hospital and medical offices, and other shops.

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My current hometown – the walk, made much better with a sidewalk constructed a couple of years ago:

nlwalkinghome14oct2010
(Oct. 2010 – pre-sidewalk)

walkingtoElliesPleasantStinsnow23Dec2011 walkingtolibraryUPStruck2Jan2013 walkingtolibrary2Jan2013

(Oct. 2015 - with sidewalk!)
(Oct. 2015 – with sidewalk!)

PleasantStinlateafternoonsunKCCTrail10Jan2015

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My current hometown – the marsh and pond (2009 to 2015); I love to watch it change:

Oct. 2009
Oct. 2009
Oct. 2009
Oct. 2009
April 2010
April 2010
June 2010
June 2010
Sept 2010
Sept 2010
Sept 2010
Sept 2010
Oct 2010
Oct 2010
Oct 2010
Oct 2010
May 2011
May 2011
July 2011
July 2011
Sept 2011
Sept 2011
Dec. 2011
Dec. 2011
Jan 2012
Jan 2012
May 2012
May 2012
Jan 2013
Jan 2013

 

Feb. 2014
Feb. 2014
Nov. 2014
Nov. 2014
winterberry, Nov. 2014
winterberry, Nov. 2014
Jan. 2015
Jan. 2015
Oct 2015
Oct 2015

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My current hometown – in town; so much to do and see:

nlwalkpumpkinsandmums17oct2009 nlwalknltownhall17oct2009 nltreesnow24feb2010 PeterChristiansporchsnow25Dec2011 walkingtolibraryTMLfront2Jan2013 Grazeoutside3Aug2013 ArtisanstreelightsNL2Aug2014 springledgesalesshed24Dec2014 moresmalldogsStAsDogShow4July2015 remembering911innewlondonnh11Sept2013 fungiintreeonMainStNewLondonNH16Oct2015 scillatreetrunkNewLondonNH25April2015 TuckersrestaurantNewLondonNH16Oct2015 farmersmarket27July2011redgreenmaplehelicoptersMainStNewLondonNH16Oct2015

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I appreciate being able to walk most places. It means that I put gas in my car about once a month and that I get a hefty dose of regular exercise and fresh air most weeks.

I appreciate the new sidewalk, alongside the marsh; sometimes I spot a hawk, pileated woodpecker, songbirds, a heron, ducks, frogs, tadpoles, as I walk by. Neighbours and friends beep and wave at me as they pass in cars or bicycles. I notice the trash along the road, how many trees in the marsh have died since we moved here, the shrubs in bloom and berry, the water level in the little pond. Even when I don’t notice much of anything, I’m aware of the opportunity I have to step out the door and into this spacious environment.

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For me, a community’s walkability is a major benefit. Walking the same route, week in, week out, roots us to a place by regularity, routine, familiarity. We move slow enough to see, hear, smell, and touch our natural surroundings, while at the same time traveling under our own power to see people and get things done.

After six years, I am just starting to get to know this part of the earth, a few thousand feet at a time.

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” … when you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.” ― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

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More on walkable communities

What is Walkability and Why Is It So Cool? at Walkable Communities is a good intro to the ideas, design elements, benefits of an urban walkable community; the five design elements they list are “Destination Accessibility (walking scale), Diversity (mix of uses), Density (sufficient people so that costs are contained), Design, Distance to Transit, and Parking (better managed). Although walking calls for many details (street connectivity and low vehicle speeds are great places to start), we emphasize that walking will not come by building more sidewalks and crossings. Walkability calls for holistic and complete town making.” Also “How Do I Know If I Have A Walkable Community?”

Good 4-pp PDF checklist to determine how walkable your community is, from the now-defunct Partnership for a Walkable America.

Walk Friendly Communities is a national (U.S.) recognition program developed to encourage towns and cities across the U.S. to establish or recommit to a high priority for supporting safer walking environments. Looks at rails to trails projects, too. (It’s sponsored by FedEx and the Federal Highway Administration, not exactly well-known proponents of walking, so take it for what it’s worth.) Highest ranked communities include Seattle, Ann Arbor, Arlington, VA (America’s “most walkable suburb,” by some standards), Boulder and Denver, CO, Charlottesville, VA, Chicago, Evanston IL, Corvallis and Eugene, OR, Hoboken, NJ, Minneapolis, Somerville, MA,   San Francisco and Santa Barbara, and Washington, DC.

10 most walkable cities for retirees (MarketWatch, March 2013): Berkeley, Burbank, Torrance, Pasadena, CA; Miami and Hialeah, FL; Arlington and Alexandria, VA; Portland, ME; Pittsburgh, PA.

