A Sense of Place

IMG_0147 copyMy daughter’s homework today involved exploring the idea of gratefulness.

One of the questions asked her to photograph the thing she was most grateful for.

This is the photograph she took. It is of our property, and includes a bit of everything here—trees, paddocks, sheds, gardens, and art.

Her answer doesn’t surprise me, and I echo her sentiments. I, too, am grateful for this piece of land that feeds us, shelters us, and provides us the vast majority of our entertainment.

And though some parents might have wished for her to say that she was most grateful for her family, I am pleased that my daughter has put her roots into the soil. I am pleased that she has developed a strong sense of place. In fact, I would have expected nothing less from the girl who spends every waking minute outdoors.

We develop relationships with places, just as we develop relationships with people. Those place relationships help us shape our identity, and place us in context in the larger world around us. They provide us an anchor, a whakapapa (cultural identity), and a homeland.

Our sense of place gives us a solid foundation from which to explore and learn to love the rest of the world. It makes our relationship to the entire planet more personal.

In order to care about the earth in general, we must first care about a special place.

In order to understand the tragedy of the loss of a rainforest, we must first understand the tragedy of the loss of our favourite climbing tree.

In order to understand the magic of an unknown place, we must first feel the magic of our own special place.

And so, for today, I am most grateful for this piece of land that has rooted my daughter’s sense of self, family and community in the earth.

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