List of most walkable cities in the U.S., Canada, and Australia (NYC is #1, Boston is #3). This is the criteria they use to score cities.

“The Most Walkable Cities and How Some Are Making Strides” in Governing Magazine (Dec. 2013) talks about cities’ policy and planning efforts for increasing walking as a means of commuting, and it lists cities (of 100,000 people or more) with the highest share of residents who walk to work (from about 21% to about 11% of commuters): Cambridge and Boston, MA, Columbia, SC, Berkeley, CA, Ann Arbor, Provo, UT, Washington, DC, New Haven, CT, Syracuse, NY, and Providence, RI.

12 cities where you can live affordably in a walkable neighborhood, including Baltimore, Richmond, VA, Buffalo and Rochester, NY, Dallas, et al. (Sept. 2014).

Walkable and Livable Communities Institute: This group, based on Port Townsend, WA, provides technical assistance to communities across the U.S. to help them create a more walkable public space. Or check out Steps To A Walkable Community to take matters into your own hands with signs and other tactics to encourage walking.

Of course, Wikipedia has something to say about Walkability, too.

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Thanks for checking in. Be sure to see what the other 31 Dayers are writing about.

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a sense of place(1)This project is a bit like Wallace Stevens’ poem Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird, in that I’m writing about a sense of place from vantage points that may not obviously connect with each other. I’m not going to attempt to tie them together. In the end, these 31 days of looking at a sense of place may overlap, contradict, form a whole, or collapse like a flan in a cupboard, as Eddie Izzard would say. That remains to be seen. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

31 Days of A Sense of Place :: Day 25 ~ Field Trip to The High Line

A sense of place(2)Welcome to Day 25 of 31 Days of A Sense of Place. Sundays are devoted to field trips, relaxing time spent in one spot so we can visually take in its singular sense of place.

Today, it’s The High Line in New York City, a 1.45-mile-long elevated park on the west side of lower Manhattan, reclaiming an old freight rail line from Gansevoort Street through Chelsea to 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues (map here). It opened in 2009, with additional phases opening in 2011 and 2014. There are 300+ species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees planted in the park, with benches and risers to rest on, artwork and graffiti — as well as interesting architecture and the Hudson River — to gaze upon, and docents to provide information. It’s one of my favourite destinations in the city now.

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I’ve walked the High Line in March, June, and November. I imagine that in the middle of the summer it’s quite crowded, but when I’ve been there, it’s been perfectly peopled: not too many, but enough to keep it from feeling deserted. It feels to me like an escape, a secret, nostalgic world overlooking an anxious, vibrant, modern urban landscape, slightly at a distance from ordinary concerns and schedules. Whereas on most sidewalks in New York, people rush madly headlong (I do), on the High Line most people stroll, like Parisians along the Seine (I imagine). Like other gardens open to the public, it’s heterotopic: time slows down here, there is a sense of spaciousness in this narrow, linear park, a feeling of being between worlds, inhabiting a place that’s not quite real, that doesn’t connect smoothly with the places around it — all the more so because it is elevated, must be reached by climbing stairs or taking an elevator, overlooks but doesn’t intersect with the busy avenues and waterway.

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Here’s a sense of the layout and span:

HighLinenear30thStNYC23March2013 whitecrocuslawnwithartandgraffitiinrainHighLineNYC29March2014 HighLinewithtrackinrainHighLineNYC29March2014 plantsandfingersbillboardonHighline30June2012 viewofHighLinebNYC23March2013viewofHighLineNYC23March2013 strangersontheHighline30June2012lookingoutover10thAvefromHighLineNYC23March2013

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And of the art, advertising, architecture, and other things to look at:

veryrichorverysmalladfromHighLineNYC23March2013 Highlinewithfingersbillboard30June2012 wavybuildingalongHighLineNYC23March2013 cartooncatHighLineNYC29March2014 redbudandbuildingsHighLineNYC29March2014 artordecrepitudealongHighLineNYC23March2013 artalongHighLineNYC23March2013 artandgraffitialongHighLineNYC23March2013 seatingplatformandviewofHighLineNYC23March2013yogaclassatEquinoxalongHighLineNYC23March2013 goodmusicalongHighLineNYC23March2013 architectureonHighLineNYC23March2013 BustedsculptureColinPowellHighLine29March2014

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Of course, train tracks:

HighLinewithgrassesHighLineNYC29March2014 trackswithshrubberyHighLineNYC29March2014shrubberygrassestracksbuildingsHighLineNYC29March2014

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And the plantings:

orangetwigshrubsHighLineNYC23March2013 crocuscloserHighLineNYC29March2014 crocusesingravelHighLineNYC29March2014 pussywillowswithraindropsHighLineNYC29March2014 witchhazelwiderviewHighLineNYC29March2014 oregongrapeonHighLineNYC23March2013 cedarsandbuildingsalongHighLineNYC23March2013 scillafloweronHighLineNYC23March2013
redbudtreeinbloomagainstbrickHighLineNYC29March2014redbudinbloomcloserHighLineNYC29March2014 Highlinegrasses30June2012

Highlineechinaceaandgrasses30June2012*

Thanks for checking in. Be sure to see what the other 31 Dayers are writing about.a sense of place(1)This project is a bit like Wallace Stevens’ poem Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird, in that I’m writing about a sense of place from vantage points that may not obviously connect with each other. I’m not going to attempt to tie them together. In the end, these 31 days of looking at a sense of place may overlap, contradict, form a whole, or collapse like a flan in a cupboard, as Eddie Izzard would say. That remains to be seen. Thanks for stopping by.

31 Days of A Sense of Place :: Day 24 ~ Flora. Fauna. Food. Friends.

A sense of place(2)Welcome to Day 24 of 31 Days of A Sense of Place.

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What gives me the strongest sense of place is having friends, good friends, friends who will walk into your house without knocking, friends with whom you break bread (and crack a bottle of wine) once or twice a week or more, friends you see daily or at least weekly and are glad of the chance most of the time. Friends with whom talking about art, culture, politics, religion, ideas, books, animals, plants, philosophy, ways of being, ways of living, come naturally and easily, or haltingly and awkwardly. And especially friends who, like me, are almost ecstatic to be outside, gardening, hiking, walking, swimming, snowshoeing and skiing, doing art, birding, dining al fresco, bicycling, feeling part of their geographic, climatologic, topographic here and now place.

I mean, seriously? Great food.

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I feel fortunate to have such friends in the place where I live now. One is moving away next month, which is dreadful and gut-wrenching for those she’s leaving. I might be moving away, and I wonder how I could ever find such loved and valued companions again. Not every place offers these kinds of friends, this kind of conversation, this kind of community, this willingness and desire to share food, wine, place, space, homes, evenings, mornings, walks, dogs, campfires, ideas, hugs.

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And did I mention their gardens? Some wild, some tame, some new and flourishing, some rampant after years of tending and neglect, some experimental, some artful, all beautiful and touched by enthusiasm and devotion. (Pause cursor for captions, click on any for larger view.)

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Friends, and their places, give me a sense of place.

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Thanks for checking in. Be sure to see what the other 31 Dayers are writing about.

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a sense of place(1)This project is a bit like Wallace Stevens’ poem Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird, in that I’m writing about a sense of place from vantage points that may not obviously connect with each other. I’m not going to attempt to tie them together. In the end, these 31 days of looking at a sense of place may overlap, contradict, form a whole, or collapse like a flan in a cupboard, as Eddie Izzard would say. That remains to be seen. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

31 Days of A Sense of Place :: Day 23 ~ Damage Done

A sense of place(2)Welcome to Day 23 of 31 Days of A Sense of Place.

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Try to Praise the Mutilated World
by Adam Zagajewski

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

What gets to me is the evocative nature of what’s abandoned, damaged, dying, ruined, scarred, mutilated. People and animals, of course, and trees, landscapes, natural communities, habitats, places, homes. Places overgrown, or, on the other hand, empty, devoid, or both. Times when places seem abandoned, shadows among barrenness, unmitigated dispassionate glare of light flattening all contour. The exiles of any sort, the earth’s scars, the wounds. Decay.

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sheep statue, Lourdes shrine, Franciscan Monastery, Kennebunk, ME, Dec 2014
sheep statue, Lourdes shrine, Franciscan Monastery, Kennebunk, ME, Dec 2014
north beach, Jekyll Island, Sept 2014
north beach, Jekyll Island, Sept 2014
Yemassee, SC, Sept. 2008
Yemassee, SC, Sept. 2008
furniture dumped along trail, Otter Creek Trail, Middlebury, Nov. 2013
furniture dumped along trail, Otter Creek Trail, Middlebury, Nov. 2013
machine and hay shed, Jackson Trail, Weybridge VT, Nov. 2013
machine and hay shed, Jackson Trail, Weybridge VT, Nov. 2013
debris on bridge after Hurricane Irene, White River Junction, VT, 10 Sept 2011
debris on bridge after Hurricane Irene, White River Junction, VT, Sept 2011
grill's final resting spot, Quechee Dam, VT, Sept. 2010
grill’s final resting spot, Quechee Dam, VT, Sept. 2010
white plastic chair in woods, Manchester, VT, Oct 2010
white plastic chair in woods, Manchester, VT, Oct 2010
Lenox, MA, May 2010
Lenox, MA, May 2010
Lenox, MA, May 2010
Lenox, MA, May 2010
marble works roof and sky, Middlebury, VT, Nov. 2010
marble works roof and sky, Middlebury, VT, Nov. 2010
end of world? ferry landing, Lake Champlain (VT to NY), Nov. 2010
end of world? ferry landing, Lake Champlain (VT to NY), Nov. 2010
Naumkeag Asian Garden, Stockbridge, MA, May 2010
Naumkeag Asian Garden, Stockbridge, MA, May 2010
balcony, brick, bramble, Savannah, GA, Dec 2013
balcony, brick, bramble, Savannah, GA, Dec 2013
RR track switch, Andover, NH, Sept. 2015
RR track switch, Andover, NH, Sept. 2015
bridge on Northern Rail Trail (with spider), Sept 2015
bridge on Northern Rail Trail (with spider), Sept 2015
PaulMonroElementarySchoolplaygroundLynchburgVAmid1970s
elementary school playground, Virginia, 1970s
electrical box at old amphitheatre, Jekyll Island, Sept. 2005
electrical box at old amphitheatre, Jekyll Island, Sept. 2005
old battlements, Cape Henlopen, near Rehoboth, DE, Aug 2013
old battlements, Cape Henlopen, near Rehoboth, DE, Aug 2013
Old Fort Jackson, Savannah, GA, Dec. 2010
Old Fort Jackson, Savannah, GA, Dec. 2010
remains of old windmill, Knights Hill Nature Park, NH, May 2014
remains of old windmill, Knights Hill Nature Park, NH, May 2014
old stove in woods, Quechee, VT, Oct 2015
old stove in woods, Quechee, VT, Oct 2015
The Fells, Newbury, NH, June 2015
The Fells, Newbury, NH, June 2015
Beaufort SC Welcome Center (old armory), June 2014
Beaufort SC Welcome Center (old armory), June 2014
railroad tracks, platform, Northern Rail Trail, April 2015
railroad tracks, platform, Northern Rail Trail, NH, April 2015
Longwood Gardens. PA, June 2013
Longwood Gardens. PA, June 2013
bricks at my house, Aug 2015
brick walkway with weeds, NH, Aug 2015
my Maine house, almost empty, Oct 2009
Maine house, almost empty, Oct 2009
empty Main Street, Middlebury VT, Nov. 2013
empty Main Street, Middlebury VT, Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 2013
Wapiti, WY, Aug 1992
Wapiti, WY, Aug 1992
overgrown amphitheatre, Jekyll Island, Sept. 2014
overgrown amphitheatre, Jekyll Island, Sept. 2014

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“Someone walking down the street with absolutely no scars or calluses would look pretty odd. I suspect having a conversation with someone who’d never taken any emotional or mental damage would be even odder. The line between ‘experience’ and ‘damage’ is pretty thin.” — Aliza, from the Open-Source Wish Project via LessWrong

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rotting apples Carter Hill Orchard, Concord, NH, Nov 2012
rotting apples, Carter Hill Orchard, Concord, NH, Nov 2012
rotting log with stain of blue-green cup-fungus (Chlorociboria), Knights Hill Nature Park, NH, May 2014
rotting log with stain of blue-green cup-fungus (Chlorociboria), Knights Hill Nature Park, NH, May 2014
cracked ice and grasses, St. Anthony Franciscan Monastery, Kennebunk, ME, Dec 2014
cracked ice and grasses, St. Anthony Franciscan Monastery, Kennebunk, ME, Dec 2014
pieces of hornet's nest, Webb Forest Trail, NH, Oct 2012
pieces of hornet’s nest, Webb Forest Trail, NH, Oct 2012
split tree, Hildene, Manchester, VT, Oct 2010
split tree, Hildene, Manchester, VT, Oct 2010
Kennedy Park, Lenox, MA, May 2010
cut tree, Kennedy Park, Lenox, MA, May 2010
mytouchtreeVINS13Oct2015
tree, VINS, Quechee VT, Oct 2015
remains of autumn crocus, Bedrock Gardens, Lee, NH, Oct 2015
remains of autumn crocus, Bedrock Gardens, Lee, NH, Oct 2015
Mt. Washburn, Yellowstone National Park, WY, Aug 1992
Mt. Washburn, Yellowstone National Park, WY, Aug 1992
broken branch, Sewalls Falls Trail, Concord, NH, March 2015
broken branch, Sewalls Falls Trail, Concord, NH, March 2015
discarded Christmas trees, Jan 2013
discarded Christmas trees, Jan 2013
discarded pumpkins, West End Farm Trail, Concord, NH, Nov. 2014
discarded pumpkins, West End Farm Trail, Concord, NH, Nov. 2014
cutting of trees on West End Farm Trail, Concord, NH, Oct. 2015
cutting of trees on West End Farm Trail, Concord, NH, Oct. 2015
fallen tree, Fells trail, Newbury, NH, June 2015
fallen tree, Fells trail, Newbury, NH, June 2015
Norway maple damaged by ice, Jan. 2012
Norway maple damaged by ice, Jan. 2012
hosta leaf, Oct 2015
hosta leaf with insect damage, Oct 2015
frost-killed hydrangea, NH, Nov. 2013
frost-killed hydrangea, NH, Nov. 2013

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“The line between ‘experience’ and ‘damage’ is pretty thin.”

Is there any line at all?

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Thanks for checking in. Be sure to see what the other 31 Dayers are writing about.

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a sense of place(1)This project is a bit like Wallace Stevens’ poem Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird, in that I’m writing about a sense of place from vantage points that may not obviously connect with each other. I’m not going to attempt to tie them together. In the end, these 31 days of looking at a sense of place may overlap, contradict, form a whole, or collapse like a flan in a cupboard, as Eddie Izzard would say. That remains to be seen. Thanks for stopping by.

31 Days of A Sense of Place :: Day 22 ~ “And each town looks the same to me”

A sense of place(2)Welcome to Day 22 of 31 Days of A Sense of Place.

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“Ev’ry day’s an endless stream
Of cigarettes and magazines.
And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories…”

These lines, from Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Homeward Bound,’ both do and don’t speak to me about travelling on the train. Their song is about homesickness, a journey with the goal of being home, but when I’m on the train, there is no where I really want to go; I am already at home, at home with the endless stream of towns that look the same (but also don’t). It feels like my place, where I belong.

Wilson NC, Dec 2013
Wilson NC, Dec 2013
Rocky Mount, NC, Dec 2013
Rocky Mount, NC, Dec 2013
Winter Park, CO, Jan 2004
Winter Park, CO, Jan 2004
Ottumwa, IA, Feb 2004
Ottumwa, IA, Feb 2004
Creston IA, Feb 2004
Creston IA, Feb 2004
New London, CT, Feb. 2011
New London, CT, Feb. 2011
Brattleboro, VT, May 2009
Brattleboro, VT, May 2009
Wallingford, CT, June 2013
Wallingford, CT, June 2013
Renaissance Hotel near DC, Sept. 2013
Renaissance Hotel near DC, Sept. 2013
near Atlanta, Nov. 2006
near Atlanta, Nov. 2006
New York City, Feb 2011
New York City, Feb 2011
Sparks, NV, Jan 2004
Sparks, NV, Jan 2004
Philadelphia skyline, March 2014
Philadelphia skyline, March 2014
downtown Rocky Mount, NC, Dec 2013
downtown Rocky Mount, NC, Dec 2013
Atlanta, Nov 2006
Atlanta, Nov 2006

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Though I didn’t travel by train as a child, there is something deeply nostalgic and moving about train travel for me, looking out on the country in its particularity, so damaged, so ruined, so ravished and yet ravishing: the forlorn small towns, their broken branches, twisted metal, empty storefronts, manicurists, pawn shops, rusty welding shops; the skinny dogs on too-short leashes in back yards full of trash, the half-dressed children in those yards looking right back into the train; the acres and acres of industrial machinery, plantations of overbearing oil tanks, cities dazzling with lights at night; churches of all shapes and sizes, military installations, thrift shops and food pantries; bridges and sudden glimpses of shimmering waterways, herons, hawks, osprey, swans, something dead.

NYC, March 2014
NYC, March 2014
Washington DC train station, Sept. 2008
Washington DC train station, Sept. 2008
junked cars north of Philadelphia, March 2014
trash north of Philadelphia, March 2014
near Old Lyme CT, March 2014
near Old Lyme CT, March 2014
General Dynamics, Mystic CT, March 2014
General Dynamics, Mystic CT, March 2014
Mystic CT, March 2014
Mystic CT, March 2014
New Orleans, Nov 2006
heading north out of New Orleans, Nov 2006
near Westerly, RI, Dec. 2013
near Westerly, RI, Dec. 2013
marsh near Old Lyme CT, March 2014
marsh near Old Lyme CT, March 2014
James River, outside Richmond, VA, Dec 2013
James River, outside Richmond, VA, Dec 2013
Elizabeth, NJ, Feb. 2011
Elizabeth, NJ, Feb. 2011
Mystic CT sailboats, Feb. 2011
Mystic CT sailboats, Feb. 2011
church near Alexandria, VA, Sept. 2013
church near Alexandria, VA, Sept. 2013
Deliverance Church, Yemassee, SC, Dec 2013
Deliverance Church, Yemassee, SC, Dec 2013

Slouched in my seat, nothing to do for 5 or 10 hours but look, tears running down my face, it’s so beautiful and sad, so poignant, so achingly detailed, so known and unknown, so far away and right here, now, never.

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I’ve written before (12/2014) about how time changes on the train for me:

“Similarly, the time vagaries of travelling. Clock and calendar time loses meaning for me when I’m on the train, a bit odd since timetables and hurried connections can be key. But as the scenery goes by, and the sense of place is blurred and no-where, so my sense of time is predominantly of being out-of-time, timeless, both timeless and placeless, existing only here, and “here” is moving at 60 mph, and now, which is moving at some speed of its own, too.”

Train travel is unlike car, ship, or plane travel, because unlike the former, train passengers, particularly on longer trips, rarely know where they are most of the time, and unlike the latter two, the scenery never stops and it always changes. Usually it’s moving so fast alongside the train window that it’s unfocused, and as I stare out the window, my mind unfocuses along with the placeless place my eyes record as a smudge, a blur, always the present moment.

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near Truckee, CA, Jan 2004
near Truckee, CA, Jan 2004
Donner Pass, CA, Jan 2004
Donner Pass, CA, Jan 2004
grass and tracks near Petersburg, VA, Dec. 2013
grass and tracks near Petersburg, VA, Dec. 2013
ranch near Grand Junction, CO, Jan. 2004
ranch near Grand Junction, CO, Jan. 2004
ship, Martinez, CA, Jan 2004
ship, Martinez, CA, Jan 2004
somewhere in Nevada, Jan 2004
somewhere in Nevada, Jan 2004
near Wilson, NC, Sept. 2014
near Wilson, NC, Sept. 2014

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I believe I was trying to remind myself of how it had felt to be wordless, completely of the physical world – that even before my body was an instrument for language it had been an instrument for memory.” — Sarah Manguso, Ongoingness: The End of a Diary (2015)

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I recently came across this article, What Long-Distance Trains Teach Us About Public Space in America (19 Feb 2015) by Danya Sherman, which expresses well exactly what I love about train travel:

“‘People [usually] just want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. We don’t give ourselves the chance to be in the moment,’ [train passenger] Trent says. ‘Whether it’s good or bad, you grow. It’s about experiences.’ He was describing something special about the long-distance train: It is a place to slow down and experience the present.

The long-distance train is one of America’s greatest and least heralded public spaces. Perhaps without intending to, the train encapsulates many qualities of public spaces that planners and designers try so hard to create.”

It’s a place to slow down, experience the present, and be “together alone” in a heterotopic public space, one outside of the normal places we inhabit day to day.

train seat back, and feet, Sept. 2008
train seat back, and feet, Sept. 2008

Sherman says that the train is democratic, and it facilitates connections among diverse people by virtue of the time spent together, the train space itself (people are close but not too close, there is a choice of spaces: seat, dining car, lounge, sightseeing car), the fact that everyone is ‘together alone’ outside their normal space; and there is always something to talk about — the place outside: “That long-distance trains aren’t designed with one specific aesthetic, demographic or psychographic in mind means that the ride is more about what’s unfolding within the space rather than the materiality of the car. It also frames the passing landscape in a way that makes it easy to use as a conversation starter.”

Trains, she says, “foster a sense of appreciation and curiosity about the landscapes through which they pass, which in turn help passengers develop a deeper connection to place.”

(Sherman’s blog about her train travel and thoughts on it is fascinating.)

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train car corridor, March 2013
train car corridor, March 2013

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I wrote in 2008 a little about some long-distance train travel I’ve done (Coast to Coast on Amtrak), including being stuck in Denver overnight, in the snowy Rockies for about 8 hours another time, etc. You do develop a certain sense of place from these experiences, learning about the place by spending time there  — several times, I’ve been on trips where the train has remained in one remote place (who knows where?) for more than 4 or 5 hours, without moving; it’s an interesting exercise, to watch a place, but not really interact with it, for that extended period.

I appreciate seeing Donner Lake, meandering through the Cascades and Sierra Nevadas, wandering from one small southern town train station to another, spending time near the train stations in El Paso, Los Angeles, Chicago, Memphis, and so on, but the true place for me is really the tracks, the motion, the sometimes jarring, sometimes hypnotic blur of wealth and poverty, cruelty and compassion, life and death, gritty and sleek, wild and artificial, restful and agitating, then and now, here and there. All here.

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Video near Petersburg, VA, Jan. 2014:

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Thanks for checking in. Be sure to see what the other 31 Dayers are writing about.

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a sense of place(1)This project is a bit like Wallace Stevens’ poem Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird, in that I’m writing about a sense of place from vantage points that may not obviously connect with each other. I’m not going to attempt to tie them together. In the end, these 31 days of looking at a sense of place may overlap, contradict, form a whole, or collapse like a flan in a cupboard, as Eddie Izzard would say. That remains to be seen. Thanks for stopping by.

31 Days of A Sense of Place :: Day 21 ~ Grounded

A sense of place(2)Welcome to Day 21 of 31 Days of A Sense of Place.

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My dad was an avid hiker, backpacker, and writer. He participated in local trail organisations and volunteered on trail crews for more than 25 years before he died. In 1997, the year he turned 63, he thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. He back-packed in New  Zealand, in the Alps, in the U.K., on the Long Trail, in the Rockies, but what he loved best were the Blue Ridge Mountains near his home.

Dad on AT, 1997
Dad on AT, 1997

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When he died in Feb. 2010, he asked to be cremated, his ashes spread on the AT, preferably in Virginia, though Maine (where I had lived for years) wasn’t out of the question. We talked about various places but he wasn’t picky, except that he didn’t want to be right next to the interstate.

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His “mid-week trail crew” in Virginia planted a tree in his memory a few months after he died, in the city he lived in for most of the last 30 years of his life.

Midweek Trail Crew with Dad's tree, in memory

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The next summer, my sisters, uncle, cousins, and friends held a little ceremony as we spread some of his ashes around a headstone in the family plot on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Dad hadn’t requested a headstone but others in the family wanted one,  and I don’t think he would mind; he loved that small town on the Eastern Shore, and the house he lived in for most of his life until college, and where his parents lived until their deaths, and where his sister and her husband and my cousins lived for more than 20 years after that, a sprawling, comfortable, old-fashioned, non-renovated house that he (and we) continued to visit as adults. My sisters and I spent most of our Thanksgivings there growing up, and quite a few summers, winning stuffed animals at the fair, swimming in a neighbour’s pool on hot July days, spending our allowance buying candy and trinkets at the 5&10, chasing each other up and down the uneven sidewalks of the small town.

One of my favourite games with Dad when I was growing up was based on his embodied knowledge of his hometown’s contours. When we were out riding on roads within about 15 miles of town, I would tell him, “Turn here,” and then “turn there,” trying to get us hopelessly lost, twisting us around, confusing our sense of direction; but he always, and easily, found our way home. He knew the place, and he loved it, and having his name engraved, and some of his flesh and bone scattered there, seems fitting.

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It wasn’t until the summer of 2012, almost 2-1/2 years after he died, that I carried most of Dad’s ashes to the forested land he loved, which his booted feet had trod on hundreds or thousands of days, many of those days recorded in his hiking journals: snowy days, cold days, early spring days, warm autumn days, days when he saw hawks and deer, the day he was hiking alone, broke his leg, and had to haul himself 2 miles out.

brokenleghikedad23Feb1985

I chose a spot in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, a place we had both enjoyed hiking. This 200,000-acre patch of land was his “home” hiking ground, one he hiked frequently and worked to improve by doing trail work. I was looking for the Grayson Highlands State Park vicinity but got a bit lost (could have used Dad’s mapping skills); I found a spot I liked, off Nick’s Creek Road.

areaneardadsashesAToffNicksCreekRoadinMtRogersNatlRecArea6June2013 moreareaneardadsashesAToffNicksCreekRoadinMtRogersNatlRecArea6June2013 moretrailneardadsashesAToffNicksCreekRoadinMtRogersNatlRecArea6June2013 trailneardadsashesAToffNicksCreekRoadinMtRogersNatlRecArea6June2013 someofdadsashesaroundbaseoftreeonAToffNicksCreekRoadinMtRogersNatlRecArea6June2013 dadsashesunderrhodoonAToffNicksCreekRoadinMtRogersNatlRecAreab6June2013As I shook the ashes around rhododendrons and trees, I felt comforted knowing his flesh and bones would be resting in the terrain, the territory, the place he loved so deeply. They have, and will, become ever more part of the place as they nourish the soil and then the plants with the minerals and elements of our shared life on earth.

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I like knowing that his memory is alive in a newly planted tree in a city where he spent close to half his life; on the trail he hiked alone and with friends, in its trees, shrubs, fungi, soil; in his hometown, in the family cemetery plot easily visited by those he’s left behind, alongside his parents, sisters, and a favourite aunt-in-law. Of course, we carry his memory in our genes, our gestures, our hearts, and our thoughts, so in a way he is a transient with us, along for our journeys; and it’s also nice to think of him situated, settled in some of his favourite places.

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Thanks for checking in. Be sure to see what the other 31 Dayers are writing about.

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a sense of place(1)This project is a bit like Wallace Stevens’ poem Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird, in that I’m writing about a sense of place from vantage points that may not obviously connect with each other. I’m not going to attempt to tie them together. In the end, these 31 days of looking at a sense of place may overlap, contradict, form a whole, or collapse like a flan in a cupboard, as Eddie Izzard would say. That remains to be seen. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

31 Days of A Sense of Place :: Day 20 ~ Emptiness at Evening

A sense of place(2)Welcome to Day 20 of 31 Days of A Sense of Place.

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Do you know the feeling?

“… wanting
too much of that emptiness at evening,
as when I walked through a field at dusk
and felt wide in the night.”

— Joanna Klink

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Emptiness at evening … feeling wide in the night … Feeling expansive and open and yearning for more … Breathing in fresh clean air, or damp sea air, filling up your lungs, making you crave something you both have and don’t have … cartwheeling through space and time, full of the promise and mystery of the liminal dusk.

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sunset on dunes, St. Andrews, Jekyll Island, 24 Dec 2013
sunset on dunes, St. Andrews, Jekyll Island, 24 Dec 2013
sunset with trailer, Beach Road, Pittsburgh, NH, 10 July 2015
sunset with trailer, Beach Road, Pittsburgh, NH, 10 July 2015
Ocean Point, Boothbay ME, 7pm, 13 June 2015
Ocean Point, Boothbay ME, 7pm, 13 June 2015
Quebec field, 7:30 pm, 29 June 2013
Quebec field, 7:30 pm, 29 June 2013
late afternoon, Jackson Trail, Weybridge, VT 28 Nov 2013
late afternoon, Jackson Trail, Weybridge, VT 28 Nov 2013
snowy field, late afternoon, KCC trail, 10 Jan 2015
snowy field, late afternoon, KCC trail, 10 Jan 2015
MA's irrigation system, evening, 2 Aug 2013
MA’s irrigation system, evening, 2 Aug 2013
interrupted fern, J's meadow, evening, 23 May 2015
interrupted fern, J’s meadow, evening, 23 May 2015
heron, evening, Jekyll Island, 2005
heron, evening, Jekyll Island, 2005
south dunes, Jekyll Island, evening, 25 April 2012
south dunes, Jekyll Island, evening, 25 April 2012
snowy field, Trail Around Middlebury VT, 30 Nov 2013
snowy field, Trail Around Middlebury VT, 30 Nov 2013
J's meadow, evening, 23 May 2015
J’s meadow, evening, 23 May 2015
sun setting on snowy field, KCC trail, 5 Jan 2013
sun setting on snowy field, KCC trail, 5 Jan 2013
grasses, late afternoon, Laudholm Farms, Wells, ME. 29 Dec 2014
grasses, late afternoon, Laudholm Farms, Wells, ME. 29 Dec 2014
sunset, Back Lake, Pittsburgh NH, 8 July 2015
sunset, Back Lake, Pittsburgh NH, 8 July 2015
dunes, Jekyll Island, 8:15 pm, 27 June 2014
dunes, Jekyll Island, 8:15 pm, 27 June 2014
field, late afternoon, Laudholm Farms, Well,s ME, 29 Dec 2014
field, late afternoon, Laudholm Farms, Well,s ME, 29 Dec 2014

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In the morning there is meaning, in the evening there is feeling. — Gertrude Stein, from “Food”

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Thanks for checking in. Be sure to see what the other 31 Dayers are writing about.

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a sense of place(1)This project is a bit like Wallace Stevens’ poem Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird, in that I’m writing about a sense of place from vantage points that may not obviously connect with each other. I’m not going to attempt to tie them together. In the end, these 31 days of looking at a sense of place may overlap, contradict, form a whole, or collapse like a flan in a cupboard, as Eddie Izzard would say. That remains to be seen. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

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